Maya Angelou Newsletter: May 2019

Guy Johnson's Letter

As this Mother’s Day passes my thoughts return to the way I used to celebrate this wonderful day with my mother. The celebration always centered around food, and she preferred home cooked meals. Due to her public life, she felt that she had eaten out enough to last a lifetime. If she was not cooking, she liked to sit on the edge of the kitchen and taste the food as it was being prepared, occasionally offering suggestions for additional spices or different cooking methods. She always spiced the gathering with amazing stories and anecdotes that were poignant and often funny.  

Full Letter

Love Liberates

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

This year marks 50 years of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. This autobiography was so honest and well written that it was a New York Times bestseller and also banned from some schools and libraries. Maya Angelou exposed her truth because she knew it had the power to usher in someone's freedom, even her own. Over the years we have heard the testimonies of people who read “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, as well as Dr. Angelou’s other works and their lives have been changed for the better. Maya Angelou believed and said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." So she taught others to release their story and pursue their truth. We continue to be grateful that she led by example. As Dr. Angelou often said, "I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me." This year we celebrate 50 years of Dr. Angelou’s groundbreaking autobiography and honor 91 years of our beloved Matriarch.

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“I thought for a long time that I was a writer who could teach,” Angelou told the audience. “But after being at Wake Forest for five or six years I realized I’m a teacher who can write. It’s true I’ve written some 31 books, and I’m grateful for that. But the truth is, I am a teacher, and I like it. I like the fact that I have something to say and I’m blessed to have enough courage to try and say it.” - Dr. Angelou at Wake Forest University in 2013.

Maya Fest

We are just in time for “Maya Fest”! If you are in Washington, D.C. for Sunday, June 1st please come out to spread the love at this community event with free activities for the entire family. This is hosted by the Maya Angelou Schools and this festival is a great way to learn more and experience the community that has been greatly impacted by Maya Angelou’s wisdom and works. 

Maya Fest

Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation

At the heart of the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation is the vision and commitment to improve the quality of life for all human beings. In 2011, Dr. Angelou created The Foundation to serve as the dynamic personification of her philanthropic legacy and lifelong mission to support educational excellence. The Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation continues to fulfill its mission by awarding deserving students scholarships to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

This year, the Foundation provided scholarships to students attending the following institutions:

- Harris Stowe State University
- Hinds Community College
- Huston-Tillotson University
- Howard University
- Interdenominational Theological Center
- J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College
- Jarvis Christian College
- Johnson C. Smith University

Furthermore, the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation proudly supports organizations, which bear Dr. Angelou's name and values collaborations with various initiatives dedicated to uplifting communities through innovative and multidisciplinary programs. Also, in collaboration with Dr. Howard Dodson, they continue to work on a dynamic legacy-building project dedicated to preserving the written works and physical assets of Dr. Angelou. 
The Foundation is very excited to share the expansion of its online presence with the launch of the official Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation website! To learn more about the vision, mission, impact, and ways to give please visit the Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation website or connect with Ms. Thamiah Tutt at and (336) 701-3209.

The Annie Henderson and Willie Johnson Scholarship Fund was named after Dr. Maya Angelou’s grandmother and uncle, the Annie Henderson and Willie Johnson Scholarship Fund is the flagship program of the Maya Angelou Foundation. This annual scholarship awards two (2) two-year scholarships of $3,000 each per scholarship year to HBCUs. One award is granted to a general student and the other scholarship is awarded to a physically-challenged/mobility-impaired or re-entry student. The scholarship recipients must be progressing satisfactorily in order to qualify for the second year. GPA requirement is 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. The deadline is rolling to please contact the Foundation for more information at

Celebrating Notable Women with Google

In recent years many people have desired to see notable women like Maya Angelou on the face of American currency. There are so many women who have impacted our lives and society it would be respectable to honor them in that way. With the help of Google, we are at least one step closer to visualizing it.
Google has partnered with Rosie Gumataotao Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States to creatively use technology that is “Swapping out the faces we all know for the faces we all should.” This educational app and website are here to be experienced by all ages. Here is an excerpt from a note by Rosie Rios.   
“This website and the accompanying app are the results of our serendipitous collaboration. We call it Notable Women. And while it’s designed with teachers and their students in mind, the content is for everyone.
Notable Women features 100 historic women selected from the Teachers Righting History database, a collection of women whom the American people recommended to appear on actual U.S. currency during my time at the U.S. Department of Treasury.
After all, inspirations lead to aspirations, which is why we have a responsibility to highlight the women who have shaped our past and serve as role models for our future. I want to thank you for your interest, and hope you will share Notable Women with your friends and family.”
Rosie Gumataotao Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States
Notable Women

Maya Angelou on Education

The Story Behind The Maya Angelou Schools

“I was afraid to pick up the phone and call Maya Angelou. It was 1997, and my friend David Domenici and I had just started a school in Washington, D.C. for kids who had been arrested. The school was less than a year old, but one thing was already clear: We needed a new name, a real name. We had been calling ourselves the See Forever School, and while the phrase had some resonance (we told kids that they were learning to see beyond tomorrow, to “see forever”), our students didn’t love it.

“We need a school with a real name,” said an 11th grader named Dante. “When we go to college or look for a job, we don’t want to say we went to the ‘See Forever School.’ It just doesn’t sound like any school anybody has heard of.”

It was a fair point, and since we were committed to building a community where students helped make decisions, we decided to have a school-naming contest.  Students wrote essays making the case for different names, and the finalists gave speeches before an audience of family, teachers and peers. A 10th grader named Sherti spoke in favor of choosing Maya Angelou, and, after deliberating, the judges agreed. (Malcolm X was a close second.)

Which brings me to the phone call I was avoiding. Now it was my job to ask Angelou for her permission. We had a relationship — she was a close friend of my grandmother, the writer Jessica Mitford, and eventually she adopted the rest of our family and became my unofficial godmother. (If only our mother had been Christian, she once told my brother and me, Angelou would have been our godmother for real.)

But however strong our ties were, this would be a big ask. I wanted her to lend her name to a brand-new school, one whose only admission requirement was a past arrest. David and I had good intentions but no track record, and there was no guarantee that our school would bring glory to her name. As I dialed, I told myself that she would likely let me down easily; she would say that she needed to think about it, to talk to her people, and that she would get back to me. But then she wouldn’t, and her silence would be the answer.

Instead she responded: “Of course, dear. I would be honored.” That was all — seven words, each resonant and measured. And with those words, by saying yes, she told our students she thought they were worthy.”

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“Our high school provides a comprehensive education in a non-traditional setting to all students including those who have not been successful in their educational experiences. We will achieve this through a demanding academic program, socio-emotional learning support, and tiered interventions that focus on the whole child. Our students will leave us with a foundation to be successful in their pursuit of education and careers.

We assumed operation of the Maya Angelou Academy (formerly the Oak Hill Academy), serving incarcerated young men during the summer of 2007. That same year, in order to help these young men transition from incarceration, we opened the Transition Center, which has since evolved to become the Maya Angelou Young Adult Learning Center, serving disconnected 17-24 year olds across Washington, DC to help them gain a GED and workforce credentials.”
(Provided by The See Forever Foundation and the Maya Angelou Schools) 
As we are preparing for the end of this school year it is a perfect time to contribute to the start of another. The See Forever Foundation and the Maya Angelou Schools have been doing amazing work for over 20 years contributing to communities one student at a time. If this story resonates with you please reach out to the Maya Angelou Schools to enroll, share with families who can enroll their students and if you are able please make a contribution.

“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”

Maya Angelou stood up for herself and others and today we stand with the rich legacy that Dr. Angelou built her entire life. Maya Angelou gave of her time, treasure and shared her many talents with the human family. Please consider supporting Maya Angelou’s charities.

Pocket Maya Angelou Wisdom

Dr. Angelou gave us so many tools and we continue to be amazed in the new ways Maya Angelou's wisdom shows up in our world today. We are very excited to bring the words and wisdom of Maya Angelou to you in a unique way.
“Pocket Maya Angelou Wisdom is a collection of some of her best and most empowering quotes. This is the ultimate keepsake for fans of Maya Angelou's beautiful poetry, as well as for anyone looking for a bit of in-the-moment inspiration to have in their back pocket.” -Hardie Grant 

Maya Angelou’s Black Tea Blend

Maya Angelou enjoyed a good cup of tea and if you knew her, she may have made you some with tea cookies. This tea was created by looking at the writings of Dr. Angelou and studying the scents, flavors and, aromas that left an impact. The New York-based company Simpson & Vail, who began in 1929 just a year after Maya Angelou was born took on this great task. Enjoy the inspiration behind the Maya Angelou blend and share a cup of this certified kosher tea with your loved ones.

Let us explore the story behind some of the ingredients.


“… for every bad judgment, the fine was no silver wrapped kisses, the sweet chocolate drops that I loved more than anything in the world, except Bailey. And maybe canned pineapples. My obsession with pineapples nearly drove me mad. I dreamt of the days when I would be grown and able to buy a whole carton for myself alone." Maya Angelou


“The odors in the house surprised me. Somehow I had never connected Mrs. Flowers with food or eating or any other common experience of common people. There must have been an outhouse, too, but my mind never recorded it. The sweet scent of vanilla had met us as she opened the door. ‘I made tea cookies this morning.’ ... The sweet vanilla flavor was still on my tongue and her reading was a wonder in my ears. I had to speak. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ It was the least I could do, but it was the most also." Maya Angelou

“The brewed cup is a delicately balanced blend with a reddish amber color and a fruity, heady, sassy taste. The combination of pineapple, vanilla and orange dance playfully on the tongue. The addition of cloves brings a new depth to this taste, while the hibiscus adds to the fruity flavor and adds a reddish tinge to the amber cup. There is a mild astringency and a lingering fruit/spice taste on the tongue.”
- Simpson & Vail


Congrats Ashford & Simpson!

Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson became the 11th songwriting team to receive the Recording Academy's trustees award on May 11, 2019, at the annual Grammy Salute to Music Legends. Ashford & Simpson were long times friends of Maya Angelou and the three enjoyed creating music together, inspiring one another and truly became family. We are grateful to witness Ashford & Simpson’s well-deserved honor and recognition with music from the 60's still resonating in our hearts and playlist today. We salute you!
Ashford & Simpson

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

This video reveals why Maya Angelou believed that a library was more than a building holding books and other collections. In Dr. Angelou’s eyes, a library became hope, a rainbow and so much more. In 2010 Maya Angelou spoke in Harlem in at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with longtime friend and the Director, Howard Dodson, along with New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc. This special event celebrated the acquisition of the professional and personal papers of Dr. Maya Angelou.
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The Maya Angelou Collection at Storiarts

“For a person who grew up in the '30s and '40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed without explanation to me, libraries and books said, 'Here I am, read me.' Over time I have learned I am at my best around books.” Maya Angelou
We know how important education was to Dr. Angelou and the role that it continues to play today in her great legacy. That is why we continue to find like-minded companies and charities to partner with and carry out our desire to promote literacy and improve the quality and access to education in all communities. 
We continue to partner with Storiarts and LitWorld bringing literary solutions to 28 countries. Together our Maya Angelou Collection supports children and communities reading, writing and creating their own stories. 

Maya Angelou eCard!

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
-Maya Angelou
The Pacific Women's Network has created a beautiful eCard to share Maya Angelou’s wisdom. They are an Australian based not-for-profit company that supports gender equality, women’s leadership and improving education for girls. The opportunities they provide women with are empowering local women and women around the world. We value their belief, “that Gender Based Violence is low where gender equality is high.” If you would like to support you can send a card the next time you want to remind someone that they are special, cared about, and should be celebrated.
Maya Angelou eCard

Maya Angelou Film

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise was part of the Peabody 30, the program was considered “the best of the best” out of 1,200 entries in television, radio, podcast, and web programming broadcast in 2017. The documentary, which was unanimously nominated for the Peabody award and the awards took place this past summer.
Film Information


This is the first film to be made about the incomparable Maya Angelou. The film presents her incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life with remarkable unmatched access. This intimate and personal portrait of Dr. Maya Angelou’s life is a touching and moving tribute to her legacy.

Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep roots in American culture,” Maya Angelou gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. Dr. Angelou embodied a prolific life; as a singer, dancer, activist, poet, and writer she inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries.

This unprecedented film weaves her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which paint hidden moments of her exuberant life during some of America’s most defining moments. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana to her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton, the film takes us on an incredible journey through the life of a true American icon.

The film also features a remarkable series of interviews with friends and family including President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, John Singleton and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

At the Table with Maya Angelou

The Joys of Cooking

Almost every evening, says Maya Angelou, friends drop by about dinnertime. "I wonder why?" she says with a smile and that famous laugh. There is no mystery, of course, because Dr. Angelou is known for her good cooking and expansive hospitality, which means there are always people around her table.

"You feel special when you cook for others," she says. "And you feel special when it's done for you."

Dr. Angelou, one of the country's most distinguished poets and writers, was asked to write a poem and then read it at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. She is also the author of the book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes, a collection of vignettes about her life and its accompanying dishes. First published in 2004, it was recently issued in paperback.
"I learned to cook by observing my mother and grandmother," she says of her Stamps, Arkansas, childhood. "I was a Depression baby, and we were told to eat everything on our plates because of the little children starving in China. No one mentioned the little children starving right here in the United States."
Because of her upbringing, she learned to respect food as something greater than a source of nourishment. First, she found pleasure in experimenting with the creative component of cooking, marveling at the fact that two or three ingredients, mixed together in a certain way, made an entirely new thing. "Every ingredient is important," she says.
She also learned about food's restorative powers. "I am convinced that if you have a rift with someone dear to you, if you want to ameliorate a fragile situation, food can help."
But food, for Dr. Angelou, is much more than a way to soothe discord—it's a joyful part of life. "My mother cooked a dish called Spanish rice," she recollects. It's a simple dish of rice cooked with sautéed onions, garlic, green bell peppers, and tomato sauce, and served with chicken. "When my mother invited me over to eat Spanish rice, I knew I would hear good news. And I always did! We shared a lot of good laughs eating it."
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Banana Pudding

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
8 eggs , separated
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups vanilla wafers
4 ripe bananas , thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large saucepan, combine 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt; stir until blended. Mix in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and boiling. Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, then whisk in about 1/2 cup of hot custard until blended. Pour yolk mixture back into saucepan of custard; cook over medium heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla until blended.

Place vanilla wafers on bottom of a shallow 2-quart casserole dish. Top with layers of banana slices and custard. Repeat layering, ending with custard.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar at low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase speed to medium and gradually beat in remaining sugar. Beat until egg whites hold stiff peaks.

Spoon meringue over hot custard immediately, making sure that meringue touches baking dish on all sides (this prevents it from shrinking). Transfer to oven and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove pudding from oven and cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
Dr. Angelou's Books

Closing Remarks

Dr. Maya Angelou continues to be celebrated around the world. Many gathered together in her name in April around her birthday. Some of her students and many members of the last community she called home came out in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to honor Dr. Angelou at the second annual Garden Party hosted by Wake Forest University. Mark your calendars for next April as this salute will continue. Additionally hosted by Wake Forest University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion was A Call to Conversation Luncheon focused on principles from Dr. Angelou's legacy. This national movement aims to spark more meaningful conversation in the spirit of exploring ideas while enjoying a sense of connection. The hope is to apply the wisdom collected during this luncheon to expand approaches for preparing future leaders. Some of Miami's most influential and impactful community leaders attended the third annual Little Haiti Community Breakfast which serves as a community-building event celebrating Dr. Maya Angelou's life and legacy. Hosted by Florida International University this beautiful occasion upholds the ideals Dr. Angelou stood for through reflection and service to the community. Also, this April Maya Angelou was inducted into the 2019 Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame. 
We are grateful for all of these honors and acknowledgments. We hope Dr. Angelou continues to be celebrated as the Maya Angelou Foundation and so many others create outlets for Maya Angelou’s wisdom to be heard, inspire and flourish. As her son, Mr. Johnson stated we have the great opportunity to celebrate the people we treasure on birthdays and holidays, but to truly live in the moment we need not delay investing our time and attention to those people who mean the most to us. We hope you take this time to recognize the love you have in your life and the people who have contributed to that great resource.  
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
-Maya Angelou 

The Angelou Johnson Family & Caged Bird Legacy, LLC
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