Maya Angelou at the University of Florida

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Maya Angelou at the University of Florida

By Samantha Dean

Photos by Javier Edwards

 

Sitting at a simple wooden chair, set next to an unassuming end table draped with plain blue cloth, Maya Angelou had one message for her audience: “Find your rainbow among the clouds.” Angelou spoke to about 1,600 people at the Phillips Center on Feb. 27. Still, some 650 people watched from a projection screen set on the sidewalk during the mid-50-degree night after capacity was reached. She recited poetry from memory — some hers, others the words of poets like William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe. Angelou stressed the importance of poetry. “Memorize it,” she said. “Have it in your brain, so when you need it, you can pull it up. I sense that it has helped me to survive. And to do better than that — to thrive.” She also recounted memories from her life, from her relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the years she spent as a child afraid to speak. Aside from the occasional sob of an audience member and a collective laugh from all in attendance, nothing but Angelou’s not-quite-Southern voice booming through the cramped room could be heard.