Phenomenal Woman and Poet Maya Angelou Passes Away at 86

Maya Angelou passes away at 86When news broke that Maya Angelou – author, poet and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – had passed away this morning in North Carolina, fans took to Twitter to share their respect and admiration for the beloved St. Louis, Missouri native. Her poem ?And Still I Rise,? her book ?I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?, an autobiography, and countless others are favorites for their candor and celebration of Black culture. They are legendary; they are renowned by universities and readers worldwide.?

One of her biggest admirers, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, had this to say of her mentor and friend: “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey wrote. “The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ?When you learn, teach. When you get, give? is one of my best lessons from her.” “She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me,” she recalled. “I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

Angelou was 86.

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928, Angelou lived, what many would call, a full life: she was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild; she was an activist for the anti-apartheid movement; she lived and worked in Accra, Ghana; she received over 30 honorary doctorate degrees from all over the world; and she campaigned for then-Senator? Barack Obama.

President Obama called her “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God?s children; that we all have something to offer,” Obama said in a statement from the White House.

In 1971, her book, ?Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ?fore I Diie? was nominated for a Pulitzer prize and in 1977, she made a brief appearance in the television series, Roots. In 1993, she recited her poem, On the Pulse of the Morning, at Bill Clinton?s inauguration. Later that year, she received a Grammy award for it.
In 2010, Angelou donated her large library of writings to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

Her poem, Phenomenal Woman, a favorite for Black women everywhere, went like this:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.?
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
?But when I start to tell them,?
They think I’m telling lies.?
I say,?
It’s in the reach of my arms?
The span of my hips,?
The stride of my step,?
The curl of my lips.
?I’m a woman?
?Phenomenal woman,?
That’s me.??
I walk into a room?
Just as cool as you please,
?And to a man,?
The fellows stand or
?Fall down on their knees.?
Then they swarm around me,?
A hive of honey bees.?
I say,
?It’s the fire in my eyes,
?And the flash of my teeth,?
The swing in my waist,?
And the joy in my feet.?
I’m a woman?
Phenomenal woman,?
That’s me.??
Men themselves have wondered
?What they see in me.?
They try so much?
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
?When I try to show them?
They say they still can’t see.?
I say,?
It’s in the arch of my back,?
The sun of my smile,?
The ride of my breasts,?
The grace of my style.?
I’m a woman??
Phenomenal woman,?
That’s me.?
?Now you understand?
Just why my head’s not bowed.?
I don’t shout or jump about?
Or have to talk real loud.?
When you see me passing
?It ought to make you proud.?I say,?
It’s in the click of my heels,?
The bend of my hair,
?the palm of my hand,?
The need of my care,?
‘Cause I’m a woman?
Phenomenal woman,?
That’s me.

-Maya Angelou