Fifteen years ago, Essence magazine took Del. Eleanor Homes Norton to Winston-Salem, N.C., to visit poet Maya Angelou’s home for an exchange about Black women “embracing their own power.”
Norton, then in her fourth term representing the District said, “the difference between Maya and me is that though she may not speak for people in some formal sense, my God, she speaks to them and they listen!”
The conversation between the politican and the poet was published in an August 1998 article by Lise Funderburg. Norton reflected on the visit this week as she mourned the loss of Angelou, who died Wednesday.
The congresswoman plans to lead a tribute to her close friend and fellow civil rights activist on the House floor Friday afternoon.
“My friend Maya Angelou needed every one of her 86 years to live her rich life as a renaissance woman — writer, poet, actor, dancer, screenwriter, professor, civil rights activist, and on top of all that talent, Maya also was a cook extraordinaire,” Norton said.
Angelou frequently visited the nation’s capital.
Less than two months ago, Angelou came to town to attend an unveiling of her portrait by Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin. The oil-on-canvas painting was revealed during an event co-hosted by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African Art on April 5, the day after the poet’s 86th birthday.
Surrounded by friends and family, she was interviewed by Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Angelou spoke about her life and finding the patience and “… courage to look into one another’s face no matter what color, no matter what community to see one’s own self,” according to the gallery.
The painting was installed on the first floor of the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday. The work will be on view through June 12.