She Determined Her Own Worth And Refused To Be Ashamed

Maya Angelou in front of a microphone
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
December 6, 2021

Maya Angelou was an award-winning poet, mother, and role model. But not many of us know that prior to being a writer, she was a sex worker, exotic dancer, and brothel manager!

When she passed away in 2014, this part of her history was often ignored. But she wasn’t ashamed! Why?

Once, a TV host implied Angelou’s past was shameful. “There are many ways to prostitute one’s self,” she replied proudly, noting that ALL workers are forced to “sell their bodies” in some way.

Sex work, when consensual, is just another form of business. She shared her experience in her book, “Gather Together In My Name.”

A common response to sex work is, “Don’t you respect yourself?” Historically, “respectability” has meant some form of “appeasing whiteness.” 

Angelou didn’t care to uphold this! They weren’t going to respect us anyway – so why not just be ourselves and tell our truths?

Today, sex workers are still shamed. Whether they’re paying bills, have few other options, or just genuinely enjoy the work, they still deserve care, respect, and liberation. 

Remember, white supremacy has long used “respectability” to dehumanize and colonize our people. When we use their same tactics, we’re oppressing each other!

We must determine our own worth. We’re closer to liberation when we exist outside of shame. Remember: “we’re not free until we’re ALL free,” and that includes sex workers!

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