BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- The gilded voice of Maya Angelou resonates through generations, and in the hours after her death, students at North View Junior High in Brooklyn Park reflected on how her verse encouraged their own voice.
Mrs. Laurie Ganser's reading class recently studied Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise," and the class took time to reflect on the meaning after learning of Angelou's passing.
"The first time I heard this poem, it touched my heart," said student Deante Juma. "Especially, 'Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear, I rise.' It makes me feel happy of my ancestors."
Angelou rose from poverty and segregation to become one of the world's most influential women as an acclaimed poet, civil rights activist, educator and historian. Angelou's gift of language led her to Pulitzer Prize nominations, three Grammys, more than 30 honorary degrees and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Angelou died in her North Carolinahome at age 86.
"Maya Angelou has inspired a lot of African American people who don't have anything going for themselves. She spoke out the truth, spoke how she felt and she didn't care what anyone else thought," said student Precious Hornsby.
Angelou famously said, "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud." For the students, that mantra brought color to the study of the spoken word. The students also reflected on the delivery of Angelou's poetry during a spoken word workshop.
"She could be giving an interview, it was poetry," said poet-in-residence Anton Jones, a Minneapolis theater performer and writer. Jones came to the school to teach spoken poetry after a grant from the District 279 Foundation. He says even Angelou's silences inspired.
"She could take a pause after a stanza and you were on the edge of your seat until the next word she said," said Jones.
Award-winning Macalester College poetry professor Kristin Naca said Angelou inspired her as a young girl living in the south, exposing social injustice and teaching the world how to be more "human."
"She once wrote that music fitted to her like a tailored suit. I think everybody has felt that," said Naca. "She writes a simile like no one else. Every chapter you can find a graceful sentence. Something you can hold onto and live on, really. Because the language is so crisp, and she chooses her words so carefully."
Today, the world paused, rememberingthe lasting words, we can all live by.
"I am the dream and hope of a slave," the class read inunison. "I rise, I rise, I rise.