Women of Words:Women of Substance
Last week, the world said goodbye to two notable women of letters; Maya Angelo and Maxine Greene. These two women were trailblazers who dared to disturb the universe and for that I am forever grateful. It seems I have always known Dr. Maya Angelou, listening to the sound of her voice on tape, reading her poetry and her novels and later, teaching them as well. Her proud bearing, her eloquently moving words and her no-nonsense stance have been guideposts for me along the journey. The famous line from her poem, “And still I rise,” has become the mantra for my daily living.
I came across the work of Maxine Greene many years ago as a doctoral student investigating the achievement gap and the social inequities that ravish the school system. I was moved by the power and the grace of Dr. Greene’s words and the simple assurance with which she presented her work and affirmed her voice. I felt, yes, here is a kindred spirit who is giving voice to what I know to be true. She constantly asserted the link between the imagination and the sense of possibility, noting the remarkable power of poetry and art to bring people together and improve the condition of our world.
Both women were outspoken and unapologetic in their call for a more socially just world and the genius of both was reflected in the creative exercise of their imagination; the use of powerful words that stirred our hearts and moved us to action. I love the poetry of Maya’s verse as much as I love the poetic sensibilities evoked in Maxine’s prose. While I did not meet either woman personally, I feel empowered by their existence and grateful that they created such a rich body of work that offers a blueprint on how to pursue a creative path in our agency to disturb the universe and disrupt the status quo. In the challenges I encounter in the educational system and a society so rooted in injustice, I often question my role and wonder if I am doing enough and always it is reassuring to reflect on Dr. Greene’s words, I am what I am not yet.