Sadly the celebrated poet, playwright, professor, memoirist, historian, director, screenwriter, activist and actress, Maya Angelou, died last Wednesday May 28 aged 86. Although particularly well-known for her poetry and memoir books, her fifty year plus career in a number of creative disciplines explains her wide influence today.
Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, an unsettled childhood moved her between Missouri, Arkansas and eventually to San Francisco. Here during the 1950s as a dancer, singer and actress she changed her name to Maya Angelou. Her life up to age 17 is described in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" her first book from 1969. By the time she wrote "I Know Why" she had already led a full life that included having met and been friends with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Billie Holiday. Among her achievements and countless awards, she was also Bill Clinton's inaugural poet in 1993 - the first poet to recite at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's in 1961.
She was indeed a phenomenal woman. She may no longer be with us in body but her words, wisdom and inspiration will stay. How blessed are we to have such people in our lives?