Winston Salem Visitor Guide - 2018 - 17
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
WORDS IN PICTURES As a tribute to Dr. Angelou,
local artist Dennis Wells created a poignant portrait
using words from Angelou's prose and poetry. It
resides in the Benton Convention Center. Turn to page
24 to learn more about the Benton Convention Center.
LAUDED POET, PRODUCER, PERFORMER, AND
CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST DR. MAYA ANGELOU
COULD HAVE CHOSEN TO LIVE ANYWHERE.
BY: LANCE ELKO
t was 1973 when Dr. Maya Angelou first
connected with Winston-Salem. A group of
Wake Forest University students had invited
her to speak during Black Awareness Week.
At that time, Angelou, a star on the stage, screen,
and printed page, had achieved international fame
for her first book, the 1969 memoir I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings. Impressed by both the students
and the welcoming faculty, she stated, perhaps
prophetically, "If I stayed here, these people would
be my friends."
Angelou returned to Wake Forest several times in
the years after, and in 1981, she accepted a lifetime
professorship, ultimately teaching on a variety of
subjects, from science, theology, and theater to
writing, ethics, and philosophy.
An extensive traveler, Angelou was quick to praise
the city when asked why she settled here. "WinstonSalem is so beautiful," she told Southern Living in
2011. "I'm delighted to be in the Piedmont where the
Smokies and the Blue Ridge come together. We have
10-foot-tall rhododendrons and 6-foot-tall azaleas.
Now that's unheard of."
Hospitality came naturally to Angelou, who was
known to host upwards of 200 guests - including
students - at the holidays. But Angelou's local
legacy extended beyond the walls of her sunny
yellow home and even Wake Forest's campus.
Her generosity, empathy, and sense of advocacy
led her in 2002 to establish The Maya Angelou
Center for Health Equity in the Wake Forest
Innovation Quarter to focus on special populations
- ages 65 and up, ages 17 and younger, and
underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities. In 2012,
Angelou partnered with Novant Health to open the
Maya Angelou Women's Health & Wellness Center,
treating women in all stages of life.
Winston-Salem is honored to have been home to
Angelou in the final decades of her remarkable life.
"I put my roots down here," she told the Wall Street
Journal in 2012. "My friends are here. My art is here.
Naturally, this is home."
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