These Women Found Their Potent Voices and Disrupted the World
The passing of Maya Angelou leaves a whole in our culture, never to be filled or even approximated. She was the voice of the caged bird, singing her way to freedom for all black women.
She described herself best, though in a poem not necessarily autobiographical, "I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise." Angelou always emphasized the present rising and singing, rather than the past captivity of slavery.
She described the dark hatred of evil slavery flawlessly, but her eyes were always fixed on emancipation and beauty. She stared into the hollow black eyes of the white man, demanding to be seen and heard, giving voice to generations of black women.
Maya rifts off the terrible suffering that Toni Morrison captures brilliantly in her novel The Bluest Eye, a book that moved me with tragedy, so severely that she changed who I am.
In perhaps the best book written about the post-slavery South, the novel that thrusts the reader into the skin of the most tragic character in literature, Morrison forces an evaluation of self and individual, constructed in an turbulent history.
The readers feel the weight of the pain of ages of slavery, and the feeling is the most unsettling of any work of fiction. If you read The Bluest Eye without weeping, you are incapable of experiencing empathy and not fully human.
The Past Never Dies. It Is the Phoenix of Cultural Memory.
Morrison and Angelou capture the evil past of our nation, one that will always linger, influencing all, making up a part of selfhood and citizenship.
In Pecola, we must face the truth that slavery will never be erased from our past, and that traces of unspeakable torture inflicted on a people are passed down, almost genetically, through generations unable to catch up after being used as animals for more than 400 years.
Both authors speak to the racial past and present, a space in our civilization that will always be bound tight with the tension of evil stains.
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How have the writings of these women affected your own life and actions?