LISTEN: Oprah, Alicia Keys, others join Maya Angelou in “I Rise”

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Maya Angelou at the Georgia World Congress Center. AJC archives photo: T. Levette Bagwell

Today would have been Maya Angelou’s 90th birthday and Google’s daily Doodle is a compilation of the late author, poet and activist reciting her famous “I Rise.” The voices of Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, America Ferrera, Martina McBride, Guy Johnson and Laverne Cox join in reciting the work. It’s posted below.

MORE: A timeline of Maya Angelou’s life

Photos of Maya Angelou through the years

Winfrey was in Atlanta working on the movie “Selma” when Angelou passed away in May 2014 at age 86. She received the sad news while on the set.

“She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey said in an online tribute to her longtime friend and mentor at the time.

She and Chef Art Smith, whose culinary empire includes Southern Art in the InterContinental Buckhead, collaborated on the meal to be served after Angelou’s memorial service.

“The menu was selected, as always, by Ms. Winfrey,” Smith said in an interview then.  “As you know in the South we celebrate births, and we celebrate deaths, and it’s always with food. Food is a common thread and in the South, it’s a part of our soul.”

Smith and four members of Southern Art’s team prepared buttermilk fried chicken with whipped potatoes, garlic green beans and red pepper gravy, Coca-Cola glazed ham, collard greens, mac and cheese and succotash, with coconut cake for dessert. Mourners celebrating Angelou’s life and joining in the repast included former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Feeding the famous at such an occasion would be a daunting challenge for most but Smith’s past work with Winfrey prepared him.

“My favorite memory was the celebration of (Angelou’s) 75th birthday in Key West Florida, on Drum Island,” Smith said. “Wendy Kromer (Martha Stewart’s acclaimed cake maker) and I created the largest hummingbird cake ever. We had a local glass blower blow hummingbirds to decorate the cake, which was festooned with thousands of handmade flowers.”

Preparing the meal for Angelou’s memorial years later, Smith said, was “the most solemn event I’ve done in my career. She was one amazing women who gave so much to the world. Her past became her words. She will live on forever, but I will miss her beautiful smile and that special voice as she so eloquently pronounced her words.”


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