I like comics but my superheroes didn't wear capes. They were women in brown skin and Auntie Maya was one of them. As a writer, I struggled to find my space; a space where I could comfortably exist in my own truth. Lies and atrocities gain so much fame while the truth cowers itself in dark shadows. Auntie Maya taught me differently. She taught me that even in a cage, locked away from human touch, I could still sing and make my presence known. She taught me that every ex-boyfriend is a lesson, not a punishment. And she also taught me to do whatever you have to do to survive - even if you are crucified for it. If you should die for anything, shouldn't it be for your right to live?
When I heard of her passing, it was because I have made it quite known that Maya Angelou is one of my idols. I don't speak about writing if I don't mention Auntie Maya and I've even been humbled enough to occupy some space with her in a sentence.
'You are the Maya Angelou of our time Tass.' When I first heard that, I was floored because Auntie Maya has spread herself across all generations. I am blessed to be on Earth while air was in her lungs but let's face it, Auntie Maya has transcended what we understand time to be. Her story is by far one of the greatest tales on Earth riddled with triumphs and failures, sadness and resilience, peace and war. When I think back to the things she's written, I wonder how she made torture sound so beautiful. Her command of the English language is something that cannot be taught, merely observed. To be a pioneer of that magnitude and still seemingly humble and grateful to be here at all, Auntie Maya has shown me that there is a beautiful story only brown women know. I want to thank her every day for making the girl who read the dictionary twice feel like I fit somewhere. I want to thank her for teaching me how to survive in health, in words and in grace. And I really want to thank her for the tough love - for reminding women that one man doesn't make you a whore and one unplanned pregnancy doesn't make you stupid and most importantly - that a lifetime of pain doesn't make you less valuable.
Auntie Maya makes my scars seem like stripes and it is a flag I wear proudly as a fellow Black woman, mother and writer. May we all find some peace in a woman who went to war with life and came out on the other side just as pure as the day she was born.
Decide that you are phenomenal. Decide that no cage can keep you. Decide that when the wind knocks you down, it won't keep you there. Decide that you are a descendent of Auntie Maya, who was a queen amongst ruins. The only way to see your light is through the darkness. Embrace that.