Farewell, Maya Angelou

May 28, 2014

This week the world says goodbye to an unforgettable woman: Maya Angelou.  She has written an expansive repertoire of autobiographies, books of essays, and various books of poetry.  She has also created several plays, movies, and television shows over a period of 50 years.  On Wednesday May 28th, she passed away at the age of 86.

The Huffington Post remarks that she is “one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success as an author and thriving in virtually every artistic medium.”  In her life, she befriended several well known political figures, including Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few.  Now that she’s passed, it seems like everyone is posting quotes from her on my Facebook news feed.  From the little that I have read there, and from what I have researched out of curiosity, she looks like a powerhouse of a woman.  It seems like she has a quote appropriate for any situation.  Inspirational words with her name as a tag line are sprinkled everywhere today.  One of my favorites thus far is “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

She rose up from a number of trying circumstances and used these experiences to fuel her works that now reach an innumerable amount of people.  Maya Angelou will live on in the ripples that she sends into other people’s lives.  She will continue to have an impact on the world even after she’s passed on.  Isn’t that what we all want, to have an influence or to matter?

She was going to be awarded the Beacon of Life award on May 30th to celebrate her accomplishments.  Her work spans too many mediums to allow her to fall under one or even two labels.  The only descriptor that might be fitting for such a person is: a Renaissance woman.

Since everyone is in the spirit of sharing quotes by Ms. Angelou, I’ll give one that rings true for me as I move into a different stage of my life: “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”


Written by Michaela Lies, writing intern at Three Rivers Community Foundation and student at Washington & Jefferson College.