Camparigirl and I have been talking about fear a lot. Debating its ability to both stupefy and motivate. And remembering the ways it has impacted on us both over the years. We’ll be spending some time on this thought over the next few weeks. There seems to be much to discover. Not least in ourselves.
The world appears to have swung and shifted – settling into a new pattern of being and breathing. For me there are changes in the wings – to be met head-on when I come back from holiday. And there is fear attached to them, the fear of starting something new, perhaps of ending something else.
This poem, by the incomparable Maya Angelou, has been on my mind for the past week. I want to dedicate it to four people who have taught me important and different things.
To my pal Thabo Rini who succumbed to his cancer, fought with style, grace and bravery. He allowed me to tell his story in public before he shared it at home. Even when he was in awful pain – he found a way to get back to his family: sitting lopsided in a minibus taxi for 10 hours straight. Thabo never showed fear – until I was at his bedside one day and when he woke and I saw it in his eyes. He knew what I had seen: he took my hand and we just sat there for a while.
To my colleague Claude Nobs – who suffered a fatal injury whilst cross-country skiing – a passion he still exercised at 76 years old. Claude was a music man in the purest sense: he loved music. And he loved people: patiently teaching an awkward, angular, 25-year-old me how to work with the talent and frightening power that was Miles Davis. Claude would never give up – nothing frightened him, nothing was un-doable. When confronted with a seemingly impossible request from an artist – Claude would always smile: “And why not?” he would say.
And to Jyoti Singh Pandey – not named in her country, but named in ours. Who I never met and who can never speak for herself. But whose brave fight to live after her horrific attack has reminded me to keep speaking out against discrimination and violence – in whatever guise they may appear. And not to fear the consequences.
And lastly, I dedicate this poem to Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, whose day it is tomorow. Who rose and changed the face of a nation. Who pioneered civil disobedience. Who mobilised a million men to march against discrimination. And who spoke up.
Still I Rise – Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
(from the Anthology: And Still I Rise)