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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.

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