Editor’s note: She The People contributor and Post staff writer Krissah Thompson wrote about Maya Angelou last month when she was honored by the National Portrait Gallery.
Maya Angelou has been slowed by age. Tinted shades cover her cataract-laden eyes. She is rolled about in a wheelchair by an assistant. She wears thick socks and no shoes. In a green room, before taking the stage for a weekend appearance in Washington, she takes oxygen to rest and energize her lungs.
“Oh my goodness, do it if you can,” she has said of growing older. “I mean it.”
The woman who became a literary star with the 1969 publication of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” turned 86 on Friday and celebrated in the District at her favorite restaurant, the Bombay Club, for a dinner hosted by a grandson. The following day, Angelou pondered aging once more as the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a large photo-realistic painting of her that will be included in its collection, an that honor brings her further along the road of artistic immortality.
It is not lost on Angelou, whose striking stage presence and rich voice have not diminished with the ravages of age, that she has received such renown in her lifetime. Her foremothers did not.