Still I Rise - - 2003-11-30 20:22:36
This is an extract of a live chat which took place with world-renowned author Maya Angelou, Sunday 4 August 2002, on http://www.bbc.co.uk/.
BBC: Your poem And Still I Rise is very powerful, have you always been a person of strong character?
Maya Angelou: Well, I think I've gotten stronger as I've gotten older and had less and less to fear. That's one of the blessings of getting older.
BBC: Have you ever lost sight of hope and how did you recover it?
Maya Angelou: When the blows of fortune fall too quickly and too deeply I have felt unsure about tomorrow, unsure about tonight, even unsure about the minute I'm living in. But I stop, I always stop, and this is my advice to everyone, if you face something that's really terrible, just stop. And remember, that you've come through things worse than that, and you've come through, and you've even dared to love someone yourself, you've dared to get up in the morning, make some ablutions, go to work, smile at somebody. Once you remember what you've come through, hope emerges again, and you begin to see hope almost as you see a sunrise - it comes up a little at a time, but it does emerge.
BBC: Tell me how you keep your sense of humour after all the things you have had to face.
Maya Angelou: Thank you very much to you both. I never trust people who don't laugh - you laugh to keep from crying. First off, it's sweet revenge if you laugh in the face of a brute! He or she has to say: "What are you crazy? I've done this to you, done that to you, abused you, and you're laughing?" Then laugh harder, it confuses the brute. It may not be revenge, but it does confuse them. Also complaining is very dangerous, I'd rather protest than complain. Because whining not only makes you ugly but it lets the brute know there's a victim in the neighbourhood.
BBC: That is all we have time for. Here's Maya with a final word.
Maya Angelou: I think that we ought to send a message to brutes that we will not tolerate abuse, that we don't like it, and will not tolerate it, and by doing so we really have a chance to evict fear from your psyche. Fear saps your strength, it can immobilise you. I think you have to say, "I don't need that". Thank you to all the people who have asked me questions. I've given some sincere answers, I hope they've been good answers.
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod 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 backyard.
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
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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