Dr. Debra S. Boyd while abroad in Pakistan shares her memories of Dr. Maya Angelou.

Chris Hart-Williams | Editor-in-Chief 


“Phenomenal Women is a poem I’ve shared all over the world.” – Debra S. Boyd | Courtesy: Cross Culture Encounters

Since Dr. Maya Angelou’s death her family, friends, colleagues, mentees and admirers alike, have shared their personal memories of the renowned poet.

Author and professor, Dr. Debra S. Boyd met Dr. Angelou in 1989 when she taught African Studies and French at Wake Forest University. Boyd said she developed a relationship with Angelou after years of going to her home and spending time with her at Wake Forest.

Before Angelou’s death, Boyd said she hadn’t realized how much Angelou has influenced her life.

“Because of Maya my life has been enriched. I have become a phenomenal woman,” said Boyd. “Maya was a powerful presence and voice.”

Boyd said her time and numerous conversations with Angelou taught her to have confidence and express herself as a professional women.

After frequenting Maya’s home to have her hair braided by her niece, Rosa Johnson-Butler, whose clientele included Stevie Wonder, Boyd said she also came to know Angelou’s mother and Araba Bernasko, who Angelou consider to be an adopted daughter.

According to Boyd, Angelou’s mother was also a special woman. “I really enjoyed the times I spent with her mother,” said Boyd.

Boyd said Angelou enjoyed bringing people to her home and it was there where she learned of Angelou’s experiences and wisdom. According to Boyd, throughout years  of visiting Angelou’s home, she’s met Oprah Winfrey, Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack, Andrew Young and Cicely Tyson.

“We all admired her, her person, her voice, her presence,” said Boyd.

Boyd is the founder of Cross Culture Encounters and  an associate professor of French and Francophone Literatures
at North Carolina Central University. She taught at Wake Forest University from 1989 to 1997. 

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Dr. Maya Angelou delivers the 1990 commencement at North Carolina State University | Courtesy: NCSU Library Special Collections