Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Miami’s special Maya


OUR OPINION: Poet never forgot the Allapattah school that bears her name

Poet Maya Angelou was famous around the world, but she had a special connection to Miami: Maya Angelou Elementary, a little school in Allapattah named in her honor in 1995.

The 6-foot-tall, stately Angelou, known for her robust voice, came to the school’s dedication 19 years ago. Photos from that day show Angelou smiling so hard it looked like she was crying.

The school’s students, who instinctively knew she had a special light, ran up to her and kissed her as she sat and watched them perform.

For a poor child from rural Arkansas, who had made it all the way to the White House, it was a great honor to have a place of learning named after her, Ms. Angelou said.

Among Ms. Angelou’s many, many talents was her ability to connect with people of all stripes. She wrote straight from the heart. Even if we didn‘t share her life experience, her work rang true in our own lives.

News of Ms. Angelou’s death Wednesday had a profound impact at the 740-student school.

Some staffers broke down and cried. They felt a special connection to Ms. Angelou, even if they didn’t know her. But in so many ways they did, from her famed autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, to all those inspirational chats with Oprah Winfrey, to her early appearances on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson — Ms. Angelou had great comedic timing.

In Ms. Angelou’s honor, Principal Adrena Williams ordered the school’s flag be flown at half-staff. The students had a moment of silence in the author’s memory. Something so singular, so unique about their elementary had gone away.

Ms. Angelou never forgot the school at 1850 NW 32nd St. She would visit again and through the years sent the elementary keys to the cities that were presented to her around the country.

Miami-Dade School Board Member Marta Pérez told the Editorial Board that she met Ms. Angelou during one of her Miami visits to a 5000 Role Models of Excellence breakfast. “It was really electric; the entire room was in total awe of her,” she said.

That’s how it was the day Ms. Angelou dedicated her namesake school.

“Teary-eyed at times, Ms. Angelou wiggled in her chair, squinting her eyes and waving her hands as the youngsters pranced around her with flags from across the globe symbolizing their diversity,” a Miami Herald article said.

That day , she left the students with one assignment — to learn the words to her inspirational poem Still I Rise — a guide to survival, to falling and getting back up, to believing in oneself.

“You'll find a need for it when you encounter difficulty in life,” she told the youngsters.

Sound advice for all of us to follow.

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