It with great sadness that we mourn the passing of our beloved and renowned poet, dancer, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Maya Angelou made her transition on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in her home in North Carolina. An author of more than 30 books and a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums, Angelou had a major impact on the literary and arts community. Although she had written five of the seven of her series of autobiographies, she gained further national attention when she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton. On this occasion, she was the second poet in history to read at a Presidential inauguration and the first African-American and woman.
A mentee of the late John Oliver Killens, Maya Angelou gave the keynote address on the theme: The Social Responsibility of the Writer to the Community at the first National Black Writers Conference which was held at Medgar Evers College in 1986. She was joined by other distinguished writers including Claude Brown, John A. Williams, Ishmael Reed, Paule Marshall and Ossie Davis.
Maya Angelou’s voice has resounded for decades. Her classic autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, reflects the lives of many young women coming of age in a society constructed by racism, sexism and class. This novel symbolizes the voices of many young women who have been silenced.
Dr. Angelou spoke truth with fierceness and in her poetry vividly demonstrates the power of language to express the human experience. Her book of poetry, And Still I Rise, is a testimony to the ways in which Black people in America have overcome obstacles and persevered. In Maya’s words,
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. . . .
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.
Dr. Maya Angelou’s indomitable spirit will be remembered by many. Her legacy serves as an imprint on the lives of readers and writers for generations to come.