I remember reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in the main branch of the Detroit Public Library on one Saturday during ninth grade, and finding a witness in Dr. Angelou on that afternoon. I hadn’t suffered the abuses she’d suffered, but I knew what it was like to feel ugly, misshapen, lost and misunderstood. I knew what it was like to be a young girl, a young black girl, a young black girl in the United States–at once, marked, and yet invisible, always too loud, and somehow always unheard. When I read of her losing her voice, I began to find mine at that very moment. I began to understand why my dad always counseled me to listen as I listened to her speak to me about not being able to speak on those dusty library book pages. On that afternoon, I began to hear and understand. And I decided that I, too, an awkward and shy and largely friendless 13 year-old with odd clothes and nappy hair in the ninth grade, would write fearlessly, and truthfully, with utmost care for the hearts and the souls of anyone who would ever read.
For healing, hope, and inspiration–for living large, and making too many mistakes, and beating up on yourself, and then finding redemption and purpose and joy, for allowing us to watch and cheer you along on your journey, and for allowing us to sit at your feet–I thank you, Dr. Angelou. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are powerful. You are victorious. You are God’s.
And you are beloved.