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Maya Angelou Legendary Poet and Woman Who Dared to Dream

A creative writer at heart, Janis was first published at age 11. Most of her poems express core issues of love, loss, trauma, and healing.

Dr. Maya Angelou at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" Luncheon in Washington, DC

Dr. Angelou recites, "Abundant Hope" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, as women of the civil rights movement were celebrated for their contributions.

Dr. Angelou recites, "Abundant Hope" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, as women of the civil rights movement were celebrated for their contributions.

An Excerpt from her Poem "Abundant Hope"

"He taught triumph over loss

And love over despair

Hallelujah over the dirges and

Joy over moaning"


"Abundant Hope," was recited in its entirety in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the erection of the MLK, Jr. National Memorial.

Our Esteemed Poetess Makes Her Regal Entrance

Dr. Angelou is escorted on stage to recite her poem at the Washington Convention Center on August 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Dr. Angelou is escorted on stage to recite her poem at the Washington Convention Center on August 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Maya Angelou: Literary Giant, Entertainer and Teacher

Dr. Maya Angelou: Poet and Activist, Actor and Dancer, Teacher and Mentor

Dr. Maya Angelou: Poet and Activist, Actor and Dancer, Teacher and Mentor

Luncheon Mistress of Ceremony

Alexis Herman introduces the beloved poet and icon.

Alexis Herman introduces the beloved poet and icon.

A Revered Poet to Many

In the late summer of August 2011, I finally got a chance to see one of my idols in person. She was a beautiful, statuesque, vision of grace as her voice filled the spacious convention center ballroom and the souls of those who sat with eyes and ears trained, mesmerized by her presence.

The excerpt above is taken from the poem she recited, which I now can see is a testament to how she lived her life.

It was evident that this poetess was succumbing to the effects of age as she was physically escorted to the stage and seated on a tall chair to recite a special piece written for the occasion.

Then, almost three years later, on May 28, 2014, I was stunned to learn while vacationing, that my dear idol had passed away. "Oh no," I exclaimed. Dr. Maya Angelou, famed poet, actor, dancer, activist, teacher, and mentor, had transitioned.

I sat in silence, my eyes welling with tears of sorrow, listening intently to the CNN news coverage on that Wednesday morning. I was surprised at how much I hadn't known about her, this quintessential, "phenomenal woman."

As I took in the enormity of this loss to the country and the world, I began to reminisce about the afternoon I got a chance to see her and hear her voice - that voice. She was the most anticipated guest on the program at a luncheon entitled, "Women Who Dared to Dream," and event planned as part of the week-long activities in celebration of the dedication of the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.

Unfortunately, this was the same week a massive hurricane and tropical storm named "Irene," decided to visit the east coast and regions of the mid-Atlantic. As a result of the impending storm, most major events for the weekend were cancelled, including the Sunday morning dedication ceremony on the National Mall and the Saturday night formal gala. But the luncheon, held at the Washington Convention Center on Friday afternoon, went on as planned.

Luncheon Held at the Washington Convention Center

Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO, Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO, Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

Truly Larger Than Life in her Own Right

Her presence loomed from the jumbo-tron as she recited her poetry.

Her presence loomed from the jumbo-tron as she recited her poetry.

Maya Angelou: Up Close and Personal

I was so happy to secure a ticket to attend the luncheon in honor of women inspired by Dr. King's legacy, making their own marks as leaders in the civil rights movement. I shared this momentous occasion with a close friend and her mother, feeling lucky and proud to be surrounded by so many accomplished women.

The guest list of speakers and performers included dreamers like Alexis Herman, India Arie, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Daphne Maxell Reid, Victoria Rowell, Myrlie Evers-Williams, The Honorable Connie Morella, and Dr. Maya Angelou.

When it was time for Dr. Angelou to recite, I filled up with excitement as I made my way to the stage with camera in hand. I nestled myself among the other photographers as best I could, squatting down to the floor in heels and a skirt to get a good shot. It didn't matter how uncomfortable it was to balance on those heels in that precarious position. I just needed to get some shots of the legendary Maya Angelou.

I listened intently to her poetic words and watched her with eyes of wonder and a big smile on my face. I tried to keep my eye focused through the camera and my ear on her poetry. I couldn't believe I was that close to her as her voice resonated within me. It was an honor and an awesome moment to remember.

A Very Special Reading

Witnessing a recitation by a revered poet was an experience to remember.

Witnessing a recitation by a revered poet was an experience to remember.

Another Woman Who Dared to Dream - India Aire

India Arie performs at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon, Washington, DC.

India Arie performs at the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon, Washington, DC.

Guest Performers India Arie and Ledisi

The beautiful stage for the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon with India Arie and Ledisi offering a duo performance.

The beautiful stage for the "Women Who Dared to Dream" luncheon with India Arie and Ledisi offering a duo performance.

Maya Angelou's Life and Legacy Lives On

As I embrace the reality of her passing, it's hard to believe her voice - that iconic voice of Americana - is now silenced by death. But having had the opportunity to see and hear Dr. Maya Angelou in person, I know that her spirit voice will live forever, beyond physical death.

We know now that her voice has a phoenix spirit, as it was reborn out of childhood trauma to teach and recite life lessons, eloquently and poetically. Her legacy, like Dr. King's, who she took time to honor that day in August, will live on through her words which cannot be silenced.

"Abundant Hope" Recited on August 26, 2011, Washington, DC

A Dream Come True to See an Idol

"It was a privilege to have attended this very special luncheon and see one of my favorite poets in person." ~ Janis Evans

"It was a privilege to have attended this very special luncheon and see one of my favorite poets in person." ~ Janis Evans

© 2014 Janis Leslie Evans

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