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Chicago Remembers the late poet Maya Angelou

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The passing of award-winning poet Maya Angelou triggered fond memories of her from Chicagoans, who include elected officials and community stakeholders.

Angelou died at age 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and suffered from heart problems, according to her literary agent, Helen Brann.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described her as a true soldier for society.

“Today, the thoughts and prayers of the people of Chicago join countless millions around the world in mourning the passing of Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou was a true national treasure. Through poetry, song, dance, and the spoken word, Dr. Angelou gave voice to generations of Americans and became an unstoppable force for peace, civil rights, and social justice," Emanuel said. "I will always be honored to have been present when she delivered her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at Present Clinton’s first inauguration, which was a call for inclusion and extending economic security to all Americans. It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Dr. Angelou but we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever and inspire future generations working to build a more peaceful and compassionate world.”

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called Angelou a fine mentor to children and adults.

“Maya Angelou was a towering figure of the arts who has inspired generations of people across the globe. Her life, talent and accomplishments read like an epic novel, and yet her works touch the mind and soul like few in our nation’s history. Maya’s example of overcoming almost unimaginable pain and silence to produce masterpieces that will live forever is a shining beacon for all," Quinn said. "As she said, ‘I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.’ “Thank you, Maya, for throwing us something back.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st Dist.) echoed those same sentiments as Emanuel and Quinn.

“Dr. Angelou was an astounding figure on the global stage who took her place daringly encouraging all those around her. She will be missed dearly. I hope her light will continue to shine through those she touched," he said. “She overcame struggle only to triumph and inspire generations to dream and live and hope."

And Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp added that Angelou had enjoyed a career that allowed her to touch the lives of millions of people.

“In a career that spanned several decades, Dr. Angelou’s autobiographies, volumes of poetry and roles on stage and screen enlightened the world. As an activist for women and the disenfranchised, Dr. Angelou inspired us to challenge the status quo and demand equality and access to educational and economic opportunities. She was honored by presidents and treated as a dignitary throughout the world," said Zopp. “(And) although she is no longer with us, Dr. Maya Angelou’s rich legacy of books, poetry, performances and powerful speeches will forever remain as a testament to her phenomenal life and career.”

New York-based civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton has spent time each week in Chicago since February as he studies ways to reduce gun violence in the nation's third largest city. He recalled how Angelou's life has touched his life and the lives of others.

“Maya Angelou was the quintessential renaissance woman of the 20th century art and human rights movements. Not only was she a literary icon, she was one of the few that turned her words into action. Although she participated in civil rights rallies, she challenged leaders of the civil rights movement to embrace the struggles of others and a broader view of freedom fighting," he said. "She challenged misogyny in the movement and was our poet, conscience, teacher and corrector. She was one of the few people whose presence you felt in the room even if she didn’t say a word. Her spirit was incomparable.”