Maya Angelou

The life of poet Maya Angelou will be celebrated during October.

The Celebrate! Maya Project, an Arkansas-based nonprofit providing educational programming rooted in the spirit of Maya Angelou, will celebrate its fifth year with a 5th Anniversary Celebration from 6-9 p.m. Friday, October 18 at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis on April 4, 1928, the second child of Bailey Johnson and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson. Her older brother, Bailey Jr., gave her the nickname of “Maya.”

At age three, Angelou and her brother were sent to Stamps by their father after his marriage broke up. They lived with her maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, who owned a general store. She spent most of her life through age 14 in Stamps, which is where she credited a teacher, Bertha Flowers, helping her become familiar with the world’s great English authors.

After a move to California she married Tosh Angelos in 1951 and adopted the stage name of Maya Angelou after she gained popularity as a nightclub performer. In the late 1950s, she migrated to New York and took up writing which led to publication of her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in 1969. The work brought her international fame.

The reception gala at the Clinton Center will include live music, a live auction, and food and drink. Musician Rodney Block will perform, along with poet Kai Coggin and interpretive dancer Natoya England-Johnson.

Painter Joelle Storet will create live art for auction during the evening. Regine Moore, director of multicultural marketing at Walmart, will provide the keynote address.

The Celebrate! Maya Project annually provides remembrance and literacy events that help Arkansans understand Angelou’s life and to help youth express themselves through poetry and prose. It partners with Arkansas schools for these events and to award academic scholarships to youth writers. Proceeds from the celebration benefit these efforts.

Tickets to the anniversary celebration are $100.

The celebration is part of a three-day commemoration of the organization’s fifth year. On October 17, the nonprofit will host its annual FriendRaiser from 6-8 p.m. at Trapnall Hall in downtown Little Rock. The fundraiser thanks donors for their support during the past year and raises money for future scholarships and programs. A donation of $35 is suggested.

On October 19, the organization will present a Stamps Educational Bus Tour that will visit the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Hope and Angelou’s childhood church and the memorial park in her honor in Stamps. The tour departs from the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. Tickets are $35, and seating is limited.

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