The poet Maya Angelou, whose work captured the challenges and aspirations of her generation in graceful and sometimes strident language, died Wednesday at 86.
Presidents and proles alike embraced Angelou’s personality and poetry, a package deal that for many embodied a defiantly American brand of hope and served as a voice for millions of voiceless people.
Reactions to Angelou’s death poured out on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday as local poets, artists and educators and public figures remembered Angelou as an important source of inspiration.
In a Facebook message, Mayor Byron W. Brown shared his thoughts about the late poet: “We will be forever grateful for the life and legacy of Maya Angelou, she was an inspiration to people around the world,” Brown wrote. “We will always remember how she made us feel through her works of literature, music and film.”
Angelou last visited Buffalo in 2004 to speak at SUNY Buffalo State’s Rockwell Hall. For that engagement, Angelou, then 76, took a bus to Buffalo instead of flying because of her aching knees and disdain for airports.
During her appearance, according to News Reporter Anthony Cardinale, Angelou riffed on the theme of rainbows – a tidy metaphor for the way the irrepressible optimism of her poetry seemed to emerge from the darkness of her personal experiences.
“Buffalo State College is a rainbow in the clouds,” Angelou said. “If God put the rainbow in the clouds, there’s the possibility of seeing hope. This is a place to graduate from and even make a difference in the world. It’s important to see yourselves as rainbows in the clouds.”
Angelou, who will perhaps be best remembered for the poem she delivered during Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, also appeared at St. Bonaventure University in 1996. According to News reports, Angelou was scheduled to speak twice in Buffalo in the 1990s, but both events were canceled.