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Remembering Maya Angelou: What We Learned from This Teacher, Activist, and Poet

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou died today in North Carolina. She was 86.

The renowned writer and speaker’s family announced her passing on her official Facebook page:

Thursday, May 28, 2014
Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.
Guy B. Johnson

Guy B. Johnson is Angelou’s son, who appeared in a clip on OWN’s Super Soul Sunday speaking about his mother:

I grew up in her light. Sometimes I wasn’t worthy of it, but it has always been an experience that expanded me … She thinks that the divine hand is in all things. She has faith that’s like a rock – you can stand on it. She speaks to our humanity and she reminds us that we are both brother and sister to the rest of the human race. Keep on speaking, Ma. We need the lessons, the beautiful poems, books, movies, dances, celebrations and love.

Teacher, activist, artist; a warrior for equality, tolerance, and peace; and a beloved mother: I can think of no greater legacy than that. I discovered her in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and then again at 22 when she took the stage to read On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration.

From receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country, to the esteem of the Muppets, Dr. Angelou’s impact was widespread and  immeasurable. Her message of perseverance, dignity, and grace, and the tributes pouring in today are proof that one person’s story, told well and purposefully over time, can make a profound difference in the lives of individuals and the world.

The Sesame Street Facebook page posted this image, saying: “We’re saddened by the passing of our friend Maya Angelou. Thank you for all you’ve done, and for all the hugs.”

Maya Angelou Sesame Street

Social media whiz and Star Trek star George Takei had this lovely remembrance:

The world has lost a great voice today. A self-taught master of the written word, Angelou also spoke no less than six languages. A traumatic and violent childhood, marked by years of silence, led to a blossoming of her artistry and her gifts. She was a champion for civil rights and justice, and on the inner circle with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2011 she received our nation’s civilian highest honor, the Medal of Freedom. We know now why the caged bird sings, and we release her spirit today back to the starry heavens. May your light shine ever on, Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou

The world was fortunate to have Dr. Maya Angelou here for 86 years, and will remain lucky that her words will be with us forever.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons; Facebook

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