“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

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I write this today out of respect for one of the most admired women I know.


 Maya Angelou 4/4/28 – 5/28/14

Maya Angelou—poet, author, educator, actress and activist—used her lyrical words and distinguished voice to be a “song bird” of her own. Years ago, long before I remembered my own childhood of abuse, I read her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Dr. Angelou was molested and raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of 8. Living with the guilt and shame of sexual abuse and feeling responsible for the beating death of her perpetrator, young Angelou stopped speaking to everyone accept her brother. She eventually learned to love herself, finding the strong spirit that lies within.

At the time, I was moved by her story and referred to it in a message I gave at my church. My interpretation was this: “I know why the caged bird sings. I know that no matter what your cage may be—illness, grief, poverty, stress, or insecurity, that within that cage you can still find a strength that will sustain you through the most difficult times.”

That was more than twenty years ago. I had no memory of my abuse. I had no idea why Dr. Angelou’s message resonated so dearly with me. Years later, in the throws of the anger and pain that accompanied my healing journey, I wrote this in my journal.

September 19, 2001

So here is the piece I must remember through all of this. My whole life I felt different from my family. There was a small piece of me that was all my own.It survived through all of the terror, pain, fear and loneliness. It gave me strength to live. It allowed me to love and be loved. If that core survived then, it will survive now. He took everything from me but that core. He can not take it or destroy it now. 

I  learned from Maya Angelou, long before I even realized it, that we can face many defeats in life but not be defeated because there is a core in us that holds a strong spirit and the promise of hope. I am grateful for that lesson from an icon who I will remember for my lifetime with respect and love.

 May you rest in peace Maya Angelou.


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