She had never heard of Maya Angelou.
So I placed a thin black book in her hands, the cover revealing small pink and blue designs in a sea of night. It was my favorite book, a book of four poems. As she took it from me, I glanced at the words “Phenomenal Woman” strewn across the dark cover and smiled. I smiled knowing that she’d come to love the book as much as I did, that the pages would one day become worn like my own copy, the copy that often got caught under my pillows as I let Maya’s words be the last thoughts I considered before—and perhaps even long after—I shut my eyes.
“When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.”
I had “learned” and “gotten” so much from that thin black book that I started buying multiple copies of it, always having an extra at home so that I could give it away. Then, whenever I sensed another woman in my life needed to be reminded of her “phenomenal” nature, or needed inspiration to “rise,” or needed to know that they were never alone but that they stood “as ten thousand”, I’d grab a copy, scribble a message on the first page, and give it away.
It became my favorite gift, for in the giving, I’d get to watch one more woman be empowered by words. When she said she’d never heard of Maya Angelou, I knew that she needed to: needed to hear of her, needed to hear from her, needed to hear with her.
So I placed the thin black book in her hands and felt my heart smile. I hoped she’d read it as often as I did, that the words would seep into her skin, and that they’d become so much a part of her that she’d forget that she didn’t write them herself. I hoped that she’d never again bow her head at the thought of her own inadequacies but that she’d come to celebrate her perfect imperfections. I hoped that every time she fell down that like dust or air she’d rise again, stronger, more confident, carrying the gifts that her “ancestors gave” her. And I hoped that whenever she’d be challenged, that whenever she’d have to fight, that whenever she’d have to battle to save a piece of herself that her words would match those of Maya and that her heart would shout out: “I shall not be moved”.
She had never heard of Maya Angelou. Now, years later, she celebrates her. We all do, for her words became the words we’d use to color our experiences, to give us perspective, to become like the small pink and blue designs that brought life and texture to a sea of night.
We celebrate you Maya, and we thank you, from one phenomenal woman to another.
 From “Our Grandmothers” (lines 67-68)
 From “Our Grandmothers” (line 84)
 From “Still I Rise” (line 39)
 From “Our Grandmothers” (lines 26-28)