An impressive crowd of more than 2,000 people gathered at Wake Forest University North Carolina today to attend Maya Angelou's memorial service. The service lasted around three hours with Cecily Tyson, Bill Clinton, Oprah, and First Lady Michelle Obama all speaking and commemorating the great woman. And Lee Ann Womack and gospel singe Bebe Winans provided musical performances throughout the service as well.
Michelle Obama, who followed a performance by Winans, delivered quite the powerful speech reflecting on how Angelou's words among other things, affected her experience as a black woman:
When I think of Maya Angelou I think of the affirming power of her words. The first time I read "Phenomenal Woman" I was struck by how she celebrated black women's beauty like no one had ever dared to before. Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever, and sassy. They were powerful and sexual and boastful. And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women but she also graced us with an anthem for all women, a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.
And oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young woman I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie—that was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to.
But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head. Her message was very simple: She told us that our worth had nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead she said, "each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory." She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.
You can read the whole transcript here or watch it below. I couldn't watch the whole thing because reading it brought me to tears already, but either way people need to consume this.