hen Mama Maya Angelou passed away two years ago, aged 86, I refused to believe the news reports on my Twitter timeline confirming it. I was waiting for Oprah Winfrey, my other chosen American mother and the media mogul with whom Angelou had had an incredible relationship, to confirm. And then she did, and I remember feeling an immense sense of being lost. What would happen to the world now that she was gone? Maya Angelou was always there; her words always close at hand to affirm, encourage, console, articulate and help me unpack what it meant to be black and female in a world that doesn’t value black women.
Actress Alfre Woodard describes Angelou’s immeasurable impact most aptly when she recalls reading Angelou’s work and “sitting down, opening a book and feeling like I am breathing for the first time”. Winfrey says: “I always knew that what Maya Angelou held as a poet and a writer was something that the world needed to feel and experience.” And I suspect it is the profound effect of Angelou’s work and place in history that makes the documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise so special.