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Thursday, May 29, 2014

VIDEO: St. Louis Poets Memorialize Maya Angelou at Her Walk of Fame Star

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 9:30 AM

"Will you hear me or will you see me?" Corey Black says, shouting above the Delmar Boulevard traffic at the dozen or so onlookers who encircle the Walk of Fame star bearing Maya Angelou's name.

Black, a 31-year-old spoken-word poet, organized an impromptu memorial for Angelou, the celebrated St. Louis-born author and poet who died Wednesday morning at the age of 86. With a handful of other St. Louis poets at his side, Black roars the first stanza of one of his longer pieces:

"It's a testimony that somebody needs me, Some people don't get called but once in their life But I swear I hear the voice of Maya when I get called to the mic, And it tells me to get on my feet And walk to the light."

See also: Maya Angelou, St. Louis Native and World-Renowned Author, Dies at 86

click to enlarge Corey Black, a St. Louis poet, throws down verses during a memorial to Maya Angelou Wednesday afternoon. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Corey Black, a St. Louis poet, throws down verses during a memorial to Maya Angelou Wednesday afternoon.

Black's first exposure to Angelou came in middle school when he watched Poetic Justice, the 1993 film whose director tapped Angelou to write the heart-stopping poems recited by the movie's main character, played by Janet Jackson.

Since then, Black says he came to see her as a beacon of African American identity and pride. At the memorial Wednesday afternoon, Angelou's star was covered in flowers, while sheets of paper taped to lamp posts and the sidewalk displayed lines from some of her poems.

"She connected to everybody's soul," Black says.

click to enlarge Jason Vasser, an MFA student at UMSL, answered the call to honor Angelou in verse. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Jason Vasser, an MFA student at UMSL, answered the call to honor Angelou in verse.

Another poet, Jason Vasser, tells Daily RFT that Angelou inspired him as both person and as a writer.

"We've lost a large piece of our cultural, linguistic and literary tradition," says Vasser, who plans to graduate this December with a master's in fine arts from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He says it was Angelou's autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that set him on a path of poetry and expression.

"In our community, many of us feel caged," Vasser says. "When she wrote that novel, for me the message is that she understands, because she's been caged as well. I think Maya Angelou was really about using poetry as way to express yourself, to allow yourself to be free, even though your mind and your body may not be."

click to enlarge Felice Skye Hutchinson reads from one of Angelou's poetry collections. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Felice Skye Hutchinson reads from one of Angelou's poetry collections.
click to enlarge Aja La' Starr - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Aja La' Starr
click to enlarge Enigma the poet. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Enigma the poet.
click to enlarge Mario Pascal. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Mario Pascal.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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