Becoming a “Black” girl in America is an interesting thing. Coming from a Black country, into an all Black neighborhood to transition into a “integrated" neighborhood created a dual sight for me. I saw myself as I was…and then how others saw me, smaller, duller, less than. I was about 12 at this time and it hurt and confused me more than words could ever convey. I had a Black teacher that made us read and memorize parts of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. It was the first thing I’d ever read by a Black woman. First thing I’d read that addressed what it was like being a Black woman/girl in America. I felt power rise up in. I felt affirmed and seen. I decided to read all I could by her. I memorized the entire poem when we only had a few lines to memorize each.

I just never thought Maya Angelou would pass…not in my lifetime. She just became a fact for me, bigger than age, permanent. I saw bits of myself in her writing and her honesty made these pieces less shameful. This morning when I learned of her passing, I started crying. How could someone who gave me all that be mortal? How could she not defeat death?

I asked Black women on Twitter if they remembered what it was like reading Phenomenal Woman for the first time, these are just a few of the responses. This is what Maya Angelou gave us, with just one poem.

She will never fade.