Touched by the life and work of Maya Angelou - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Touched by the life and work of Maya Angelou

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Poet and author Maya Angelou touched millions of people with her words. When her death was announced Wednesday, reaction poured in from around the world. Two San Diego women we spoke with say Angelou's inspiration changed their lives.

Reading excerpts from Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman," San Diego poet Johnnie Renee Nia Nelson says her heart is heavy because the world lost a treasure.

"I would align it with Nelson Mandela's passing. She was just that awesome," Nelson said.

She says in 2002, her Border Voices Poetry Project invited Angelou to attend a poetry fair at SDSU, and wouldn't you know it, she came.

"She was phenomenal. She was this awesome woman and she had such a presence," she said.

So much so, that 20 years ago Angelou inspired Makeda Dread to open the World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park.

"Maya Angelo is my hero, my 'shero,'" Dread said.

Makeda says she once travelled to San Francisco to hear the poet and activist speak.

"She was a dynamic woman – low voice, passionate speaker," she said.

The walls at the World Beat Cultural Center are covered with Bob Marley, Otis Redding and Billie Holiday posters. Although they are all African-Americans, Makeda hopes you only see musicians, because race has no place inside the center inspired by Angelou.

"Everyone has the same heart, the same blood. It's ridiculous, we're all family, we're all one. That's what she did, she celebrated life," Dread said. "We've lost a really beautiful bird, but that bird is not caged anymore. That bird is singing.">

The World Beat Cultural Center will pay tribute to Maya Angelou on June 20, and the Border Voices Poetry Project is holding an special event this weekend.

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