Honoring Dr. Maya Angelou

By: Justin Chan

It's difficult for anyone to celebrate Black History Month and forget the achievements of Dr. Maya Angelou. An eminent civil rights activist and celebrated author, Dr. Angelou experienced the ugliness of racial discrimination firsthand while growing up in Arkansas. Despite her struggles, her rise as an African American pioneer began when she studied in San Francisco and became the city's first African-American female cable car conductor. Maya, however, had a passion for the arts and soon found herself performing alongside renowned choreographer Alvin Ailey. She also recorded her first album, Calypso Lady.

What ultimately propelled Dr. Angelou to legendary status was her writing. In 1970, after working under the guidance of novelist James Baldwin, she published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The autobiography detailed her battle with racism and family trouble and went on to win several notable accolades. Following its publication, the memoir has been heralded as a classic piece of American literature, especially that which concerns black feminist writing.

Since her success as an author, Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees. She has also served on two presidential committees, earning the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. She has won three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums as well.

Even the Red Rooster has Maya to thank for support. At the very opening of Red Rooster Harlem, Dr. Angelou herself sent us her well wishes, which we have framed and showing on our Rooster Wall. One of Marcus' favorite memories is also visiting Maya's home in South Carolina where they switched roles and Maya cooked some of her favorite dishes for Marcus. Even with such fame and accolade, Dr. Maya Angelou never forgets to show support for those who continue to fight for the advancement of African Americans throughout the country.

For more on Black History Month, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)