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September 29, 2023

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Angelou inspires courage in public speaking

During my sophomore year of college, I was required to take a theatre class which encouraged students to perform pieces of work in front of our peers, all from memorization.

Now, if I was a theatre major, minor or had any experience in theatrical performance, what I am about to tell you might seem like a walk in the park, but for someone who chokes at the thought of speaking in front of a large crowd, I wanted to curl up in a dark hole and never come out.

I had to perform a poem.

The thought of having to perform a poem in front of my class was just as terrifying as being placed in a shark tank with a big slab of meat in your hands.

Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I was so nervous.

I remember trying to think of poems I actually liked reading; something I could easily memorize, yet still enjoy.

As I struggled for hours, trying to find the best fit poem for me, I figured when in doubt, call my mom.

Without a skipping a beat, she immediately suggested the poem, “Phenomenal Woman,” by Maya Angelou.

Before this, I’ve never had the pleasure of reading Angelou’s work.

As an American poet, activist and artist, Angelou was considered to be one of the most inspirational women.

She had a strong devotion to equality, peace and love. Her strong value for inner beauty and personality as core pieces of beauty compared to physical beauty is what captured my love for her work.

After reading “Phenomenal Woman,” I was truly inspired by the way in which she embraces and celebrates the strength and power of women.

In my opinion, the most memorable stanza of “Phenomenal Woman” describes why a woman is phenomenal:

“It’s the fire in my eyes and the flash of my teeth, the swing of my waist and the joy in my feet. I’m a woman Phenomenally Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”

Even though I dreaded the idea of performing a poem in front of my class, this specific poem made it less painful.

It was something that truly made an influence on me and I could not wait to share it with others.

Although Angelou passed away Wednesday, May 28, 2014, she will continue to deeply touch many individuals through her life, wisdom and words.

The impact she has created for me not only as a woman, but as a human being, will forever be etched in my memory as I know it will be for many others too.

She’s the true definition of a phenomenal woman.

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