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In Admiration and Celebration of the Great Poet, Maya Angelou

Born April 4,1928

Photo of Maya Angelou speaking in 2007

As a sophomore in high school, I decided to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My sheltered, middle-class existence had in no way prepared me for the kind of life that Maya Angelou had lived, lonely, mute, sexually abused, and pregnant at the age of 16.

I was moved by her pain, but inspired by her resilience -- "a caged bird" still singing."

When I attended a conference for English teachers, I was in my early twenties. The room was packed with professors and educators seated like sardines in row upon row of chairs, their constant chatter buzzing like electricity through space.

From the back of the room came a deep, mellifluous voice that immediately stopped the hum of voices and commanded all attention. A melodic, resonant chant about the color of brown vibrated the air as Maya Angelou strode to the front of the room.

The beauty of her voice.

The power of her words.

The majesty of her presence.

She spoke of hope and empowerment. Of justice and joy. Of life and love and laughing and believing in the future.

I was one of the dozens of people who had tears streaming down their faces as the audience stood, wildly applauding Maya Angelou.

So I celebrate the day she was born, this woman who helped evolve the genre of autobiography, who wrote volumes of poetry, who broke barriers and fought injustice, who spoke of survival, hope , and the worth of an individual.

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