#8. Mari Evans
One of the reasons I posed topless/nude on the back of my books is a
line from a poem by Mari Evans. It goes: "I am a Black Woman..Tall
as a Cypress...look on me and be renewed." I love the idea of Black
girls and all Blacks looking at my breasts and feeling "renewal" due
to the health, sheen and dark beauty of my bare breasts--an intensely
Africanized image that was, for thousands of years, the SYMBOL of our
shared cultural Africanness. Regardless of whether they "sexualize" my
image or not...they will STILL receive the renewal that a mother's bare
breasts signify. It is "the circle of life", a food source...and in traditional
Africanist thinking...bare breasts represent TRUTH and spiritual integrity.
Mari Evans's entire book of poems from the 1960's, however, touched me
very deeply. The book is called "I AM A BLACK WOMAN". I absolutely love
it...my own first poetry collection "NILE RIVER WOMAN" is quite frankly
an updated, Nilotic "remake" of Mari's book. Sadly, I don't believe it's
possible to get Mari's genius classic today. Not sure. But Each and every time that I see images of "Black Breasts"....I immediately whisper in my mind: "Look on me and be renewed."
12. MAYA ANGELOU
Well, what is there to say about Mother Maya? She is WISDOM and
integrity and timelessness. I also love that she's like me--she never
went to school; college. She started as a Stripper...an unwed single
mom. Even at one point became a "Pimp" to use her terminology.
But look at who and where she is today. She was enormously inspirational
and eye-opening to me. Her poems "Phenomenal Woman" and "And
Still I Rise" are among her classics...but it's one book, "EVEN THE
STARS LOOK LONESOME" that remains extremely dear and integral
to my spirit. I love her for so much. She's everybody's mother!