Monday, September 29, 2014

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

It's been long since I've spilled beans on here. The past days have been a breath of fresh air. Days and nights have come to me empty-handed. I've filled them bit by bit and in no rush, making appointments with God, my soul, the sun, the sand, and the vast, unharvested fields of my mind. I have also been growing up with Maya Angelou- smelling in the scent of Grandmomma's store stacked with tobacco, ketchup bottles and tinned sardines... moving around with Bailey Jr from new home to new home across cities... living her hopes, fears and threats... and cheering her on as she transforms from a self-loathing little girl to a lady.


It is 1936. A little Maya holds her bloodied mouth in one hand, the other hand clinging to her Grandmother, who drags her across in steady, strong steps. Little Maya's teeth are rotting, the pain is blinding, and her Grandmother walks on, meaning business. They stop at the dentist's door. Sure, they're black and he's white, and a white dentist would rather die than stick his hand into a black mouth. But this is Grandmother, who lent him a hand when he was going through some pretty rough times. He wouldn't say no to somebody who owes him a favour now, would he?

Little Maya and Grandmomma go back the way they came- except with a bloodier mouth, and steps not as steady or strong anymore.


It is 1941. Eighth-grade Maya stands proud in middle-school graduation robes. Grandmomma's store is closed, a dress the product of weeks of night stitching and sewing flows under the robes, and an excited Maya waves at her family in the audience between her class-mates. It's an important milestone for all the kids standing on stage, and for the sweating family members waiting patiently in the crowd. It's a day that signifies possibility- the hope that, someday perhaps, their hard work could pull them out of the state they're in today- some day, armed with their education, they will transcend all the layers of ceilings placed above them.

But in comes a suited white man, says a few words on their hard work, how the girls can maybe sew or stitch better now, how the boys can have a better basketball field the coming year..and with those words, he leaves with the air of going off to somewhere more important. Bubbles of hope pop all around, because they have all heard his real message loud and clear: stay in your place.


It is the 21st century. You and I still have a story to share. Maybe two, three. Maybe as a victim, or maybe simply a witness. Civilization may have advanced since those times, with new laws and new social norms. But people the world over are still being treated differently because of their colour, gender, beliefs, appearance, social background... There remain to be nations with entire under-privileged minorities. There remain to be millions of positions holding incompetent people because they had a flashier name, passport or bank account. You and I can change this. We are human- not capable (yes, not capable!) of ignoring differences or removing the stigmas that have unconsciously leaked in our heads through media. But very much capable of looking beyond the differences and the stigmas, to treat people for who they are. You and I won't change the world- we will change the little worlds around us. And together, help the caged bird's song be heard.



  1. This was sensational. One of the best pieces I've ever read.
    You're right, only with smaller steps can we bring about bigger changes.
    Only when we choose to ignore those minute differences, and see beyond it can we one day dream of a better world.
    Thank you for writing this.

  2. I dream of a day when we are all treated - like People . . .
    And we celebrate the diversity found in creation . . .


  3. I read this book just this year. You just brought back everything that moved me from that book. And I missed you ♥

  4. I've the book sitting on my desk, fresh from a second hand shop. Can't wait to dive into it. Love this post, you beautiful writer. and yes, you should spill often. :)

  5. So well written. Only when people are able to move past the barriers of co
    lour, ethnicity, caste, gender and sexual preferences, will the world move forward and be a better place for all its inhabitants.

    Hopelessly Hopeful

  6. Ghadeer - where have you been? Where have I been, you ask? I asked you first. ;)

    Just posted and I see you "just" have, too. Do you have a little girl now or did I misread the first part of this post? Send me a message back so I know you got this. And please please please do keep posting. What? You want me to keep posting also? Aww, you are so sweet. Of course, I will....


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