Much of the world said a final goodbye to Dr. Maya Angelou today. Wake Field University, in North Carolina where Angelou taught for three decades, hosted the unforgettable memorial service which talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, put together. Many recognized faces including former president Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama attended this last farewell in order to pay tribute to the Phenomenal Woman . Clinton stated that the poet seemed to have experienced five different lifetimes all in one. Many voices said that Angelou was like their mother, sister, grandmother, mentor, and dearest friend.
Having died in the arms of sleep on May 28 at the age of 86, Angelou’s death was instantly felt nationwide. Obama told the audience that after reading the poem Phenominal Woman she was forever changed. She went on to say that the sassy and boastful words of this wise woman held power and gave voice to the beauty of a black woman in ways no one else had.
Clinton, remembering 1993 when Angelou spoke at his inauguration, reciting the poem On the Pulse of Morning, said that after her five-year silence she developed one of the greatest voices that world had ever heard. He stated that she held the voice of God himself and that the man upstairs wished to have that awe-inspiring voice returned. “God let her borrow his voice for a time,” Clinton said in reference to the rape incident which caused the grand poet to become mute all that time ago. Clinton also told the many friends and family that attended the service that Maya Angelou proved to many people just how silly and dumb the idea of racism truly was.
Oprah Winfrey also gave her words in the final goodbye to Angelou. She told of how Angelou was more than just her mentor. She called her a second mother, a soul sister, and her best friend. Tearing up, she continued to tell of an experience she had with the historian, telling everyone that Maya Angelou had been her steady rock and foundation as well as a crying shoulder from afar. She said that Angelou was the only person who had ever seemed to keep her stable. She provided words of comfort but also gave words that needed to be heard at any time that Winfrey needed them. With a tearful voice Winfrey finished, saying that she could never try to fill the shoes of her mentor but that she would walk within the footsteps Angelou had lain.
Gospel music rose high to the heavens during the service as if being carried on the back of that Caged Bird. There was no shortage of adoration in the music as well as the voices that sang the song, those voices included the sounds of Lee Ann Womack and Bebe Winans. Angelou’s skills as a performer and artist were brought into what seemed like a golden light by Cicely Tyson as she reflected on her long-lasting friendship with the former civil right activist. “Maya did not hold back a thing and every single emotion that man held within that spectrum was brought out by her.” said Tyson, trying to hold back tears as she too said a final goodbye to Angelou.
Angelou’s son told many the many people at the memorial and even those watching through the online live stream that his mother brought such a joyful light into the world. The grandson of this icon said that he was happy to share his grandma with the world, for he had an ever-growing family. It is no surprise that the many individuals that witnessed the memorial were touched from their hearts to their bones. For as the mass crowd that said a final goodbye to the beautiful soul of Maya Angelou it is clear that she will never be forgotten as she flies on the wings of the once caged bird.
By Isis E. Stevens