Memorial honors poet Maya Angelou

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Eighty-six years of creativity, audacity and perseverance were acknowledged in two and a half hours of joy Saturday, as 2,000 people came to Wake Forest University to celebrate the life of Maya Angelou.

First lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and members of Angelou’s literal and extended family — by blood, by scholarship, by the influence she left on them — flocked to hear speakers share anecdotes and singers raise the rafters of Wait Chapel.

Grandson Colin Ashanti Johnson reminded us of her simple motto: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” That theme ran through every speech in honor of the poet/autobiographer, who was on the Wake Forest faculty for 32 years until her death May 28.

Clinton recalled reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” the first volume of Angelou’s life narrative, as a law student. He realized it had been written by a woman who grew up black and poor in a town near his Arkansas birthplace, and it spoke to him personally.

He compared her to a firefly, “which suddenly makes you see something in front of your nose that you would have missed.”

Obama remembered how Angelou empowered not only “black women but women everywhere and ALL human beings — including a white woman from Kansas who named her daughter Maya, and who raised a son who grew up to be the first black president of the United States.”

Winfrey, who helped put this tribute together, said, “The loss I feel, I cannot describe. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. She was my spiritual queen mother and everything that describes.”

But it fell to Serenus Churn, Angelou’s pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church, to see the poet off with poetry.

He quoted Walt Whitman, William Cullen Bryant and finally invoked Shakespeare at the end of “Hamlet”: “Good night, sweet princess. And author. And teacher. And friend, and mother and grandmother … and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

More in Local News

Mill Creek councilman no longer lives in city, panel finds

The Canvassing Board determined Sean Kelly is not eligible to vote there.

A Democrat and ex-Republican team up to end two-party politics

Brian Baird and Chris Vance unveil a new organization called Washington Independents.

The beavers weren’t happy, either, about Mill Creek flooding

A tree fell on their dam, sending a rush of water into a neighborhood near Jackson High School.

Two windsurfers rescued from Port Susan near Kayak Point

The men had failed to return to shore during Sunday’s windstorm.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Stranger offered candy to student walking home from school

The Granite Falls School District is warning families about… Continue reading

Coming together as family

Special-needs students and teachers at the Transition Center cooked up a Thanksgiving feast.

Lynnwood’s property tax promise to homeowners sort of true

They were told consolidation of fire departments would save, but new rates likely will be more.

Woman who died in 5-car crash identified

A car driven by Susan E. Sill rear-ended another vehicle Wednesday on Smokey Point Boulevard.

Most Read