By Tiny, daughter of Dee
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” ..Maya Angelou The Art of Fiction No. 119, the Paris Review
MAY 29, 2014 — At 11, when so much of life fell apart for me and everything I thought I knew became dangerous and violent, my mama-teacher gave me I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and with every page turned I saw myself and I felt words and I dreamed images and I truly learned how it’s possible to write so much beauty out of so much pain.
Throughout the years of me and mama’s struggle, we would return to listening to her words of poetic resistance carrying this poor single Black/Indian mama and daughter through more pain…
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Excerpted from Letter to My Daughter, a book of essays (2009)
And then, after so much, I was incarcerated for me and mama being houseless… both of us seemed to fall apart, unable to pull ourselves up this time…but we did, knowing that if we could make it we could begin to make some essential change, somehow… returning back to Mama Maya’s powerful words…
The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”-
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
This is when my mama began seeking out/learning back her own stolen pre-colonial Black/Raza and womens’ herstory.. sitting in on classes taught by other fierce African warrior women and men like Dr. Chinosole, Erica Huggins, and Dr. Wade Nobles.
Me and mama began to read other great writers like Toni Morrison, Zora Neal Hurston, and Luis Rodriguez — bringing us words and images of liberation, revolution and transformation.
“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” Maya Angelou
Eventually, after more unbelievable struggles, too many to mention or reflect upon, me and mama launched the poor-people-led, indigenous people-led movement that is POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, the words of inspiring fire that are Maya always acting as a fountain of hope for both of us.
Whenever we felt beat down be the immensity of our life nightmare, we reflected upon her survival through rape as a child, racism in America and self-imposed silence, only to realize that these experiences, no matter how horrible were also her art and like Uncle Al Robles, ancestor board member of POOR said, your struggle is the best part of your art and your art is the best part of your struggle.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Maya Angelou
From the beginning of POOR, we also dreamed, visioned and hoped for change led by us Po’ folks, landless peoples movement in the stolen indigenous land that is Turtle Island. This deep tissue change, embedded with art, poetry, and humility was always rooted first in decolonization. This is what we call Homefulness
No matter what we Po’ folks determined to manifest a vision of change and resistance rooted in art and poetry persisted. We have beautiful women warriors like Mama Maya and Mama Dee to thank for this. We walk in humility on their strong shoulders.
Mama Maya, from your POOR Magazine family: Rest in Poetry.