Excitement brews for Angelou’s visit

By Gus Bode

The SIUC campus is preparing for a cultural icon to unleash her poetic wisdom today.

Maya Angelou – famous for her many books, poems and civil rights advocacy – will give a free lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Center ballrooms.

Juwana Walker, a senior from Chicago studying administration of justice, said she has waited for the 79-year-old’s visit for months.

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“She’s one of the strongest black women in history,” she said. “She’s accomplished so much and I think it’s an honor that she’s coming here and we to experience that.”

Walker said she has read many of Angelou’s work, including her 1970 autobiography “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings.” She said her favorite work of Angelou is her 1995 poem “Phenomenal Women.”

“I think it empowers not just black women but all women,” she said. “It makes women feel beautiful and superior and great. I just love it.”

Allison Joseph, an associate professor of English, said she looks forward to hearing whatever message Angelou decides to share.

“Her whole career has been about making people remember where we come from as a nation and as a culture – not just as different races from different countries – but together,” she said.

Joseph said she admires Angelou because of the hardships she has overcome, such as those mentioned in her autobiography.

“She could have been the type of person that life writes off, but she refused to be silent and to be nobody,” she said.

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Angelou, a St. Louis native, grew up under racial tension in Arkansas and battled poverty in her adult years before advocating civil rights alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She famously delivered the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.

The Student Programming Council has tried to schedule a visit from the author since the end of the fall semester, said Alexis Allen, director of lectures for SPC. To pay for the visit, SPC asked other organizations to contribute.

Among the organizations hosting Angelou’s lecture are the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the Black Affairs Council and the chancellor’s office.

“When we started to organize this, the budget that our committee was working with definitely was not enough to cover the expenses that it was going to recover,” Allen said.

The actual cost to bring Angelou is confidential due to a contract agreement, Allen said.

Although a question-and-answer session will not take place because of Angelou’s busy schedule, she is expected to discuss a variety of topics in her 60-minute lecture, Allen said.

“She talks a lot about her life and the challenges she overcame as well as talking about her literature and civil rights as well,” she said.

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