Family, close friends, and dignitaries gathered this weekend to commemorate the life of author, poet, and activist Maya Angelou. The ceremony was held on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC where Angelou had served as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982.
Tyson demonstrated great love and admiration for Angelou as an artist, having worked on plays with her on many occasions early in her career. She recounted the moment she first met Angelou while working on a play in 1960, “…every emotion known to man was exhibited by Maya. She held nothing. She spoke her mind no matter what the situation was.”
First Lady Michelle credits Angelou’s writing for giving her confidence, courage, and even comfort when she felt alone or under attack on the campaign trail. She describes Angelou’s words as “words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the Southside of Chicago all the way to the White House.”
Oprah’s speech was especially heartfelt as she described Angelou as her anchor. “She was my spiritual queen mother and everything that that word implies. She was the ultimate teacher.” Winfrey described a pivotal moment in her career when she called Angelou in tears to talk about something personal that had happened. Angelou told her, in no uncertain terms, to suck it up “because whatever it is, you have the faith to know that God has put a rainbow in the clouds and you’re gonna come out on the other side of whatever it is, the better for it.”
Bill Clinton and BeBe Winans were among the others to offer words in Angelou's memory. Quotes from Angelou’s books and timeless poetry have been flooding social media as everyone remembers their favorite Angelou inspirations. She was the voice of a generation of activists and artists who boldly shared the truth of their experience at a time when society did everything in its power to silence them. Her body is no longer with us, but her spirit and legacy carries on.