American Masters

About the Film


Everybody in the world uses words. The writer has to take these most known things and put them together in such a way that a reader says, 'I never thought of it that way before.'

My mother's boyfriend raped me.

I was seven, so I stopped speaking for five years. In those five years I read every book in the black school library. When I decided to speak, I had a lot to say. Maya was a dancer. She sang. She wasan actress. She was a beautiful Giacometti sculpture. And of course she was a writer. When I reached for the pen to write I have to scrape it across those scars. Maya was responsible for teaching me why I should know more about my roots but I remember being very angry - very angry.

My mother taught me a love of justice A love of doing what's right. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - it was a very important literary feat. Caged Bird was really almost another Bible for me. It was the opening for me to wanting to be a writer.

It was the first time I read something that resonated. It touched a very young girlish part of me.

It reflected my own mother's life. When I read it, I couldn't believe that she was free enough to talk about them. I read those words and thought somebody knows who I am. She was big and she had the voice of God Out of the huts of history's shame, I rise. Up from a past rooted in pain, I rise.

I'm a black ocean leaping and wide Welling and swelling I bear in the tide bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the hope and the dream of the slave and so I rise. I rise. I rise.

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