Maya Angelou’s humanity

Jun. 14, 2014 @ 08:34 AM

This editorial appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal.


Maya Angelou's memorial service June 7 at Wake Forest University was one that will go down in Wake Forest history, and, for that matter, in Winston-Salem history.

But perhaps "go down" is not the right phrase, for the service was all about rising spirits - Angelou's and all those she lifted.

Speaker after speaker stood up in the packed Wait Chapel and honored her by emphasizing the common humanity that Angelou preached. That humanity Saturday was shared tears, laughter and music. Yes, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Andrew Young and Cicely Tyson spoke and Lee Ann Womack and Bebe Winans sang and they were all great. But so was Ed Wilson of Wake Forest University; Angelou's pastor, the Rev. Serenus Churn of Mount Zion Baptist Church; Angelou's son, Guy Johnson, and the rest of her "blood family" who welcomed everyone like they were family, too.

Whether you were at the service, watched it on TV or streamed it on, you were probably moved at some point by it.

There was Clinton remembering seeing Angelou at an event recently, and expressing surprise that she had made it. He said Angelou told him: "Just because I am wheelchair-bound doesn't mean I don't get around.'"

Clinton said: "That girl got around . She had enough experiences for five lifetimes."

Oprah Winfrey, struggling to hold herself together, talked of losing her anchor. "She was always there for me to be the rainbow and I'm here today to say thank you and to acknowledge for you all and for all the world how powerful one life can be, the life of Maya Angelou . She was the ultimate teacher. She taught me the poetry of courage and respect."

Michelle Obama said Angelou was "one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known."

"She touched me, she touched all of you, she touched people all across the globe . There is no question that Maya Angelou will always be with us because there was something truly divine about Maya."

Angelou's son, Guy Johnson, spoke toward the end of the service. He talked of Angelou's emphasis on justice, equality and courage, and the importance of carrying on her model of bettering humanity.

"There is no mourning here," he said. "There is no mourning. We have added to the population of angels, and she has left each one of us with something in our heart."