Maya Angelou: Giving voice to so many

Maya Angelou: Giving voice to so many
Poet and author Maya Angelou, seen here in 2008, died Wednesday. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / McClatchy-Tribune)

More than a dozen readers sent letters this week eulogizing poet and author Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday. It isn't uncommon for readers to share their fondness for a recently passed writer's work, and several readers did just that with Angelou.

But sprinkled among those letters were far more personal expressions of what Angelou's work and life meant to those readers. Some said she was a source of empowerment for African Americans, and one shared his tale of how Angelou turned a seemingly routine meal at a restaurant into a memorable, poetic experience. Here are those letters.


Shawn Johnson of Highland says the black community has lost an important voice:

Angelou's words spoke to the non-black world in ways the rest of us could not. She explained our hopes and disappointments. She reminded us that the hurt doesn't last forever.

She let us know that our kinky hair, dark skin, wide noses and full lips were not things to be ashamed of. She reminded us that no matter how society viewed us, we were worth treating with respect. She showed us how to handle adversity with class and dignity.

To many of my female friends, she was a constant reminder that it was OK to be the woman that God made them to be.

Angelou was many things to many people, but to all of us, she was a phenomenal woman.

Eagle Rock resident Brent Pierson bears witness to Angelou's wit:

Angelou had a truly remarkable life. My dinner with her in Atlanta nearly 20 years ago remains a highlight of my own.

After recording narration for a nature documentary, we went to a restaurant. As we stood at the salad bar, a man asked Angelou for an autograph. She politely said she would come to his table after she finished her dinner, which prompted me to ask if she enjoyed being a celebrity.

Angelou stopped building her salad to ponder my question. She answered in her uniquely intriguing and poetic way: "I must."

Danielle Karson of Pasadena says Angelou is now in good company:

The outpouring of tributes for Angelou are a testament to her humanity and the passion of her writings. Her family wrote, "She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace."

That reminded me of another great poet. In "The Fall of Hyperion," John Keats wrote that poetic greatness will come only to those "to whom the miseries of the world / Are misery, and will not let them rest." Clearly they saw eye to eye on the importance of living life fully and morally.

Now at last, they can compare notes while they stroll through the Elysian Fields.

Angelou still keeps Santa Monica resident Kathleen Collins company:


I am looking at my bookcase. Angelou is very much alive.