Saturday, the memorial service for the late poet and one-time activist Dr. Maya Angelou was broadcast throughout the world on OWN, BET and Time/CNN as family, friends and dignitaries from across the globe attended services for Angelou at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton joined friends and family of the late poet and American civil rights icon where she served as a Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982.
Angelou died on May 28 at her home in North Carolina at the age of 86. She was planning to teach a course called “Race, Culture and Gender in the U.S. South and Beyond” in the fall. Clinton told attendees that Maya's depiction of southern life affected him early in his career.
“I knew the people she was talking about, the problems she was documenting,” Clinton said. “Her great gift in her action-packed life is that she was always paying attention,” he continued. “She called our attention that the things that really matter—dignity, work, love and kindness—are things that we can share, and don’t cost anything.”
Oprah Winfrey said Maya was a “spiritual queen mother, and everything that word implies. She was the ultimate teacher. She taught me the poetry of courage and respect.”
“I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before,” Michelle Obama said. “Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace…How Desperately black girls needed that message. As a black woman I needed that message.”
The service was open only to friends and family and was live-streamed by Wake Forest. Angelou’s family has planned for additional memorials later across the country. In lieu of gifts, they have asked for donations to the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity through Wake Forest.