Remembering the “Phenomenal Woman” Again

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So, Dr. Angelou’s family has selected a place to celebrate her life, her words and their work in us: Wake Forest University Chapel in Winston- Salem, North Carolina.  There, persons will no doubt gather to remember and vow never to forget her.  Unlike the media, which has reported “the story” and already moved to the next, many are still remembering her.  Perhaps, like me, they are still trying to accept the word “dead” or “passed” or perhaps, the description that she is “no longer with us.”  A 30- second soundbite or a 3- minute feature story just doesn’t allow enough time to process such a reality.

How could this be?  The woman who introduced me to so many parts of my self– gone.  She is gone like my grandmother, Eva and her mother, Josephine.  Women I knew but did not get the chance to know long enough to be introduced to so many parts of myself.  They died before I would graduate college or graduate school, before I got married or had my darling son.  They only knew me as a teenager, never a woman.

Now, a mother, I have questions for them and they are “dead” or “passed.”  Yet, they are still with me.  I hear their voices when I console my son or correct him for throwing a ball at my head for the fifth time.  Though I spent ten years in upstate New York and now live in a suburb of Washington, D.C., my southern accent returns quickly, undeterred by the time that has passed.

Raising large families in the South, they, too, were phenomenal women in their own right.  Though unknown to most of the world, as they existed before social media and their lives were never given a national 30- second sound bite or 3- minute feature story, I still remember them.

Dr. Angelou lived to see me into motherhood but when she died, I could only think of when we first met.  I met the “Phenomenal Woman” who took words like rape meant to shame and silence and found her voice while giving me mine.  I just can’t forget her and so this afternoon, I am remembering her… again.

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