Maya Angelou & Ben Harper: I’ll Rise.

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Maya Angelou’s Poem I’ll Rise, set to Song by Ben Harper.

I’ve known this song for years, and liked it.

But tonight, reading a few quotes by Maya Angelou,

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”


“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

on this anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, with Glenn Beck giving an us vs. them speech at the Lincoln Memorial with Sarah Palin adding some fear-mongering “Don’t let them fundamentally change the US”

…well tonight was the first time I realized that the lyrics of Ben Harper’s I’ll Rise are Maya Angelou’s words.

And I thought it a great and gentle message of resolve: we shall overcome—not them—but the anger and blame within each and every one of us, and create a nation and a world where our children learn that sustainability and harmony are basic and kindness and bravery are more fun.

Still I Rise

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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

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?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou



And one in Boulder, ele’s hometown:

For I’ll Rise, skip to 6 in:

Bonus, for reminder that the images offer:

Bonus, just ’cause he’s so young and the opening is so awesome:


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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


3 Responses to “Maya Angelou & Ben Harper: I’ll Rise.”

  1. Lauren says:

    Love it. Brilliant poem. She spoke at my college graduation many moons ago…

  2. Leigh Ann says:

    Damn I did not know this!!! Have also known (and loved) this song for a long time, but had no idea. Thanks for sharing. I first saw him open for an opener for Pearl Jam and I instantly fell in love. Good stuff.

  3. Derek Beres says:

    Saw him perform this at the Warfield in San Fran in 1997 (and three times since). But that night, for his last encore, the band cut out, he threw down his mic, stood on a monitor, and belted out most of the verse a cappella in front of 3,000 people. One of the most powerful live musical moments I've ever witnessed.

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