Many speakers in attendance read various works by Maya Angelou and shared memories of meeting or seeing Angelou in person.
Feretta Crummie Belcher of Martinsville read Angelou’s poem “Alone” and spoke about personal memories including the time Angelou talked about eating red rice for dinner, which is rice with tomatoes or ketchup. Gloria Hylton, also of Martinsville, shared her memory of hearing Angelou read the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton.
Daniel Willson, assistant minister for family ministry and education at First Baptist Church in Martinsville, said he only recently began to delve into Angelou’s work. He read the poem “Just Like Job,” which he said resonated with his faith.
“I was a latecomer to the work of Maya Angelou,” he said, “and I regret that since her passing, I have not delved as deeply as I have liked. But she has played a role in my own intellectual and spiritual formation, and one of the things that really spoke out to me about her life was her struggle. No one is immune to struggle.”
Joyce Staples, an English faculty member at Patrick Henry Community College, and Tammy Forbes, PHCC’s Writing Center coordinator, worked with Piedmont Arts Executive Director Kathy Rogers to plan a special ceremony so members of the community could come together to remember Angelou and her life’s work.
Staples asked the crowd to participate in the program by asking anyone to come forward who wished to read a poem, a passage or share a memory about Angelou. Near the end of the program, Staples read “Phenomenal Woman,” which is one of Angelou’s widely recognized works.
Other speakers included Imogene Draper, who read the poem “When Great Trees Fall” and shared one of Angelou’s favorite deserts – caramel cake, Connie Lewis, who also lit a memorial candle for Angelou, Ophelia Griggs, tutor coordinator and counselor for Student Support Services at PHCC, and Forbes.