LGBT rights advocates continue to celebrate the life and legacy of writer, poet and actress Maya Angelou who passed away at her North Carolina home on Wednesday at the age of 86.
The National Black Justice Coalition noted Angelou “never shied away from embracing her LGBT brothers and sisters.”
“On the Pulse of Morning,” the poem she read at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, specifically mentioned gays.
Angelou in 2000 spoke at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Atlanta. She later lobbied members of the New York Senate to support a same-sex marriage bill that lawmakers ultimately struck down in 2009 — gays and lesbians began to legally tie the knot in the state two years later.
PFLAG in 2009 also honored Angelou during its first-ever Straight for Equality Gala.
“PFLAG will always cherish the memories of the time that we had with her and the lifelong lessons she taught us about the quest for equality and the bold courage to love,” said PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby.
Rev. Meredith Moise, an ordained lesbian minister of color in Baltimore, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that Angelou’s 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing” is one of the first books she read as a child.
“She was an inspiration to me personally and to millions globally,” said Moise, noting the way she told stories in the African tradition. “She was an extraordinary human being whose example lights the way for others towards the path of liberation.”
President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and HRC President Chad Griffin are among those who also paid tribute to Angelou who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being,” said Angelou’s son, Guy B. Johnson, in a statement posted to his mother’s website that officially announced her death. “The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”
Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., who testified in support of marriage rights in Maryland in 2012, described Angelou’s passing as a “tragic loss” on Wednesday during an interview with the Blade at his Prince George’s County church.
The Maryland Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate said “our country is better” because of her example.
“Her spirit continues to live within all of us and we want to continue her commitment to civil and human rights and freedom and equality for all people,” said Coates.