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Dr. Maya Angelou: “A Voice for Justice, Equality and Love” 

Dr. Maya Angelou at Elon's Fall Convocation in 2012.

“Life is a constant choice. Will you choose to reach out or draw in? Will you choose to speak out or shut up?” President Bill Clinton reflected upon Dr. Maya Angelou this morning at the poet’s memorial service held at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” author died in her home Wednesday May 28.

Many famous guests such as President Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and TV star Oprah Winfrey attended.

“Dr. Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey,” said First Lady Obama.

Michelle Obama recounts meeting and interacting with a "remarkable woman."

First Lady Michelle Obama recounts meeting and interacting with a “remarkable woman.” Photo from WXII 12 News


Oprah Winfrey spoke about how much Maya Angelou was a mother to her.

When Winfrey was starting out as a reporter, she begged Dr. Angelou for 5 minutes of her time for a quick interview. Winfrey told Saturday’s audience that after just 4 minutes and 58 seconds of talking to Dr. Angelou she felt like a new woman.

Dr. Angelou’s memorial service was titled, “A Celebration of Rising Joy.” Her son and grandson also spoke about how much she lived and breathed for a life of peace and happiness.

Dr. Serenus Churn, Dr. Angelou’s pastor, discussed her love of life, faith, learning, teaching and giving.

“She was a giver. She gave to the poor. She gave to the old. She gave to the young. She gave to whoever needed it. She even gave wisdom,” said Dr. Churn.

Growing up, she dealt with parental tensions. She and her brother moved from her birthplace of St. Louis, Missouri to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother.

When Dr. Angelou was eight years old she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after the incident she told her brother who alerted police and her abuser was sent to prison for 4 days. Shortly after his release he was murdered by one of her uncles.

After the incident, Angelou refused to speak until she was 13.

At the age of 14 she, her brother and mother moved again to Oakland, California. She became the first female African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

A few weeks after she graduated from the California Labor School she gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Clyde. (He later changed his name to Guy.)

It was during these early years of her life that inspired her to write her famous work, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Along with writing poetry, books, plays and songs, she was also in an off-broadway production, befriended Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2010.

Since 1982 she taught American studies at Wake Forest University.

In the fall of 2012 Dr. Angelou was Elon University’s Fall Convocation speaker. She inspired students to seek opportunity within their college education. And once more wanted others to “have an attitude of gratitude.”

“We have the possibility, the privilege of being rainbows in somebody’s cloud,” Dr. Angelou said at Elon’s Convocation.

It is not yet known where Angelou is being buried.

These gifts and flowers show just how much Dr. Angelou was loved and appreciated by friends and family in the Winston-Salem community.

These gifts and flowers were placed at Dr. Angelou’s home in Winston-Salem.

About the author: Ashley Bohle

Ashley Bohle is a multimedia journalist for Elon Local News. She is a 2017 graduate. She enjoys running, reading, baking, shopping, and playing with her dogs when at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Twitter: @AshleyBohle Instagram: ashleybohle

2 Responses to Dr. Maya Angelou: “A Voice for Justice, Equality and Love”

  1. avatar
    Mrs. Sylvia Stanback

    Dr. Angelou had a marvelous gift for making everyone feel special to her. She could make a mouse feel like the “King of the Jungle”. Her beautiful spirit has truly impacted my life. She was generous, thoughtful, and very comforting when in her presence.

  2. avatar
    Ms. Michael Lanning

    As my husband and I watched Dr. Angelou’s funeral yesterday we were so touched by the beautiful words spoken in her memory. President Clinton once again awed me with his insight and profound ability to find the pearl of great price —- Maya Angelou’s gift of paying attention. Such a simple thing —- paying attention! But then she shared so beautifully with the world what she had learned and blessed us all.

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