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IWD2018: History of empowering BAME Women

By ChiUni 08 Mar 2018

By Lydia Owusu-Afram, UCSU BAME Students Officer

As we all know today is women’s day, it is a chance to celebrate all the great and powerful female figures that helped pave the way for all women today.

As a person of colour, I have to pay homage to the great black women who came before and helped inspire many young and old black women today. There are many great black women that come to mind when I think of it, but one that stands out to me and has had a great influence on me would have to be Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou is an American poet, singer and activist. She made history as being the first African-American woman to have a non-fiction best-seller. Many of her work was widely recognised with one of her many poems “just give me a cool drink of water ‘fore I die” was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

Another of her works “on the pulse of morning” was written and recited at president Bill Clintons inaugural ceremony in 1993. Not only was she recognised for her writing but also for her acting, getting nominated for not only a tony award but an emmy award for her role in the miniseries roots in 1977.

She then went on to spend time in Africa, living in Egypt and ghana,  it was there she became close to the human rights activist and black nationalist leader Malcolm X and upon her return to the US helped him set up the organisation of the Afro-American Unity. She also became great friends with Martin Luther King jr. Despite her tough childhood of abuse and racial discrimination, maya Angelou used her platform to bring awareness and help not just women of colour, but paved the way for many women to step up and break barriers.

With that I leave you with one of her most empowering and personal favourite poems of hers.

Phenomenal Woman
BY MAYA ANGELOU
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
 
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
 
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
 
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
 
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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