A tribute to Maya Angelou

By Emilie McQueen, Staff Writer

Published in print Nov.12, 2014

On Sept.14, 2013 Maya Angelou spoke on UNCG’s campus about her life as a global renaissance woman, and only eight month later, these would be some of the last words documented before her death on May 8, 2014 at the age of 86.

The Neo-Black Society’s organization, Writer’s Ink, put together a tribute for Maya this past Friday to honor her life and impact not only in the local area, but also in the world as a whole.

“I was like a kid in the candy store when I saw Maya Angelou last year,” said Shequilla Barnes remembering Dr. Angelou. “I was frozen to a certain degree when she came out in her wheel chair and then stood as she got to the microphone. Every bit of wisdom she spoke about, I have held onto.”

Marguerite Ann Johnson, famously known as Maya Angelou (this name was given to her by her brother), was a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist. Her poems and stories are taught and recited internationally, and her influence in the arts is also international as well. As members of the performing arts at UNCG performed pieces inspired by and for Dr. Angelou last year, members of the Writer’s Ink performed poems, readings, songs, and dances in honor of her at this event too.

Although Angelou is well known for her work in the 21st century, a lot of us are not so aware of her life and the struggles she endured in the 20th century.

Through her performance as a writer she finally found her voice and was able to portray to society her identity as not only a fraught woman, but also as a teenage mother and an individual growing up in a time of oppression.

During her early years, Maya met Malcom X in Gahanna. On their travels back to America, Malcom X was assassinated. Dr. Angelou was also quite close to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated on her birthday.

Since that day, Angelou vowed that she would never celebrate her birthday again.

A short summary of her achievements include her three Grammy awards, over thirty honorary degrees, her nomination as the first black female Pulitzer Prize winner and the fact that President Clinton and Obama both chose her to speak at their inauguration.

She was truly a remarkable woman of the 21st and 20th century. She claimed that she would have it all if she was born black, American and female, and indeed she was.

There was no immediate cause of death for Dr. Angelou, doctors have claimed that she had been recovering from an illness prior to the fatal day.

The universe was not ready to say goodbye to this influential character, and specifically, many celebrities accounted for the loss by sending quotes of love and sorrow out for the world to see in her remembrance.

“The world knows her as a poet, but at the heart of her, she was a teacher,” said Oprah Winfrey, remembering Angelou as a mentor, mother and dear friend. When you learn, teach, when you get, give, is one of my best lessons from her … she will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Categories: emilie mcqueen, Features

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