Maya Angelou passed away in 2014, but she left an enduring mark on not just the nation, but on the world. While she is best known for her poetry and memoirs, she was a vocal civil rights activist both in the United States and in Africa.
KUED, Salt Lake City Public Library and Weller Book Works teamed up for a public screening of the first feature documentary of her life, “American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” on Friday, 17 February. The documentary is a co-production of The People’s Poet Media Group and Thirteen’s American Masters series. Various PBS stations will be airing the documentary in honor of Black History Month.
The audience was enthusiastic about the event and the auditorium was at capacity fifteen minutes before the event was scheduled to begin. Many disappointed people had to be turned away. A brief presentation explaining the concept of the film and the importance of public funding for the arts preceded the screening.
The film spanned her entire life from her birth in St. Louis, Missouri, to her death in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and included interviews with notable figures and friends, such as President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Lou Gossett Jr, and Guy Johnson, her son, as well as with Dr. Angelou, herself. It detailed all of her occupations from entertainer to journalist to poet and dealt with her failed relationships and life-long search for lasting love in a frank and refreshing way. She was at the heart of the African American experience for her entire life, from Hollywood to Ghana and at the head of the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. The most powerful moment of the film was when she read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” for President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. She was the first poet asked to read at an inauguration in nearly thirty years.