Dr. Maya Angelou’s Life Celebrated At Glide Memorial Methodist Church

by Anh Le and Minh Jeffrey Anh Le on June 16, 2014

Photograph by: MINH JEFFREY ANH LE

On a clear, bright and sunny San Francisco day, and Father’s Day, the life of poet, writer, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou was celebrated at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in the heart of the Tenderloin.

Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on May 28 at the age of 89, was a member of Glide and requested in her will a “Celebration of Life” service there after her passing.

Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani led the “Celebration of Life” service, with Belva Davis serving as the MC.

Rev. Williams said, “Isn’t it something that we’re drawn together by Maya Angelou, and because we will for centuries to come honor and participate and engage in her legacy and also in the fact that this spirit of Maya is with us.”

“History will record that on this day, we began a new way and a new understanding of what it means to be brothers and sisters.  Here we are, Maya.  Here we are.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee called Dr. Maya Angelou “a phenomenal warrior, a truth telling person who helped set so many of us free.”  Congresswoman Lee shared how Dr. Angelou invited her to her home in North Carolina, and offered her personal support after Lee did not vote to use military force following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Janice Mirkitarini read the poem she wrote, “Past Perfect,” to honor Dr. Angelou.

Mayor Ed Lee hailed Dr. Angelou for “her poetry and her elegance.”  Mayor Lee said, “She helped us mature in the way we saw life, to take the harshness of life and turn it into poetry.”

Former Mayor Willie Brown, Jr., also spoke about Dr. Angelou.  He shared an anecdote about how when Dr. Angelou met with him, she was “critical of some of the things (he) did wrong.”

The voices of the Glide Ensemble, along with the musicians of the Change Band, performed magnificently.

Valerie Simpson brought the parishioners to their feet, with her powerful singing.

Guy Johnson, Dr. Angelou’s son, spoke movingly of his mother.  He said that his mother liked to uplift people.  He recited an excerpt from his mother’s poem, “Still I Rise”:

“You may write me down in history

with your bitter, twisted lies,

you may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise”

Rev. Williams said, “As we honor and celebrate Maya Angelou, let us remember that we are on the road.  We are not done yet.  We’ve got work to do.”

Rev. Williams invited everyone at the “Celebration of Life” service to a lunch served by volunteers.

Jodi Doprano, one of the many Glide volunteers, embodied the spirit and warmth that shines from Glide Memorial Church, as she served lunch.

It is this spirit which uplifts humanity, in the daily meals that Glide serves in the Tenderloin and as it carries out its work and mission in the community.

                                                 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Quotations of Dr. Maya Angelou

Excerpt from “Still I’ll Rise”

You may shoot me with your words,

you may cut me with your eyes,

you may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise

Out of the hurts of history’s shame

I rise

up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wonderfully clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that to my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave

I rise

I rise

I rise

Excerpt from “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”

San Franciscans would have sworn on the Golden Gate Bridge that racism was missing from the heart of their air-conditioned city.  But they would have been sadly mistaken.

Excerpts from “Letter to My Daughter” 

The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas.  The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising.  Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude.  If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.

Today I am blessed.”

– – –

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are unalike.

– – –

The human heart is so delicate and sensitive that it always needs some tangible encouragement to prevent it from faltering in its labor.  The human heart is so robust, so tough, that once encouraged it beats its rhythm with a loud unswerving insistency.  One thing that encourages the heart is music.

– – –

I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves , that we can be ready and able to come to our defense when and wherever needed.

– – –

What legacy was left which can help me in the art of living a good life?

Did I learn to be kinder,

To be more patient,

And more generous,

More loving,

More ready to laugh,

And more easy to accept honest tears?

If I accept those legacies of my departed beloveds, I am able to

say, Thank You to them for their love and Thank You to

God for their lives.

– – –

We must insist that the men and women who expect to lead us recognize the true desires of those who are being led.  We do not choose to be herded into a building burning with hate nor into a system rife with intolerance.

Politicians must set their aims for the high ground and according to our various leanings, Democrat, Republican, Independent, we will follow.

Politicians must be told if they continue to sink into the mud of obscenity, they will proceed alone.

If we tolerate vulgarity, our future will sway and fall under a burden of ignorance.  It need not be so. We have the brains and the heart to face our futures bravely.  Taking responsibility for the time we take up and the space we occupy.  To respect our ancestors and out of concern for our descendants, we must show ourselves as courteous and courageous well-meaning Americans.

– – –

Of all your attributes, youth,

Beauty, wit, kindness, mercy,

Courage is your greatest


For you, without it, can practice no other

Virtue with consistency.

– – –

I am a present member of Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco, California.

In all the institutions I try to be present and accountable for all I do and leave undone.  I know that eventually I shall have to be present and accountable in the presence of God.  I do not wish to be found wanting.

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