Legendary author Maya Angelou dead at 86

It's with great sadness that I tell you this terrible news: Famous poet and author Maya Angelou has died today. Her beautiful words and incomparable talent gave voice in her poetry and writtings to the African American experience in the U.S. Although she was already 86 and ill, her passing is mourned by many and, personally speaking, I think the country--the world--has lost one of its most important and relevant women. Her amazing story has been an inspiration to many, including me. You don't even know what she did to transform suffering into heroism!


Read more ¿Que más?: Legendary Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

Marguerite Ann Johnson--her birth name--was born on April 4, 1928 in Saing Louis, Missouri. Her mom was a prostitute and her childhood traumas prevented her from talking for five years. She was sexually abused by one of her mom's boyfriends when she was only 8 years old and then she witnessed how that same man died after a beating.
In the most famous of her seven autobiographies I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou tells how a teacher helped her recover her speech and to turn her sorrow into words.
The entire country and the world got to know her when she wrote and read a special poem for President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, but until then she had dabbled in many professions: She was a singer, a dancer, an actress, a teacher and even a bus driver. Besides all this, she was a renowned civil rights leader and activist for the rights of women.

Even though she was called Doctor Angelou, she never went to college, but she received more than 30 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities throughout the world.
Today the world has lost one of the great ones. We send our prayers and condolences to her family. And I want to leave you with one of Angelou's most emblematic works:
Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Image via Getty Images

Topics: death  celebrity  celebrity death  authors