We are already into the second month of 2021! What a year it has been already. January feels like a bygone blur to me.

I noticed over the holidays, a rather steep drop-off in New Year’s resolutions among my friends and acquaintances. Most only expressed a sincere relief at the thought of leaving 2020 in the dust. It seems planning for the future, in the smallest of ways is too daunting a task in today’s world. Too many unknowns. Fear, isolation, illness, work uncertainty, financial and food insecurity. A country divided in anger and pain…

For so many of the suffering, managing to pick themselves up and keep moving every single day, is nothing short of a miracle.

The poet, author, intellect and icon that has often inspired me through my roughest times is Maya Angelou. Her work has been celebrated, her quotes providing hope, insight and inspiration to all that struggle. I thought since February is Black History Month, I would take time to learn more about her. I am ashamed to say I knew next to nothing. Yes, I knew she toured with “Porgy and Bess” during her younger days. I was also familiar with some of her poems, quotes, and writing…I knew she worked in film. I also knew Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on her birthday. This was only a vague knowledge. It’s empty as memorizing dates and the times table. Knowledge and understanding are not the same thing.

Maya Angelou was born into a world of violence.  She was only eight years old when she was raped by her stepfather. Instead of hiding in shame and fear, as many traumatized children do…she found her voice and told her mother what happened. As a result of this, her two uncles beat the man to death right in front of her. After that, Maya lost her voice. Due to the compounding trauma, she lost the ability to speak for FIVE long years.

Today, can anyone of us imagine Maya Angelou without a voice?

A little black girl living in poverty during the Jim Crow era. Tattered clothing, not enough to eat, with zero opportunity in rural and segregated Stamps, Arkansas. She was bullied and labeled a “simpleton” because she did not speak.

Can you imagine Maya Angelou considered a simple mind?

I want everyone that has endured child abuse, sexual, dating, marital…abuse of any kind to find their voice. I want them to understand what Maya eventually understood. It was not your fault. The shame is not yours to bear. You deserve a voice and a seat at the table. That is why the Friends of the Family Justice Center is here. We want to help everyone in the community find their voice and their footing. There is so much untapped potential in this community. I would argue that survivors of abuse have more insight to offer if given the courage and the chance. Let us see if we can help you or a loved one.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou   

by Cynthia Fowler, Hays County Family Justice Center President