Personal Response to Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

Personal Response to Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
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
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.

What is your opinion on the idea that our beliefs are influenced by the actions of others?

            Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” holds importance in my life as confidence in who I am as well as my values is something that I have, and continue to, struggle with. That being said, Angelou’s poem serves as a constant reminder that my values, as well as their validity, are not to be defined by others. The poem begins by the persona addressing their tormentors, speaking of the confidence they have in them self that the oppressor will never be able to minimize. Once they are done addressing their hostile audience they go on to reassure them self of their purpose. Angelou, through self-assured responses to negative comments and self-validation, exemplifies the idea that a confident individual, when confronted with the opinions of others, is less likely to conform to the standards of others.  Angelou’s words have not only served as a prompt in my life reassuring that I am strong enough to stand firm in my beliefs in the face of adversity, but also that I have a purpose in doing so.

The relater begins by referring to a group of individuals – their oppressors – in which the persons are described as “you” as they are the ones being addressed in the first seven stanzas of the poem. Not only is the narrator addressing their antagonists, but also continually uses antipathetic words to categorize them. This aspect of Angelou’s poem is significant in respect to my life as I am, at times, too quickly willing to forgive people. I, unlike the persona in the poem, am frequently unable to see the malice in people until they have done plenty of harm. Although generally outspoken, I can greatly appreciate the speaker’s ability to objectively decide which of the people in their life are there to undermine their success as I am then able to emulate the courage seen within the persona to critically make difficult decisions, such as discontinuing friendships. Further, the speaker’s reaction to the hatred of others is as someone who acts wealthy and without worry. Reacting jovially: walking, laughing, and dancing using the negative opinions that their tormentors have of them as motivation to live life with the utmost joy. This outlook is one that when I have incorporated into my life has allowed for the most opportunities at personal growth. This has proved true when I was bullied and was forced to defend my scruples for several years. Although these were years of extreme pain and torment I have grown into a stronger, more confident person who is more than capable of appropriate reactions when my fortitude is challenged.  The first shift in “Still I Rise” depicts the values of appropriate categorization and confident responses to hate that I not only want to see develop even more in myself as I grow, but also the values I need to call on when faced with adversity.

As the poem progresses the speakers stops addressing their scornful critics and begins reassuring them self of their purpose in defending their values. The narrator no longer is rising for them self alone but also for the many before them as well as the future legacy they are going to leave. I can greatly relate to Angelou’s motivation behind the lines “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear/ I rise.” As well as, “Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, /… I rise.” These lines resonated most with me as I understand, in a small capacity, the overcoming of adversity that Angelou is referring to. My parents had to go through many tedious procedures and made many sacrifices in order to enable me to lead the life I do. They crossed oceans leaving behind the comfortable lives they knew so that I could have an opportunity at the good life they heard of in Canada. If I allow myself to be degraded by the tyrants in my own life I risk leaving behind my beautiful, complex heritage which is something I simply cannot do as I would be allowing the “[gifts] of my ancestors” to be forgotten. Angelou’s lyricism completely encompassed the reason I still fight for my values.  Further, the reference to adversity felt like the speaker was reassuring them self that they would be able to leave the memories of the battles they have fought behind. At the end of the poem where “I rise” is repeated three times the idea that defeat is not an option and that additionally one must overcome whatever adversity may come their way was solidified. This is paramount as I believe that no matter what I may be faced with it most certainly will not get the best of me as long as I continue to fight another day. This is greatly related to my belief in Christianity as I have been taught at the end of the day God is always in control. This, while at times an unpopular belief, is reassuring as I know that no matter what may happen in the end everything will be resolved in the way it needs to be. As long as I can continue to hold this as true no matter what may happen I will continue to rise and see what the next day has in store.

Angelou’s poem resonated strongly with me as motivation to protect my values from hostile scrutiny through appropriate categorization of others and self-assured responses to hateful criticism. Further, it serves as a reminder that my fight to protect my values is well intentioned and worthwhile as I must protect and prolong the legacy of my ancestors and culture. Through responding to oppressors and the reassurance of their purpose, Angelou’s voice exemplified the idea that a confident individual, when faced with the harsh criticisms of others, is less willing to compromise their values in hopes of meeting the expectations of others. Angelou’s words confirmed that the malicious judgement of others do not need to be a hindrance, but rather can drive me to defend my values in the face of strife and that my choice to do so has a purpose.

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