A Legacy Of Risers: Reflecting On The Impact Of Black History

Friends, I’m Natasha Simmons, affectionately known as “Natasha Gray.” I’m a Christian Singer/Songwriter who has been a part of Seacoast Church since 2008. I get the privilege of leading worship and being a part of our diversity-inclusion team, a team of diverse staff that lends a voice to different cultures and perspectives to make us better. This month, I’m reflecting on the impact of Black history. I’m reminded of where my love for writing was given wings and something to aspire to. I remember reading the literary brilliance of Maya Angelou as a young girl. It left me in awe of her. I could see myself represented in her. Something at that time, I hadn’t seen.

Poet and novelist, Maya Angelou at the dedication of a new memorial at the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City, New York. – 2007

For those who may not know, Maya Angelou, was a renowned writer and civil rights activist. Her attributes to the literary arts even included film, TV and acting. She used her voice to spur the fight for justice and helped curate a total acceptance of our brilliant brown skin. Maya Angelou never hesitated to convey the hand that life dealt her. Her poetry was a beacon of light, a reflection of truth, and showed tenacity to overcome the state of the world and what it believed as acceptable. She went against status quo and stood out far beyond expectation in literary arts and fighting injustices.

She leaves a legacy of “Risers” in young brown girls like me. Her skin and gender were downplayed as a weakness, but she firmly embraced them as a foundation of boldness, grace, and prominence. Because of her bold voice, I was provoked to rise up and speak truth, write truth, and declare what I’m experiencing through my music. My plight is led by my relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the driving force that propels me to raise my voice and declare his never-ending love. The gift of singing and songwriting is my motivation to encourage, uplift, and shine light. I know this expression is possible because of the example left by Ms. Angelou.

“Her [Maya Angelou’s] poetry was a beacon of light, a reflection of truth, and showed tenacity to overcome the state of the world and what it believed as acceptable.” — Natasha Simmons

Reading Maya Angelou’s work at a young age, caused a profound awareness of the strength and depth we have in the written artistic expression. I will continue to transcribe my thoughts, experiences and heart through words layered with musical accompaniment. I am so grateful for the life that she led.


  1. Black History Month is a celebration, a month of remembrance and appreciation of Black history and culture. Take a few minutes to read about a few of the men and women who helped shape modern Christianity. Hidden Figures Part 1 and Hidden Figures Part 2.