Glide to celebrate life of Maya Angelou


Hundreds of people are expected to crowd into San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church this weekend as The City remembers the life and recognizes the struggles and accomplishments of civil rights leader, poet and best-selling novelist Maya Angelou.

In what’s being described as a “civic celebration to remember and honor the life and legacy” of Angelou, Glide and San Francisco will host the memorial event at Glide’s Sanctuary facility Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

Seating inside the sanctuary will be limited, with additional seating and a live broadcast of the celebration available at Ellis and Taylor streets.

Angelou — who died May 28 at the age of 86 at her home in North Carolina — was raised in the South, but had deep San Francisco roots.

She left her mark on The City, as well as the world, living a life so varied and full of both devastating challenges dating back to her early childhood.

Later in life, Angelou experienced decades of remarkable achievements as a writer, author, educator and civil rights activist.

Described as a “global renaissance woman,” Glide co-founder and Minister of Liberation Reverend Cecil Williams said of Angelou:

“Maya Angelou had the ability to reach into your soul with her words, pull out your joy, and make it alive to you in a way that you saw yourself anew.”

Born in Missouri in 1928, and raised in Arkansas, Angelou endured and worked to overcome the rampant racism typical of the era.

As a teenager growing up in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, Angelou dropped out of school to become The City’s first African-American female cable car conductor.

Angelou returned to school, according to the Maya Angelou website, graduated, and gave birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after graduating.

While living in an era when being an unmarried mother was frowned upon — and being a single, African-American woman created additional barriers — Angelou held down jobs as a waitress and a cook.

Still, she never released her grip on her passion for the arts, writing, poetry and civil justice.

Angelou studied dance and worked as a dancer in nightclubs in San Francisco. In the early 1950s she toured Europe with an opera group, danced on television variety shows and in 1957, recorded her first album.

In 1960 her career took a turn, with her moving to Cairo, Egypt to become the editor of an English-language newspaper.  The next year she moved to Ghana, where she taught at the University of Ghana.

Angelou returned to the U.S. in 1964, where she worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights group headed by Martin Luther King that played a key role in the civil rights movement across the South.

Described as “devastated” after the assassination of King in 1968, Angelou’s career and life took yet another sharp turn with her — now in her early early 40’s —  going to work on her first book.

When her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was published in 1970, the book received international attention, becoming a bestseller almost overnight.

Glide co-founder Janice Mirikitani said of her work:

“She could reach into and know what your wound was, pull it out, and unfold it so that you could see the shame and make it vanish into a piece of paper where your truth can come alive and regain the courage to be who you truly are.”

As it turned out, Angelou’s initial work would be one of more than 30 bestselling titles she would write during her career.

As always, a writer with the ability to stir the emotions, in what appears to be her last message from her Twitter account,  Angelou tweeted on May 23:

“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

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