Phenomenal Woman: Mourning The Loss Of Dr. Maya Angelou

Today the world mourns the loss of Dr. Maya Angelou, an iconic literary voice, celebrated civil rights activist, and a truly PHENOMENAL WOMAN. 

Dr. Angelou passed away today in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina according to her long time literary agent, Helen Brann. The 86-year-old renowned poet had been battling heart problems for quite some time, however, the cause of death has yet to be confirmed. Her son, Guy Johnson, issued a statement this morning confirming her passing:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

President Obama issued a statement as well:

“When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.

Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. 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. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.”

Throughout her life Dr. Maya Angelou has worn many hats including Hollywood director, poet, actress, and Alvin Ailey dancer. However, it was her literary voice that captured the world. Drawing inspiration from her childhood and early adult life, Dr. Angelou turned her pain into passion and inspired the world with her 1970 autobiography, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”  Her autobiography detailed her childhood in the segregated south, her brief stint as a prostitute and madam at a brothel, and being raped at seven years old by her mothers boyfriend. Her memoir inspired millions and reiterated the fact that it's not about where you come from but where you are going!

She went on to publish nationally acclaimed poems such as “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise.” Not to mention she received 50 honorary degrees, three Grammy awards, and the 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom.  However, her most legendary moment was delivering the poem "On The Pulse Of The Morning" at the 1993 inauguration of former President Bill Clinton.

Dr. Maya Angelou was truly a renaissance woman. Her legacy and work will live on forever. She has inspired us and many others around the world. We here at THE SASS will definitely keep her family in our prayers. Our hearts are very heavy right now.  The world has truly lost a PHENOMENAL WOMAN!  

Side SASS: Watch Dr. Maya Angelou perform some of her most famous poems below:

"On The Pulse Of The Morning"

"Phenomenal Woman"

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