In Praise of Uppity Women

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou – 1928-2014

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 backyard.
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
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

-From And Still I Rise (c) 1978 by Maya Angelou. Pub. by Random House

“In Praise of Uppity Women”

One of the racist code words I heard growing up was “uppity.” It was used when people (mainly people of color) had the audacity to speak truth to power, as if they were as fully human as the white men they were challenging. When powerful and wealthy white men spoke, it was supposed to have the unassailable force of undeniable truth. If someone called out the lies in their language, that protester was attacked– at least verbally by being labeled ‘uppity’, and often enough physically attacked. 

First comes the verbal attack, with shouts of “Go Back to Africa!” A frantic,  anxious, rushing mob presses in to force the truth-speaker off the podium. If that fails, the violent words of the powerful white man incites powerless, poor white men to violence. Their leader’s violent language grants them permission to commit physical violence. Countless trees in the South wept while their limbs supported the strange fruit of lynch mobs.

Thanks be to GOD for uppity women like Maya Angelou, and for a new generation of uppity women who are brashly speaking truth to power: Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Presley, and Rashib Tlaib. May the rest of us find our tongues and courage and join them in refusing to allow voices to be stifled just because they are voicing a different perspective. May every one of us ‘get uppity’ and claim our First Amendment rights to speak freely, even when the speech illuminates evil deeds done under the cover of power. Let freedom be strengthened, not silenced. Let every voice be heard, and every heart be treasured for its inherent value.

GOD help us if we allow greedy, evil, racist forces to stifle the diversity which has given this country its greatness.

— Brice Hughes, attempting to follow in the liberating footsteps of Christ.

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