Several years ago, I wrote and dedicated a poem to the remarkable legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou. I titled the piece, “Essence of Black Beauty”, to serve as an anthem for today’s generation woman, in hopes to inspire them to appreciate their beauty on the inside, which is what Maya always taught me.
Had it not been for the collection of her most inspirational poems, mostly notably, "Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman", I would not have been able to survive 20 years of blatant discrimination in the US Navy. Her noble strength, profound words and radiant spirit, helped to inspire me to rise from the bottom of the enlisted ranks to later becoming a senior Supply Corps officer. Despite the circumstance that led to the abrupt end of my military career.
Having been raised by a stern and strict single mother of four, Maya’s words continued to provide me guidance, counseling, shelter and protection over my spirit, as I endured years of workplace abuse. After God survived me in the end and paved a new path for the next chapter of my life, her collection inspired me to publish my first poetry book, “Essence of Black Beauty”, and I’m in the process of publishing my second one, which I will dedicate to her memory.
My Dearest Maya, and fellow Poetess,
As the Holy Spirit prepares a place for you in her Heavenly Kingdom, I hear the triumphs playing your anthem, to welcome their Angel back home. May your profound words of wisdom continue to serve as a pillar of strength, resilience and righteousness. Like the threads that bond us, may your legacy help to keep me grounded and balanced, while I continue to spread seeds of joy, hope, love and peace.
I salute you!
Essence of Black Beauty
© 2007 Syneeda Penland
As time has changed
so have generations of our times,
leaving intriguing tales
and mysteries of our past;
I search for answers, seeking to find…
I seek to explore the Essence
that defines the mystery
of our hidden taboos;
depicted by false labels and stereotypes,
shamelessly dictating all that we do.
Have we allowed these labels to shame us
from vicious acts exploited in the past?
Allowing this fear to still haunt us,
how much longer will it last?
No one put us on a pedestal
to be portrayed as delicate and pure.
Instead, curious of the ‘Essence of our Black Beauty’,
strongly desired by those seeking to endure.
To fulfill the desires of their fantasies,
to strip us of all that was once pure.
Planting a seed to become nameless,
scarring our souls leaving us shameless
of brutal acts never painless!
This scar, passed on to each generation,
left never to be discussed
yet complete annihilation
from the history of the heritage of “African Queens”.
This heritage, so enriched by the beauty of her land,
cradled in the Essence of her bosom, her jewels
and all her riches are strongly desired by man.
No longer will we be haunted
by the mystery of our hidden taboos,
which defaces our heritage
and wrongfully defines what is true.
For being Black defines the beauty
that lies deep within our skin;
either at its purest or mixed with other,
combining such a beautiful blend.
To all my sistahs of color,
“Be proud of who you are!”
Show the world that you are able
to lift the taboos, stereotypes
and many false labels.
Look in the mirror and inhale your beauty…
Embrace it! And say out loud,
with a wink of an eye of acceptance, say: