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About Maya Angelou



Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014) was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Wikipedia

Connect:  Encyclopaedia Britannica   |   Biography.com

  

Maya Angelou (quotes)

Advice for living

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Live to the full…

  • It’s yours. This is your life.
  • Live as though life was created for you.
  • Life sometimes gives you a second chance.
  • Life loves the person who dares to live it.
  • Living well is an art that can be developed.
  • Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.
  • Success is loving life and daring to live it.
  • Determine to live life with flair and laughter.
  • My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive.
  • Life is a gift, and I try to respond with grace and courtesy.
  • I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.
  • Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.
  • Life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you.
  • Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go.’
  • I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.
  • I want all my senses engaged. Let me absorb the world’s variety and uniqueness.
  • This is my life. it is my one time to be me. i want to experience every good thing.
  • The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.
  • I encourage you to live with life. Be courageous, adventurous. Give us a tomorrow, more than we deserve.
  • Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.
  • The woman who truly intends to live a good life is already living phenomenally since intent is part of the achievement.
  • I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it – I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.
  • My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things, sometimes trembling, but daring still.
  • Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.
  • And one of my absolute favorite quotes of all-time, one that I’ve adopted as one of my greatest life mottos: Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I’m with you kid. Let’s go.”
  • Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.
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…realising life is an adventure

  • Because of our routines we forget that life is an ongoing adventure.
  • Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.
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Experience it all

  • You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
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See life as an art to master

  • I believe in living a poetic life, an art full life. Everything we do from the way we raise our children to the way we welcome our friends is part of a large canvas we are creating.
  • Because of the routines we follow, we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure. . . Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.
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Do what you love

  • You can never be great at anything unless you love it.
  • Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.
  • You can only accomplish what I really love. Do not take the money as a goal. Instead, pursue the things you passionate about, and do good to others cannot take my eyes off you.
  • You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
  • I love wisdom. And you can never be great at anything unless you love it. Not be in love with it, but love the thing, admire the thing. And it seems that if you love the thing, and you don’t just want to possess it, it will find you.
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Inspire by example

  • I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.
  • I want to be representative of my race-the human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be.
  • Continue to be bold, courageous. Try to choose the wisest thing and once you’ve chosen the wisest thing go out and try to achieve it. Be it.
  • Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are — cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.
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Do what is good and right

  • If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.
  • If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?
  • To know and not to do is in fact not to know. We need to be active instruments against evil. We need to do.
  • My grandmother told me that every good thing I do helps some human being in the world. I believed her 50 years ago and still do.
  • Try to be all you can be to be the best human being you can be. Try to be that in your church, in your temple. Try to be that in your classroom. Do it because it is right to do.
  • All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy – but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. And that’s how I am guided.
  • I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
  • Just do right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity.
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Lift people up

  • If I could give you one thought, it would be to lift someone up. Lift a stranger up–lift her up. I would ask you, mother and father, brother and sister, lovers, mother and daughter, father and son, lift someone. The very idea of lifting someone up will lift you, as well.
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Make a difference

  • Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.
  • To make a difference is not a matter of accident…People CHOOSE to make a difference.
  • If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.
  • I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.
  • A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.
  • When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.
  • When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from the grantor’s gift.
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Make time for being

  • Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.
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Be present

  • Be present in all things and thankful for all things.
  • Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.
  • Every day I awaken I am grateful. My intent is to be totally present in that day. And laugh as much as possible.
  • I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.
  • If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you will look forward, do so prayerfully. But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully.
  • I try to live what I consider a “poetic existence.” That means I take responsibility for the air I breathe and the space I take up. I try to be immediate, to be totally present for all my work.
  • I’m very, very serious – I’m serious enough not to take myself too seriously. That means I can be completely wedded to the moment. But when I leave that moment, I want to be completely wedded to the next moment.
  • I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.
  • Being thankful helps you to be present. People commit errors because they are not present. I would encourage women and men to be present – you’ll avoid falling into certain pits. For instance, if you know that a person has just lost his wife or her husband or lover, it’s unlikely that you will say something that will hurt that person’s feelings if you’re truly paying attention. You’ll make a sweeter life for yourself and for those around you if you are present.
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Decide with an open heart

  • I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
  • I think when we don’t know what to do it’s wise to do nothing. Sit down quietly; quiet our hearts and minds and breathe deeply.
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Be who you are…

  • I will write on the pages of history what I want them to say. I will be myself. I will speak my own name.
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…and embrace the story of yourself

  • I wouldn’t trade anything for my story now.
  • Hold those things that tell your history and protect them.
  • The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.
  • We can only know where we’re going if we know where we’ve been.
  • There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
  • The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story.
  • Everyone has at least one story, and each of us is funny if we admit it. You have to admit you’re the funniest person you’ve ever heard of.
  • Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.
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Be ready to re-invent yourself

  • Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise.
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Forge your own path

  • Step off the road. Build yourself a brand new path.
  • If you are going down a road and don’t like what’s in front of you, and look behind you and don’t like what you see, get off the road. Create a new path!
  • I was told many years ago by my grandmother who raised me: If somebody puts you on a road and you don’t feel comfortable on it and you look ahead and you don’t like the destination and you look behind and you don’t want to return to that place, step off the road.
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Do the best you can

  • Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
  • I think I know that I deserve better. And so I try for better. I’m never so put off that I would ever walk out of a place not having tried the best I could.
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Choose humility over modesty

  • Whenever I’m around some who is modest, I think, ‘Run like hell and all of fire.’ You don’t want modesty, you want humility.
  • Modesty is a learned affectation. It’s no good. Humility is great, because humility says, ‘There was someone before me. I’m following in somebody’s footsteps.’
  • It is important that we learn humility, which says there was someone else before me who paid for me. My responsibility is to prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who is yet to come.
  • What humility does for one is it reminds us that there are people before me. I have already been paid for. And what I need to do is prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who has yet to come but who may be here and needs me.
  • You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me and I’m here because I’ve been paid for. I have something to do and I will do that because I’m paying for someone else who has yet to come.
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Persevere and endure in the face of defeat

  • We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
  • I am overwhelmed by the grace and persistence of my people.
  • Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.
  • Be loving and be strong. Be fierce and be kind. And don’t give in and don’t give up.
  • You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.
  • You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.
  • I know that you that you may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. If you accept that you have been defeated, you give power to the force that is trying to defeat you.
  • All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
  • We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, “Oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn’t run away; I rose right where I’d been knocked down.” That’s how you get to know yourself.
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Build inner strength by overcoming struggle

  • You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust, I’ll rise.
  • Look what you’ve already come through! Don’t deny it. Say I’m stronger than I thought I was.
  • Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise.
  • Just like moons and suns, With certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.
  • You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
  • In spite of everything that was done to me and my race, in spite of the adversity and the bitter moments, again we rise.
  • The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education.
  • I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn’t run away – I rose right where I’d been knocked down. And then that’s how you get to know yourself. You say, hmm, I can get up!
  • Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you… yet, someone survived… You can do anything you choose to do.
  • The idea of overcoming is always fascinating to me. It’s fascinating because few of us realize how much energy we have expended just to be here today. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the overcoming.
  • When the storyteller tells the truth, she reminds us that human beings are more alike than unalike… A story is what it’s like to be a human being-to be knocked down and to miraculously arise. Each one of us has arisen, awakened. We do rise.
  • Look what you’ve already come through! Don’t deny it. You’ve already come through some things, which are very painful. If you’ve been alive until you’re 35, you have gone through some pain. It cost you something. And you’ve come through it. So at least look at that. And have a sense to look at yourself and say, “Well, wait a minute. I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
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Values for fulfilling relationships

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Love

  • Love recognizes no barriers.
  • We are here to love each other.
  • Yet it is only love which sets us free.
  • The honorary duty of a human being is to love.
  • I don’t trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
  • Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
  • Love is many things. It is varied. One thing love is not, is unsure.
  • I know for sure that love saves me and that it is here to save us all.
  • Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.
  • If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.
  • The loss of young first love is so painful that it borders on the ludicrous.
  • By love I don’t mean indulgence. I do not mean sentimentality. And in this instance, I don’t even mean romance. I mean that condition that allowed humans to dream of God. That condition that allowed the “dumb” to write spirituals and Russian songs and Irish lilts. That is love, and it’s so much larger than anything I can conceive.
  • Would you deny your son or your daughter the ecstasy of finding someone to love?
  • Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold – that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind.
  • You have to have courage to love somebody. Because you risk everything. Everything.
  • Loving someone liberates the lover as well as the beloved. And that kind of love comes with age.
  • In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.
  • We need Joy as we need air. We need Love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.
  • Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
  • The love of the family, the love of one person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society.
  • It’s hard because people think they have something to lose and the truth is they have everything to gain in trying to love somebody.
  • My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
  • You rose into my life like a promised sunrise, brightening my days with the light in your eyes. I’ve never been so strong. Now I’m where I belong.
  • First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least good is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.
  • In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.
  • Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.
  • Love liberates. Love – not sentimentality, not mush – but true love gives you enough courage that you can say to somebody, “Don’t do that, baby.” And the person will know you’re not preaching but teaching.
  • Love builds up the broken wall and straightens the crooked path. Love keeps the stars in the firmament and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides. Each of us is created of it and I suspect each of us was created for it.
  • I could fall in love with a sumo wrestler if he told stories and made me laugh. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church. Because then I wouldn’t have to translate.
  • Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.
  • Love is a condition so powerful; it may be that which pulls the stars in the firmament. It may be that which pushes and urges the blood in the veins. Courage: you have to have courage to love somebody because you risk everything-everything.
  • I believe that people want the scent of love, more than anything else. And I don’t mean sentimentality, I don’t mean mush. I mean that idea, that human beings are more alike than we are different. And that means that I can love you. I don’t mean support you in bad things you do, that I can understand because you’re a human being.
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Listening

  • When I was 8 years old, I became a mute and was a mute until I was 13, and I thought of my whole body as an ear, so I can go into a crowd and sit still and absorb all sound. That talent or ability has lasted and served me until today.
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Acceptance of others

  • Being free is being able to accept people for what they are, and not try to understand all they are or be what they are.
  • When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are
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Kindness

  • My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.
  • If we don’t plant the right things, we will reap the wrong things. It goes without saying. And you don’t have to be, you know, a brilliant biochemist and you don’t have to have an IQ of 150. Just common sense tells you to be kind, ninny, fool. Be kind.
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Compassion and empathy

  • Take the blinders from your vision, take the padding from your ears and confess you’ve heard me crying and admit you’ve seen my tears.
  • Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.
  • I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.
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Encouragement

  • People will never forget how you made them feel.
  • When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness… all the good things.
  • The area where we are the greatest is the area in which we inspire, encourage and connect with another human being.
  • I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
  • The human heart is so delicate and sensitive that it always needs some tangible encouragement to prevent it from faltering in its labour.
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Forgiveness

  • When we know better, we do better.
  • Forgive yourself – no one else will.
  • I did what I knew.. when I knew better, I did better.
  • I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
  • Let the brain go to work, let it meet the heart and you will be able to forgive.
  • It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
  • You forgive yourself for every failure because you are trying to do the right thing. God knows that and you know it. Nobody else may know it.
  • You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
  • It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. You are relieved of carrying that burden of resentment. You really are lighter. You feel lighter. You just drop that.
  • If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.
  • I have forgiven myself; I’ll make a change. Once that forgiveness has taken place you can console yourself with the knowledge that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure. Less pressure is crystal, less than that is coal, less than that is fossilized leaves or plain dirt. Pressure can change you into something quite precious, quite wonderful, quote beautiful and extremely hard.
  • I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better, I’d have done better,’ that’s all.
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Reaching hearts

  • The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.
  • If I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in people’s hands – and, I hope, in their heart.
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Giving and sharing

  • No one has ever become poor from giving.
  • When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
  • One must know not just how to accept a gift, but with what grace to share it.
  • I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.
  • Life is going to give you just what you put in it. Put your whole heart in everything you do, and pray, then you can wait.
  • I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
  • The difference between charity and philanthropy is the distance of the soul… To be philanthropic is to give something, to be charitable is to give one’s own heart.
  • The charitable say in effect, ‘I seem to have more than I need, and you seem to have less than you need. I would like to share my excess with you.’ Fine, if my excess is tangible, money or goods, and fine if not, for I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.
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Helping others

  • Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
  • Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone.
  • Encouragement to all women is – let us try to offer help before we have to offer therapy. That is to say, let’s see if we can’t prevent being ill by trying to offer a love of prevention before illness.
  • It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbors help neighbors and strangers help strangers.
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Friendship

  • A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.
  • There is an intimate laughter to be found only among friends.
  • The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear.
  • A woman needs someone she can trust, someone who laughs when she laughs, but who has different ideas so she can learn from and teach to them. She needs someone who will stand up with her and encourage her to be a woman-not just a female. See where you are, admit what you know, and what you need, and search for a sister friend.
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Mutual inspiration

  • Rainbows are people whose lives are bright, shining examples for others.
  • How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
  • At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.
  • When a person is going through hell, and she encounters someone who went through hellish hell and survived, then she can say, ‘Mine is not so bad as all that. She came through, and so can I.’
  • And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.
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Unity

  • I come as one but stand as 10,000.
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Respect

  • I respect myself and insist upon it from everybody. And because I do it, I then respect everybody, too.
  • If we accept being talked to any kind of a way, then we are telling ourselves we are not quite worth the best. And if we have the effrontery to talk to anybody with less than courtesy, we tell ourselves and the world we are not very intelligent.
  • There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate. You must keep it pristine. Clean. So that nobody has a right to curse you or treat you badly. Nobody. No mother, father, no wife, no husband, no­­­-nobody. You have to have a place where you say: ‘Stop it. Back up. Don’t you know I’m a child of God?
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Courtesy

  • I encourage courtesy. To accept nothing less than courtesy, and to give nothing less than courtesy. If we accept being talked to any kind of a way, then we are telling ourselves we are not quite worth the best. And if we have the effrontery to talk to anybody with less than courtesy, we tell ourselves and the world we are not very intelligent.
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Honesty

  • If we are honest and fair, then we are known by that. If we are not, alas, we are known by that as well. What we want to do is do right, but you have to say it, you have to show it, and not stop.
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Trust

  • When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
  • To those who have given up on love: I say, “Trust life a little bit.”
  • I had to trust life and believe that life loved the person who dared to live it.
  • Reality has changed chameleonlike before my eyes so many times that I have learned, or am learning, to trust almost anything except what appears to be so.
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Values for learning and growth

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Truth

  • Tell the truth and not the facts.
  • You think you may not be heard. Speak anyway.
  • I have risked everything to tell the truth. Tell the truth.
  • There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.
  • The truth brings the past into the present and prepares us for the future. That’s what truth does.
  • This is what I am learning, at 82 years old: the main thing is to be in love with the search for truth.
  • The truth is very important. No matter how negative it is, it is imperative that you learn the truth, not necessarily the facts. I mean, that, that can come, but facts can stand in front of the truth and almost obscure the truth. It is imperative that students learn the truth of our history.
  • There is a world of difference between facts and the truth. You can have so many facts that you don’t deal with the truth. You never get to the truth. You have the places where, the people who, the times when, the reasons why, the methods how – blah blah. And never get to the human truth. The human truth is as elusive as the air. And as important as the air.
  • I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being- what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.
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Learning

  • I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
  • I created myself. I have taught myself so much.
  • Education is a process that goes on ’til death. The moment you see someone who knows she has found the one true way, and can call all the others false, then you know you’re in the company of an ignoramus.
  • I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
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Knowledge

  • All knowledge is spendable currency, depending on the market.
  • I had given up some youth for knowledge, but my gain was more valuable than the loss.
  • I think the more we know the better we are. I mean not just facts. The more we know about each other, the closer we are to learn something about ourselves.
  • All information belongs to everybody all the time. It should be available. It should be accessible to the child, to the woman, to the man, to the old person, to the semiliterate, to the presidents of universities, to everyone. It should be open.
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Self-knowledge

  • At 50, I began to know who I was. It was like waking up to myself.
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Curiosity

  • I’m considered wise, and sometimes I see myself as knowing. Most of the time, I see myself as wanting to know. And I see myself as a very interested person. I’ve never been bored in my life.
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Intelligence

  • Intelligence always had a pornographic influence on me.
  • I’m grateful to intelligent people. That doesn’t mean educated. That doesn’t mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call ‘mother wit’ means intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb. That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.
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Growth

  • We grow despite the horror that we feed upon our own tomorrow. We grow.
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Change

  • The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
  • I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.
  • The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.
  • If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
  • If you do not like anything, alter it. If you cannot change it, adjust your mindset. Will not complain.
  • We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
  • What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.
  • Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.
  • We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate – thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising.
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Developing character

  • The sisters and brothers that you meet give you the materials which your character uses to build itself. It is said that some people are born great, others achieve it, some have it thrust upon them. In truth, the ways in which your character is built have to do with all three of those. Those around you, those you choose, and those who choose you.
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Awakening

  • Age is nothing; waking up is everything.
  • That’s the biggest gift I can give anybody: ‘Wake up, be aware of who you are, what you’re doing and what you can do to prevent yourself from becoming ill.’
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Maturity

  • Everyone grows old but not everyone grows up.
  • Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.
  • We can be better, we can be wiser, we can be more kind. Yes, we have to change. We have to grow up and stop acting like 10 years old. Yes, there is much to do, much to see, much to go into.
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Being in process

  • Whether you are happy or whether you are sad, it is wise to remember you are really in process.
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Possibility and potential

  • The future is plump with promise.
  • You want me to do something… tell me I can’t do it.
  • No sun outlasts its sunset but will rise again and bring the dawn.
  • Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily.
  • One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.
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Values for creative and effective work

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Work

  • Nothing will work unless you do.
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The value of time

  • Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence – neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish – it is an imponderably valuable gift.
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Creativity

  • You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
  • Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory. We come from the Creator with creativity. I think that each one of us is born with creativity.
  • I do not think of myself as unusually creative. I think we all come from the creator, each human being streaming with the glory. So, each one of us is creative.
  • We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.
  • Creativity or talent, like electricity, is something I don’t understand but something I’m able to harness and use. While electricity remains a mystery, I know I can plug into it and light up a cathedral or a synagogue or an operating room and use it to help save a life. Or I can use it to electrocute someone. Like electricity, creativity makes no judgment. I can use it productively or destructively. The important thing is to use it. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.
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Self-expression

  • We need language to tell us who we are, how we feel, what we’re capable of- to explain the pains and glory of our existence.
  • Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
  • Each time a dancer moves devoutly, or a composer faithfully searches the silence for the veiled melodies, eternity is engaged.
  • There’s something which impels us to show our inner souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.
  • Though I do manage to mumble around in about seven or eight languages, English remains the most beautiful of languages. It will do anything.
  • I am convinced that words are things, and we simply don’t have the machinery to measure what they are. I believe that words are tangible things.
  • If you want what you’re saying heard, then take your time and say it so that the listener will actually hear it. You might save somebody’s life. Your own, first.
  • To take a few nouns, and a few pronouns, and adverbs and adjectives, and put them together, ball them up, and throw them against the wall to make them bounce. That’s what Norman Mailer did. That’s what James Baldwin did, and Joan Didion did, and that’s what I do – that’s what I mean to do.
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Solitude

  • Give yourself time just to be with yourself.
  • We need to remember to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. Not only is it acceptable to be alone; at times it is positively to be wished for…..In the silence we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves to ourselves, and in the quietude, we may even hear the voice of God.
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Purpose

  • Something made greater by ourselves and in turn that makes us greater.
  • Let us live so we do not regret years of inertia and ignorance, so when we die, we can say all of our energy was dedicated to the noble liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own.
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Patience and passion

  • Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.
  • All great achievements require time.
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Action

  • Ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it.
  • Every journey begins with a single step.
  • Remember, people will judge you by your actions not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg.
  • Mostly, what I have learned so far about aging, despite the creakiness of one’s bones and cragginess of one’s once-silken skin, is this: Do it. By all means, do it.
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Talent

  • I believe that every person is born with talent.
  • Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it.
  • It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing, I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me, and I’m amazed at it. I’m grateful for it.
  • I believe talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. Electricity will do all that. It makes no judgment. I think talent is like that. I believe every person is born with talent.
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Excellence

  • I am not competing with anyone other than myself. I want to be excellent at whatever I do.
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Dreaming and visioning

  • Dare to let your dreams reach beyond you…
  • A single fantasy can transform a million realities.
  • It’s not where your dreams take you, its where you take your dreams.
  • A person is the product of their dreams. So make sure to dream great dreams. And then try to live your dream.
  • If a human being dreams a great dream, dares to love somebody; if a human being dares to be Martin King, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Malcolm X; if a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born-it means so can you. And so, you can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize, ‘Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ That’s one thing I’m learning.
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Effort and discipline

  • In order to win, we pay with energy and effort and discipline. If we lose, we pay in disappointment, discontent, and lack of fulfilment.
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Experimentation

  • I think we have systematically and critically harmed ourselves and many young people by advising them not to try things.
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Responsibility

  • To those who are given much, much is expected.
  • Each child belongs to all of us and they will bring us a tomorrow in direct relation to the responsibility we have shown to them.
  • Each of us has a responsibility for being alive: one responsibility to creation, of which we are a part, another to the creator a debt we repay by trying to extend our areas of comprehension.
  • I not only have the right to stand up for myself, but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say, “Can I be of help?”
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Independence

  • Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.
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Success

  • Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
  • If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
  • Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then just get a little more.
  • It may in fact be utterly impossible to be successful without helping others to become successful.
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Sacrifice

  • You can only become great at something you are willing to sacrifice for.
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Rest

  • Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.
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Values for happiness and well-being

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Happiness

  • The happy heart runs with the river, floats on the air, lifts to the music, soars with the eagle, hopes with the prayer.
  • Happiness is a chance to talk to a friend, to hear good music, to have a good glass of wine. Happiness is a chance to be myself and to find people with whom I agree or who I don’t agree but I can learn something.
  • When we decide to be happy, we accept the responsibility to bring happiness to someone else. Some decide that happiness and glee are the same thing, they are not. When we choose happiness, we accept the responsibility to lighten the load of someone else and to be a light on the path to another who may be walking in darkness.
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Enjoyment

  • Nobody can enjoy unless we all enjoy, truly enjoy.
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Know your needs…

  • Everybody in the world wants the same thing…to be needed…a job that he/she can do well…to love somebody…Everybody…There’s no mystery.
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…ask for what you want

  • Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!
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Appreciation and gratitude

  • I try to see every day as a celebration.
  • A joyful spirit is evidence of a grateful heart.
  • Be present in all things and thankful for all things.
  • This is a wonderful day; I have never seen this one before.
  • I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.
  • Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude.
  • When we find someone who is brave, fun, intelligent, and loving, we have to thank the universe.
  • Time itself is an individual gift. It is wise to cherish it carefully and give it away generously.
  • I want to thank you, Lord, for life and all that’s in it. Thank you for the day and for the hour, and the minute.
  • Thank you, always say thank you; it’s the greatest gift you can give someone; because thank you is what you say to God.
  • Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
  • I thank God I’m myself and for the life I’m given to live and for friends and lovers and beloveds, and I thank God for knowing that all those people have already paid for me.
  • I’m grateful for being here, for being able to think, for being able to see, for being able to taste, for appreciating love – for knowing that it exists in a world so rife with vulgarity, with brutality and violence, and yet love exists. I’m grateful to know that it exists.
  • I love living. I love that I’m alive to love my age. There are many people who went to bed just as I did yesterday evening and didn’t wake this morning. I love and feel very blessed that I did. I love, too, that I know a little more today than I did yesterday, or I simply know it more profoundly.
  • The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.
  • Indeed, we have souls. And if a person is religious, I think it’s good, it helps you a bit. But if you’re not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe. That listens to water with a river flowing, or water falling in rain and is lifted up by that and listens to a wonderful singer, wonderful musicians, listens to maybe Duke Ellington or Frank Sinatra or listens to Odetta and Mary J. Blige. Yes, and thinks whoo! And thinks, yes, hmm, all right now. My soul has been washed. I feel better, I feel stronger.
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Hope

  • Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.
  • Hope does not take away your problems. It can lift you above them.
  • Just as hope rings through laughter, it can also shine through tears.
  • Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.
  • God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.
  • Difficult is a far cry from impossible. The distance between these two lies hope. Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.
  • The nice thing about HOPE is that you can give it to someone else, someone who needs it even more than you do, and you will find you have not given yours away at all.
  • If God put the rainbows right in the clouds themselves, each one of us in the direst and dullest and most dreaded and dreary moments can see a possibility of hope … Each one of us has the chance to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud.
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Anticipation

  • I’m a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.
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Peace

  • Look heavenward and speak the word aloud. Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud. Peace.
  • Now, after years of observation and enough courage to admit what I have observed, I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if I want to avoid betrayal and lies.
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Surrender

  • At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.
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Smile

  • If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.
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Laughter

  • I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.
  • Don’t trust people who don’t laugh. I don’t.
  • Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible, and live long lives.
  • The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.
  • I am serious, so I laugh a lot. You need to laugh. You don’t laugh enough. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.
  • Every day offers you 10,000 reasons to cry, but if you can find just one reason to laugh then you will be all right.
  • My life has been one great big joke, a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.
  • Laugh as often as possible. You must. Because the world will offer you every reason to weep. So as often as possible, you laugh. That, I think, is part of the Great Love.
  • If you’re serious, you really understand that it’s important that you laugh as much as possible and admit that you’re the funniest person you ever met. You have to laugh. Admit that you’re funny. Otherwise, you die in solemnity.
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The light within

  • Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.
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Expanded perception

  • We all have that possibility, that potential and that promise of seeing beyond the seeming.
  • You can see in others what they don’t see in themselves and what the world doesn’t see in them.
  • We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.
  • Some people cannot see a good thing when it is right here, right now. Others can sense a good thing coming when it is days, months, or miles away.
  • Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself.
  • Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses.
  • Look for the beauty in things.
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Self-worth

  • Everybody is worth everything.
  • We have it in us to be splendid.
  • You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.
  • Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.
  • When was the last time anyone ever told you how important you are?
  • Precious jewel, you glow, you shine, reflecting all the good things in the world. Just look at yourself.
  • You don’t need another person, place or thing to make you whole. God already did that. Your job is to know it.
  • I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.
  • Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.
  • The most difficult thing in the world, it seems to me, is to realize that I am a child of God; to keep that in my mind all the time.
  • If a person – any human being – is told often enough, “You are nothing. You are nothing. You account for nothing. You count for nothing. You are less than a human being. I have no visibility of you”, the person finally begins to believe it.
  • When you know you are of worth, you don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to become rude, you don’t have to become vulgar; you just are. And you are like the sky is, as the air is, the same way water is wet. It doesn’t have to protest.
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Self-esteem and self-love

  • I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
  • If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves.
  • The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
  • I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
  • We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!
  • Laugh and dare to try to love somebody, starting with yourself. You must love yourself first, of course, and you must protect yourself so that nobody overrides you, overrules you, or steps on you. Just say, ‘Just a minute. I’m worth everything, dear.’
  • I’m not sure if resilience is ever achieved alone. Experience allows us to learn from example. But if we have someone who loves us-I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side-then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it’s self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.
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Health

  • When women take care of their health, they become their own best friend.
  • They who have health have hope; and they who have hope, have everything.
  • I think that that’s the wisest thing – to prevent illness before we try to cure something.
  • If it is true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, isn’t it also true a society is only as healthy as its sickest citizen and only as wealthy as its most deprived?
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Healing

  • As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.
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A sense of home

  • The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
  • We may act sophisticated and worldly, but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.
  • The truth is you never can leave home. You take it with you everywhere you go. It’s under your skin. It moves the tongue or slows it, colors the thinking, impedes upon the logic.
  • Home is a refuge not only from the world, but a refuge from my worries, my troubles, my concerns. I like beautiful things around me. I like to be beautiful because it delights my eyes and my soul is lifted up.
  • I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.
  • Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors are mysterious apparitions who come, go, and do strange unfathomable thing in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.
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Move on when the time is right

  • If you have done the best you can do and if you have gotten all you could extract from something, you have given all you had to give, then the time has come when you can do no more than say thank you and move on.
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More values to live by

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Courage

  • The most important thing is to DARE.
  • Having courage does not mean we are unafraid.
  • Be courageous, but not foolhardy. Walk proud as you are.
  • Without courage you cannot practice any of the other virtues.
  • If we are bold, love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls.
  • Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.
  • You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
  • You build your ‘COURAGE MUSCLE’ daily, by being courageous in little things. Just do right.
  • Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.
  • I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.
  • I thought if I could face the worst danger voluntarily, and triumph, I would forever have power over it.
  • Courage allows the successful woman to fail – and to learn powerful lessons from the failure – so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.
  • Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.
  • Courage – you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.
  • My hope is that we develop enough courage to develop courage. To try to have, try to learn to treat each other fairly, with generosity and kindness.
  • Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, ‘I have fallen, but I will get up.’
  • Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
  • You can’t be consistently fair, consistently generous, consistently just, or consistently merciful. You can be anything erratically, but to be that thing time after time after time, you have to have courage.
  • You have to develop ways so that you can take up for yourself, and then you take up for someone else. And so sooner or later, you have enough courage to really stand up for the human race and say, ‘I’m a representative.’
  • Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it empowers us to develop courage; to trust that courage and build bridges with it; to trust those bridges and cross over them so we can attempt to reach each other.
  • One isn’t born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things-in the way that if one sets out to pick up a 100-pound bag of rice, one would be advised to start with a five-pound bag, then 10 pounds, then 20 pounds, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to lift the 100-pound bag. It’s the same way with courage. You do small courageous things that require some mental and spiritual exertion.
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Diversity

  • In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
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Equality

  • We are more alike than unalike.
  • No human being can be more human than another human being. I liberate you from my ignorance.
  • Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear.
  • All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.
  • While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
  • We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
  • Growing up, I decided, a long time ago, I wouldn’t accept any manmade differences between human beings, differences made at somebody else’s insistence or someone else’s whim or convenience.
  • It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.
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Community

  • We are not our brother’s keeper we are our brother and we are our sister. We must look past complexion and see community.
  • I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.
  • I do not believe that the accident of birth makes people sisters and brothers. It makes them siblings. Gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood are conditions people have to work at. It’s a serious matter. You compromise, you give, you take, you stand firm, and you’re relentless…And it is an investment. Sisterhood means if you happen to be in Burma and I happen to be in San Diego and I’m married to someone who is very jealous and you’re married to somebody who is very possessive, if you call me in the middle of the night, I have to come.
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Freedom

  • I know why the caged bird sings.
  • The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.
  • You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.
  • The caged bird sings with a fearful trill, of things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard on the distant hill, for the caged bird sings of freedom.
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Transcending what can limit us

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Adversity and struggle

  • I’ve had rainbows in my clouds.
  • Take up the battle. Take it up.
  • Troubles are a blessing that force you to change, to believe.
  • She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.
  • When things were very bad his soul just crawled behind his heart and curled up and went to sleep.
  • Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.
  • No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
  • It is sad but true that sometimes we need tragedy to help us to see how human we are and how we are more alike than we are different.
  • Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low. And certainly don’t whine. You can be brought low, that’s OK, but don’t be reduced by them. Just say, ‘That’s life.’
  • During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.
  • Without defeats, how do you really know who the hell you are? If you never had to stand up to something – to get up, to be knocked down, and to get up again – life can walk over you wearing football cleats. But each time you do get up, you’re bigger, taller, finer, more beautiful, more kind, more understanding, more loving. Each time you get up, you’re more inclusive. More people can stand under your umbrella.
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Anger

  • Anger is like fire. It burns all clean.
  • You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
  • To be angry is very good. It burns out things and leaves nutrients in the soil. You should always be ready to be angry at injustice and cruelty.
  • I’m very blessed that I have a healthy temper. I can become quite angry and burning in anger, but I have never been bitter. Bitterness is a corrosive, terrible acid. It just eats you and makes you sick.
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Lies

  • Take a day to heal from the lies you’ve told yourself and the ones that have been told to you.
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Greed

  • The only way you can be a mark is if you want something for nothing. If you’re greedy, you’re set up.
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Hatred

  • Hatred is the ballast of the rock which lies upon our necks and underfoot.
  • Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.
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Bitterness

  • Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
  • Bitterness is cancer – it eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.
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Jealousy

  • Jealousy is conceived only in insecurity and must be nourished in fear.
  • Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.
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Self-pity

  • Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
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Prejudice

  • Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
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Racism

  • The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.
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Confusion

  • Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone. Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him. He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
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Separation and polarisation

  • I’m really saddened by the attempts to separate and polarize. This is a time when we have hungry people, people out of work, and people out of spirit. This is a time where we need to uplift, not to separate.
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Fear

  • Do not be wedded forever to fear, yoked eternally to brutishness.
  • Never, never let a person know you’re frightened. And a group of them … absolutely never. Fear brings out the worst in everybody.
  • We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.
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Neglect of others

  • When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky – in the big cities, too, for that matter.
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Negativity

  • Don’t bring negative to my door.
  • No not me go find someone else to bring down.
  • If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.
  • I believe that a negative statement is poison. I’m convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. So when the rude or cruel thing is said – the lambasting, the gay bashing, the hate – I say, “Take it all out of my house!” Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.
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Complaining

  • It is the worst thing you can do, women, is whine, .. I mean the worst. Don’t complain, protest.
  • You have to deal with what you encounter. But you must not be reduced. And so a way not to be reduced is don’t whine! Don’t let the incidents which take place in life bring you low.
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Heartbreak

  • Nothing hurts more than realizing they meant everything to you, but you meant nothing to them.
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Conformity

  • If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
  • Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity.
  • To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflict than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.
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Pretence

  • A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretence. No truth seems true.
  • When I passed forty, I dropped pretence, ’cause men like women who got some sense.
  • A bizarre sensation pervades a relationship of pretence. No truth seems true. A simple morning’s greeting and response appear loaded with innuendo and fraught with implications. Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.
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Pain

  • I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
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Timidity

  • Some of us are timid. We think we have something to lose so we don’t try for that next hill.
  • Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’ Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I deserve it.’
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Blaming

  • To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents.
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Cynicism

  • One of the saddest things in the world is to see a cynical young person.
  • There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
  • A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
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Ignorance

  • We are only as blind as we want to be.
  • We must be warriors in the struggle against ignorance.
  • It is only out of ignorance that people are cruel, because they really don’t think it will come back.
  • The root cause of all the problems we have in the world today is ignorance of course. But most, polarization.
  • We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
  • Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn’t know what I was aware of. I knew I knew very little, but I was certain that the things I had yet to learn wouldn’t be taught to me at George Washington High School.
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Illiteracy

  • My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.
  • Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery.
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Thoughts on…

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Writing

  • I’m not a writer who teaches. I’m a teacher who writes.
  • Writing and cookery are just two different means of communication.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that easy reading is damn hard writing.
  • I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.
  • Making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.
  • When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess.
  • The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
  • I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine… before she realizes she’s reading.
  • When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’
  • I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around. I’ll probably be writing when the Lord says, ‘Maya, Maya Angelou, it’s time.’
  • If I wanted to write, I had to be willing to develop a kind of concentration found mostly in people awaiting execution. I had to learn technique and surrender my ignorance.
  • I’m happy to be a writer – of prose, poetry, every kind of writing. Every person in the world who isn’t a recluse, hermit or mute uses words. I know of no other art form that we always use.
  • We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.
  • One of the problems we have as writers is we don’t take ourselves seriously while writing; being serious is setting aside a time and saying if it comes, good; if it doesn’t come, good, I’ll just sit here.
  • Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
  • I know that one of the great arts that the writer develops is the art of saying, ‘No. No, I’m finished. Bye.’ And leaving it alone. I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.
  • I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it. And to use the eloquence which my language affords me.
  • It’s still scary every time I go back to the past. Each morning, my heart catches. When I get there, I remember how the light was, where the draft was coming from, what odors were in the air. When I write, I get all the weeping out.
  • Putting down on paper what you have to say is an important part of writing, but the words and ideas have to be shaped and cleaned, cleaned as severely as a dog cleans a bone, cleaned until there’s not a shred of anything superfluous.
  • Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.
  • I’ve still not written as well as I want to. I want to write so that the reader in Des Moines, Iowa, in Kowloon, China, in Cape Town, South Africa, can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.’
  • When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.
  • I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So, I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
  • The writer has to take the most used, most familiar objects – nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs – ball them together and make them bounce, turn them a certain way and make people get into a romantic mood; and another way, into a bellicose mood. I’m most happy to be a writer.
  • I’ve always written. There’s a journal which I kept from about 9 years old. The man who gave it to me lived across the street from the store and kept it when my grandmother’s papers were destroyed. I’d written some essays. I loved poetry, still do. But I really, really loved it then.
  • Like a pianist runs her fingers over the keys, I’ll search my mind for what to say. Now, the poem may want you to write it. And then sometimes you see a situation and think, ‘I’d like to write about that.’ Those are two different ways of being approached by a poem or approaching a poem.
  • What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.
  • All people in the world – who are not hermits or mutes – speak words. They speak different languages, but they speak words. They say, “How are you” or “I’m not feeling well” all over the world. These common words – these common elements that we have between us – the writer has to take some verbs and nouns and pronouns and adjectives and adverbs and arrange them in a way that sound fresh.
  • When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature.
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Autobiography

  • The auto-biographer looks at life through the lens of his or her own life and really uses herself or himself as the jumping-off place to examine the social mores and the economic and political climates. In a way, the autobiography becomes history as well as the story of one person, for it becomes the story of a family or the story of the state or nation.
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Poetry

  • Poetry gave me back my voice.
  • Poetry is music written for the human voice.
  • Poetry puts starch in your backbone so you can stand, so you can compose your life.
  • Human beings love poetry. They don’t even know it sometimes… whether they’re the songs of Bono, or the songs of Justin Bieber… they’re listening to poetry.
  • Poetry and music are the best at the highest level of the human mind. Out of poetry, out of their need for poetry, human beings have developed the idea of God. And so when we sing, when we dance, when we speak poetry we are speaking out of God’s mouth, each other out of the music from God’s heart.
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Teaching

  • At our best, we are all teachers.
  • If you have, give. If you learn, teach.
  • What I think it really means is: I’m a teacher. I am a teacher. I teach all the time, as you do and as all of you do-whether we know it or not, whether we take responsibility for it or not. I hold nothing back because I want to see that light go off. I like to see the children say, ‘I never thought of that before.’ And I think, ‘I’ve got them!’
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Reading

  • I always felt, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK.
  • My encouragement to you is to go tomorrow to the library.
  • The best candy-shop a child can be left alone in, is the library.
  • Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
  • For a person who grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed without explanation to me, libraries and books said, ‘Here I am, read me.’ Over time I have learned I am at my best around books.
  • When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.
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God

  • There is no place where God is not.
  • Don’t face the day until you’ve faced God.
  • I am a child of God. I always carry that with me.
  • I know that I’ve been guided by God. I am obedient.
  • Lord keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth.
  • Listen to yourself and in that quietude, you might hear the voice of God.
  • It’s true. I can do anything and do it well because God loves me. It still humbles me.
  • It is this belief in a power larger than myself and other than myself which allows me to venture into the unknown and even the unknowable.
  • Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God. My pretty Black brother was my Kingdom Come.
  • I believed that there was a God because I was told it by my grandmother and later by other adults. But when I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous.
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The spirit / soul

  • Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life.
  • There is something more – the spirit, or the soul. I think that that quality encourages our courtesy and care and our minds. And mercy, and identity.
  • Somehow, we have come to the erroneous belief that we are all but flesh, blood, and bones, and that’s all. So we direct our values to material things.
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Religion

  • Christians already? It seems to me that it takes a lifetime of work.
  • When I say, ‘I am a Christian’, I’m not shouting ‘I’m saved’. I’m whispering, ‘I get lost’. That is why I chose this way.
  • I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is.
  • I am a very religious person, so it is the presence of God, the constant unwavering, unrelenting presence of God which continues to help me to keep a character which I am proud to show.
  • And if a person is religious, I think it’s good, it helps you a bit. But if you’re not, at least you can have the sense that there is a condition inside you which looks at the stars with amazement and awe.
  • I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy: it’s serious business.
  • I’m just like you – I want to be a good human being. I’m doing my best, and I’m working at it. And I’m trying to be a Christian. I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I always think, ‘Already? You’ve already got it?’ I’m working at it. And at my age, I’ll still be working at it at 96.
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Prayer

  • I know that when I pray, something wonderful happens. Not just to the person or persons for whom I’m praying, but also something wonderful happens to me. I’m grateful that I’m heard.
  • The first thing I do in the morning when I awaken is say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’ I’m grateful to be alive, and I’m going to try to tell the truth as well as I know and tell it as eloquently as I can so that people can hear it.
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Music

  • I live in an atmosphere of music.
  • On Saturday afternoons when all the things are done in the house and there’s no real work to be done, I play Bach and Chopin and turn it up real loudly and get a good bottle of chardonnay and sit out on my deck and look out at the garden.
  • There is a spirit in all music, the spirit has the ability to conjure up thoughts even pictures of something that happened, or you wished would happen or you anticipate happening. Music has the ability to create ideas in you and me. It has the ability to encourage us to be creative.
  • Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
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Art

  • Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.
  • In today’s climate in our country, which is sickened with the pollution of pollution, threatened with the prominence of AIDS, riddled with burgeoning racism, rife with growing huddles of the homeless, we need art and we need art in all forms. We need all methods of art to be present, everywhere present, and all the time present.
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Parenting

  • If I have a monument in this world, it is my son.
  • My son is the best thing that ever happened to me. And through me – to a lot of people.
  • I have a son, who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind.
  • I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
  • My mother is so full of joy and life. I am her child. And that is better than being the child of anyone else in the world.
  • My greatest blessing has been the birth of my son. My next greatest blessing has been my ability to turn people into children of mine.
  • I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.
  • When teachers or people in authority put me down or in one way or another tried to make me feel less than equal to what they thought I should be – my mother was on my side. It was amazing.
  • My mom was a terrible parent of young children. And thank God – I thank God every time I think of it – I was sent to my paternal grandmother. Ah, but my mother was a great parent of a young adult.
  • If you were the President of the United States or the Queen of England – you couldn’t have a person who would be more protective than my mother was for me. Which meant really that I could dare to do all sorts of things.
  • Baby, you know? my mother once said to me. “I think you’re the greatest woman I’ve ever met – and I’m not including my mother or Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in that.” She said, “You are very intelligent and you’re very kind, and those two qualities do not often go together.” Then she went across the street and got in her car, and I went the other way down to the streetcar. I thought, “Suppose she’s right. She’s intelligent – and she’s too mean to lie.” You see, a parent has the chance – and maybe the responsibility – to liberate her child. And my mom had liberated me when I was 17.
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Family

  • I sustain myself with the love of family.
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Working

  • I keep a hotel room in my town, although I have a large house. And I go there at about 5:30 in the morning, and I start working. And I don’t allow anybody to come in that room. I work on yellow pads and with ballpoint pens. I keep a Bible, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a bottle of sherry. I stay there until midday.
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Ageing

  • Don’t get older just to get wiser. If you get older, you will be wiser, I believe that – if you dare. But get older because it’s fun!
  • The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.
  • I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.
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Cooking and food

  • I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.
  • Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.
  • Food served is always more than just food served. That is to say, it is more than just fuel for the body. Depending upon who has prepared the food and who has served it and with what spirit, it can uplift the – and around the world, in every culture, food is used to flirt, to be coy, a raise in the employment or to search for employment. It can bring warring factions together.
  • The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.

 

Dreaming

  • I dreamt we walked together along the shore. We made satisfying small talk and laughed. This morning I found sand in my shoe and a seashell in my pocket. Was I only dreaming?
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History

  • Don’t hesitate to learn the most painful aspects of our history, understand it.
  • We need to haunt the house of history and listen anew to the ancestors’ wisdom.
  • I long for the time when all human history is taught as one history, because it really is.
  • History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
  • Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.
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Self-defence

  • I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves that we can be ready and able to come to our own defence when and wherever needed.
  • If somebody is really trying to take your head off with a baseball bat – I don’t know how long you’re supposed to stand there and turn the other cheek, so he or she can get a better angle at taking your head off.
  • Sometimes guns really matter. Protecting those who need protection – children, women, minorities in rough parts of town, old folks living in places where cops aren’t nearby. Guns are true empowerment for the powerless.
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Education

  • In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.
  • Education helps one case cease being intimidated by strange situations.
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Leadership

  • A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.
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Women power

  • I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.
  • It’s the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet. I’m a woman Phenomenally.
  • A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.
  • I am a woman phenomenally, phenomenal woman that is your grandmother, that is your mother, that is your sister, that is you and that is me.
  • The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
  • A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.
  • Strong women- precious jewels all- their humanness is evident in their accessibility. We are able to enter into the spirit of these women and rejoice in their warmth and courage.
  • Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible, and live long lives. The struggle for equality continues unabated, and the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory.
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Travel

  • Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
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Money and wealth

  • We need much less than we think we need.
  • Money and power can liberate only if they are used to do so. They can imprison and inhibit more finally than barred windows and iron chains.
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Democracy

  • You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich. But remember this: In an election, every voice is equally powerful — don’t underestimate your vote. Voting is the great equalizer.
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Death

  • I keep on dying, Because I love to live.
  • What is a fear of living? It’s being pre-eminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.
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Men

  • I’ve never had a dislike for men. I’ve been badly treated by some. But I’ve been loved greatly by some. I married a lot of them.
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Nature

  • Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, “I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway.”
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More thoughts

  • A woman in harmony with her Spirit is like a river flowing.
  • Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.
  • We are all human; therefore, nothing human can be alien to us.
  • Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
  • Life offers us tickets to places which we have not knowingly asked for.
  • No one comes from the earth like grass. We come like trees. We all have roots.
  • Living a life is like constructing a building: if you start wrong, you’ll end wrong.
  • A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
  • Most plain girls are virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise.
  • I refuse to allow any man-made differences to separate me from any other human beings.
  • You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
  • I loved it. And for a long time, I would think of myself, of my whole body, as an ear.
  • The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished and pruned pricks more deeply and draws more blood.
  • I am capable of what every other human is capable of. This is one of the great lessons of war and life.
  • I like to speak on matters which matter to human beings, and almost everything matters to human beings.
  • It’s very important to know the neighbor next door and the people down the street and the people in another race.
  • Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?
  • Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.
  • In all my work, I try to say – ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’
  • Light and shadow are opposite sides of the same coin. We can illuminate our paths or darken our way. It is a matter of choice.
  • I would be stupid not to be on my own side. But I’m a human being, too. And I’m on the side of human beings, rather than on the side of crocodiles.
  • When it looks like the sun isn’t going to shine any more, God puts a rainbow in the clouds. Each one of us has the possibility, the responsibility, the probability to be the rainbow in the clouds.
  • Hope for the best, be prepared for the worse. Life is shocking, but you must never appear to be shocked. For no matter how bad it is it could be worse and no matter how good it is it could be better.
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On a lighter note

  • I keep hitting the escape button, but I am still here!
  • If men are God’s gift to women, then God must really love gag gifts.
  • When I try to describe myself to God I say, ‘Lord, remember me? Black? Female? Six-foot tall? The writer?’ And I almost always get God’s attention.
  • I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
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