activist, Arkansas, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Bill Clinton, Calypso, civil rights, Clinton inauguration, dancer, Gov. Beebe, Marguerite Johnson, Maya Angelou, poet, President Obama, singer, Stamps AR, Wake Forest College, Winston-Salem NC, writer
She was reported to have died quietly at her home in Winston-Salem NC this morning.
A poor girl from Arkansas, she began her journey like many young Arkansas girls do as a single parent but she refused to let it define her life. She Calypso danced in strip clubs until better venues came along. She performed, acted and sang and moved in the theatrical world and at the same time was deeply involved in the black civil rights movement.
Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X were all her friends. Bill Clinton asked her to write a poem and read it for his 1993 inauguration as President of the United States. This little girl from Stamps, Arkansas, was also embraced by the Bush administrations and in taught at Wake Forrest College in Winston-Salem from 1982 until now. Maya Angelou a.k.a. Marguerite Johnson was a mover and a shaker who would not be denied. Every accolade the world whose doors she battered down with her brilliance and determination was heaped upon her during her career.
Among her many honors, she was among the first inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993.
Commenting on her passing Wednesday, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said “Maya Angelou will always remain an Arkansas and American treasure. She drew from a painful and troubled childhood to write books and poems that have inspired countless others. From Stamps, Arkansas, to the steps of the U.S. Capitol for President Clinton’s inauguration, Maya Angelou showed how strength, determination and honesty can take us all to the heights of greatness.”
Reacting to her death President Clinton said “America has lost a national treasure and Hilary and I a beloved friend” He went on to quote from Angelou, “Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river and the tree and the stone were one.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement saying that although she was many things, a poet, author, playwright, actress, director composer, singer and dancer, “ She was above all a storyteller whose greatest works were true.”
As a child Maya refused to speak after being abused, but she regained a voice whose brilliance will now stand the test of time.