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Maya Angelou Legendary Poet and Woman Who Dared to Dream

Updated on March 21, 2017
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A creative writer at heart, Janis was first published at age 11. Most of her poems express core issues of love, loss, trauma, and healing.

Dr. Maya Angelou at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" Luncheon in Washington, DC

Dr. Maya Angelou recites, "Abundant Hope" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, as women of the civil rights movement were celebrated.
Dr. Maya Angelou recites, "Abundant Hope" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, as women of the civil rights movement were celebrated. | Source

An Excerpt from her Poem "Abundant Hope"

"He taught triumph over loss

And love over despair

Hallelujah over the dirges and

Joy over moaning"


Dr. Maya Angelou recited the poem, "Abundant Hope," in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the MLK, Jr. National Memorial

Dr. Maya Angelou Makes a Regal Entrance

Dr. Maya Angelou escorted to the stage to recite her poem at the Washington Convention Center on August 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Maya Angelou escorted to the stage to recite her poem at the Washington Convention Center on August 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Maya Angelou: Literary Giant, Entertainer and Teacher

Dr. Maya Angelou: Poet and Activist, Actor and Dancer, Teacher and Mentor
Dr. Maya Angelou: Poet and Activist, Actor and Dancer, Teacher and Mentor | Source

Luncheon Mistress of Ceremony

Alexis Herman introduces the poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.
Alexis Herman introduces the poet, Dr. Maya Angelou. | Source

Dr. Maya Angelou: A Revered Poet to Many

In the late summer of August 2011, I finally got a chance to see one of my idols in person. She was a beautiful, statuesque, vision of grace as her voice filled the spacious convention center ballroom and the souls of those who sat with eyes and ears trained, mesmerized by her presence.

The excerpt above is taken from the poem she recited, which I now can see is a testament to how she lived her life.

It was evident that this poetess was succumbing to the effects of age as she was physically escorted to the stage and seated on a tall chair to recite a special piece written for the occasion.

Then, almost three years later, on May 28, 2014, I was stunned to learn while vacationing, that my dear idol had passed away. "Oh no," I exclaimed. Dr. Maya Angelou, famed poet, actor, dancer, activist, teacher, and mentor, had transitioned.

I sat in silence, my eyes welling with tears of sorrow, listening intently to the CNN news coverage on that Wednesday morning. I was surprised at how much I hadn't known about her, this quintessential, "phenomenal woman."

As I took in the enormity of this loss to the country and the world, I began to reminisce about the afternoon I got a chance to see her and hear her voice - that voice. She was the most anticipated guest on the program at a luncheon entitled, "Women Who Dared to Dream," and event planned as part of the week-long activities in celebration of the dedication of the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.

Unfortunately, this was the same week a massive hurricane and tropical storm called Irene, decided to visit the east coast and mid-Atlantic regions. As a result of the impending storm, most major events for the weekend were cancelled, including the Sunday morning dedication ceremony on the National Mall and the Saturday night formal gala. But the luncheon, held at the Washington Convention Center on Friday afternoon, went on as planned.

Luncheon Held at the Washington Convention Center

Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO, Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.
Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO, Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. | Source

Maya Angelou - Larger than Life in her Own Right

Maya Angelou on the jumbo-tron, reciting her poetry.
Maya Angelou on the jumbo-tron, reciting her poetry. | Source

Maya Angelou: Up Close and Personal

I was so happy to secure a ticket to attend the luncheon in honor of women inspired by Dr. King's legacy, making their own marks as leaders in the civil rights movement. I shared this momentous occasion with a close friend and her mother, feeling lucky and proud to be surrounded by so many accomplished women.

The guest list of speakers and performers included dreamers like Alexis Herman, India Arie, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Daphne Maxell Reid, Victoria Rowell, Myrlie Evers-Williams, The Honorable Connie Morella, and Dr. Maya Angelou.

When it was time for Dr. Angelou to recite, I filled up with excitement as I made my way to the stage with camera in hand. I nestled myself among the other photographers as best I could, squatting down to the floor in heels and a skirt to get a good shot. It didn't matter how uncomfortable it was to balance on those heels in that precarious position. I just needed to get some shots of the legendary Maya Angelou.

I listened intently to her poetic words and watched her with eyes of wonder and a big smile on my face. I tried to keep my eye focused through the camera and my ear on her poetry. I couldn't believe I was that close to her as her voice resonated within me. It was an honor and an awesome moment to remember.

A Reading From Dr. Angelou

Witnessing a recitation by a revered poet was an experience to remember.
Witnessing a recitation by a revered poet was an experience to remember. | Source

Another Woman Who Dared to Dream - India Aire

India Arie performs at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon, Washington, DC.
India Arie performs at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon, Washington, DC. | Source

Guest Performers India Arie and Ledisi

The beautiful stage for the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon with India Arie and Ledisi offering a duo performance.
The beautiful stage for the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon with India Arie and Ledisi offering a duo performance. | Source

Maya Angelou's Life and Legacy Lives On

As I embrace the reality of her passing, it's hard to believe her voice - that iconic voice of Americana - is now silenced by death. But having had the opportunity to see and hear Dr. Maya Angelou in person, I know that her spirit voice will live forever, beyond physical death.

We know now that her voice has a phoenix spirit, as it was reborn out of childhood trauma to teach and recite life lessons, eloquently and poetically. Her legacy, like Dr. King's, who she took time to honor that day in August, will live on through her words which cannot be silenced.

"Abundant Hope" by Dr. Maya Angelou, August 26, 2011, Washington, DC

A Dream Come True to See Dr. Maya Angelou

Janis Evans: It was a privilege to have attended this luncheon and see one of my favorite poets in person.
Janis Evans: It was a privilege to have attended this luncheon and see one of my favorite poets in person. | Source

© 2014 Janis Leslie Evans

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts and memories of Maya Angelou.

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    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      I'm so glad that you wrote about Maya Angelou Jan! What a wonderful tribute! And you look stunning in the luncheon portrait! Very beautiful article in memory of a loving and gifted writer. Voted up!

    • janshares profile image
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      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks for the comments and nice compliment, swilliams. I had the pics and a story to tell so I couldn't resist sharing my thoughts about her. It feels good to pay a personal tribute to her.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Jan, of course, I admired Maya Angelou as well. I'm glad that you were able to attend the luncheon and share the excitement with us. I was stunned and saddened by the news as well. I'm glad that MLK meant so much to her. We all should keep the legacies at heart of those who have touched us so deeply with their artistic love and expressions. Thank you for sharing for sharing your very classy and good looking photo too.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      You're quite welcome. Thank you so much, word55, for those wonderful comments and compliment. It was an honor to be there.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 2 years ago

      I think I was about 22 when I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and I recall thinking what an awful life this woman has led, then from time to time I would read her essays and poetry and it was amazing to think about how many lives she touched.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Yes, it is awesome, mactavers. Thank you so much for sharing your memory and taking the time to read about mine.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

      That's a lovely hub. She was certainly a wonderful perceptive woman.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for reading it, mylindaelliott. I appreciate the visit.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I admired a woman of such greatness. She touched many loves with her special words.

    • jupiter90 profile image

      jupiter90 2 years ago

      Hi jan,

      Your hub was a beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou. You might want to correct the date of death to May 28, 2014, since August 2014 didn't happen yet. All in all it was a great hub. And I was happy that you met Ms. Angelou in person.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      She did indeed, DDE. Thanks for reading.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you soooooo much for catching that, jupiter90. In my excitement and grief, I totally failed on that. Will correct now. Thank you for reading it and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I envy you for having the chance to see and hear Maya Angelou in person. Her passing is truly a huge loss for our nation and the world. But we were lucky to have her. Wonderful Hub, Jan.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      I appreciate your comments, HSchneider. We were certainly lucky to have such a gem. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read it, glad you liked it.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this, a fitting tribute to a brave and challenging poet. I get a strong sense of your respect and love for this venerable old lady. (And I'm glad to hear you kept your balance throughout the photo shoot, despite the heels!)

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      LOL! Yes, I did. Thanks for the kind comments, chef-de-jour. I'm glad you stopped by.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jan, happy for you that you had the chance to be in the same room with the phenomenal woman. Yes. we miss her. Her words remain and we must cherish them.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Amen, MsDora. Thank you for stopping by to read this one. We will miss her voice, but cherish her words.

    • Ryem profile image

      Ryem 2 years ago from Maryland

      Jan, this tribute is beautiful! Thanks for sharing it.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Hi Ryem, you're welcome, I appreciate that. Thanks for commenting.

    • Elaine Flowers profile image

      Elaine Flowers 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      What a wonderful tribute!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      You have been so blessed to attend this luncheon and see/hear this great lady! Maya Angelo has been a source of inspiration, courage and hope to me for years.

      Your photo is absolutely magnificent! Thank you so very much for sharing this lovely hub. Maya Angelo will be missed. Her words and example live on. - Audrey

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks for your comment, Elaine.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for the sweet comments, Audrey. She will definitely be missed.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This is a wonderful tribute to an inspirational woman. I was sad to learn of her passing, but she left such a legacy behind, a life well lived. I enjoyed reading this, you look fabulous in the photo. Excellent hub.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you for saying so, tobusiness. I was sad and teary-eyed on the day she passed as well. I'm so glad I got a chance to see and hear her in person. She was a divine human being.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Maya Angelou was such an inspiration to all. What a wonderful blessing to be able to go to the luncheon! You look stunningly beautiful.

      I know you will remember that day forever and treasure the memories.

      Beautiful tribute here to an amazing woman.

      Up and more and away

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Hi Faith, so good to have a visit from you. Always a blessing. Thank you for the comment, votes, and shares. Maya was an incredible soul, it was an amazing experience.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Beautiful tribute & I'm jealous (but happy for you.) A memory I'm sure you'll cherish for a lifetime.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Aww, thanks so much. I appreciate your stopping by to read and leave a comment. I will definitely cherish the experience. Thanks for the follow, too. Welcome to HP.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      What a lovely memoir about Maya Angelou. Voted up. B and I.

    • janshares profile image
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      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you, Catherine. I appreciate the visit and the votes. Thank you for the follow and the lovely fanmail, too.

    • Nicholas Pollock profile image

      Nicholas Pollock 2 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories. I was introduced to Maya Angelou later than I would have liked, but I'm glad I got to know her a little through her words before she passed on.

      Isn't it amazing how someone we don't know personally can touch us so? It is one of the best arguments for the existence of a soul - how else could we connect with someone outside of the limitations of time and space? And words...words transcend even death. They carry the soul into time immemorial.

      Beautiful, awesome, and interesting!

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you so much, Nicholas. That was well-put. I appreciate your visit and comments. It is indeed amazing how we connect at the soul level through our art, words, writings, etc. Thanks for the votes.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile image

      Musu Bangura 2 years ago from Nation's Capital

      This was a lovely article in appreciation of the late Maya Angelou. I remember when I first came across her work in college....her words can be life changing for anyone!

      I'm voting this up!

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Hi and thank you, Zainab. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was cathartic for me to share my experience after her death. I appreciate your visit and vote up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a great tribute to Maya Angelou. How wonderful - and exciting - that you were able to attend the luncheon and take the photographs!

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      It was an honor and a joy, AliciaC. I had a magnificent time. I'm glad you enjoyed this tribute. So good to see you, appreciate your visit.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 8 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Read your article as an intro to reading one of Dr. Angelou's books, Mother. Love her honesty and hopefulness. Thanks.

    • janshares profile image
      Author

      Janis Leslie Evans 8 weeks ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you, Mark, for reading it. She was and still is a treasure. I appreciate your visit.

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