I have so many fond childhood memories of the Black church in which I grew up. My mother was a founding member of the church, and she was responsible for producing the annual Black History Program every February; this program showcased youth and adult members while also offering rich and detailed information about African American history.

Every year a participant was chosen to recite the Maya Angelou poem, “Still I Rise.” Thus, from my early years, I heard this poem regularly during rehearsals and recited beautifully during the annual program. As I reflect back on my personal Humanities Moment, this poem deeply resonates with me. In my youth, I was completely unaware of the impact that this poem would make on the rest of my life. Nevertheless, Angelou’s words have shaped me in ways that I had not even realized until I contemplated my personal humanities moment.

As a Black woman, I have encountered numerous moments that caused me to question my abilities, my worth, and my place in the academy. Yet, the words of this poem constantly remind me that I can, and I will rise above any obstacle that is presented because I possess all the gifts that my ancestors gave.

I read and re-read this poem often and each time that I do, I find such a sense of comfort. The power of Angelou’s words are an ongoing source of strength. The opening words of the piece set a tone of resilience despite unwarranted abuse. Angelou follows by questioning the unexplainable mistreatment of Black women based on the unspoken confidence we hold.

The comparison of herself to celestial beings such as the moon and the sun invoke within me a sense of power and inherent greatness. This has bolstered me in so many situations in which I was made to feel inherently less than those around me. The poem continues to affirm that no matter the shooting of words and the cutting of eyes that I may be forced to endure, I, like air, will always rise. This poem confirms to me that I carry with me a deep-rooted past that holds so much blood, so many tears, and an innumerable number of sacrifices – yet, still I rise.

I stand on the shoulders of giants that have never received their rightful praise. Hence, I am the living and ongoing extension of their legacy I am the hope and dream of the slave; I am living my ancestors’ wildest dreams, therefore still I rise.

– Nauff Zakaria (Ph.D. Candidate)