Maya Angelo's death hasn't stilled her voice; she continues to touch countless lives with her indomitable message: break free.
"I created myself," she once said.
Angelo showed us by example, using the cruel ache of her childhood -- rape, prejudice and poverty -- to transform herself into a poet, a caged bird who sings.
Her life is a testament to what can happen when you refuse to be shackled by circumstances and reach.
While she never studied at college, she earned dozens of honorary degrees. She sang and danced on a European tour with the opera production of Porgy and Bess. She wrote an international bestseller. What's more, she was the poet who "inaugurated" a president.
But most of all, she was a poet of the people. She belonged to us. It was her voice we wanted to hear in times of triumph, with her words confetti. And in times of tragedy, it was her voice we wanted to hear. She was our medicine woman with her words a balm.
In her poem "Caged Bird" Angelou wrote:
"A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped
and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing."