Members of the Mount community celebrated on March 14 the recent launch of the new U.S. quarter featuring legendary poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who has become the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. coin. The quarter honoring Angelou is the first release of the "American Women Quarters Program," a four-year series that will include coins featuring prominent women in the country’s history.
Students, faculty, staff and alumnae paid tribute to the life and legacy of Angelou, regarded as one of the most influential 20th-century American poets, by sharing reflections and excerpts from her thought-provoking writings. From “Still I Rise” to “Phenomenal Woman”, Mount members took the stage to read some of Angelou’s most popular poems in a moving ceremony.
“I'm so grateful for all the students, alumnae, faculty and staff members who joined this inspiring celebration,” said President Ann McElaney-Johnson, PhD. “Dr. Angelou was a woman of vision and a force for change - she was truly an unstoppable woman!”
The event, organized by The Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice in collaboration with the Student Government Association, the Center for the Advancement of Women, the CSJ Institute, Student Affairs and Women and Gender Studies, was part of the University’s programming to celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March.
“We felt it was important that our entire community have the opportunity to share their sentiments on this important time in history,” said Krishauna Hines-Gaither, PhD, vice president for equity, diversity and justice. “There was a spirit of joy and admiration for the work of Dr. Angelou and I was honored to share this special moment with our Mount community.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to hear first-hand from one of Angelou’s undergraduate students, Meredeth Summers, PhD, who currently serves as chief of staff at Guilford College, in North Carolina. Summers, who had the honor to attend Angelou’s poetry class during her first year of college, shared that the celebrated poet touched her life in many ways. “She felt like a divine and familiar presence at the same time, and she taught me to see myself as who I was and to use my voice,” Summers said.
The event also featured a performance by jazz vocalist and Mount alumna Amber Weekes ’84, accompanied by bass player Richard Simon. Weekes, who was one of the founders of the Mount’s Black Student Organization, shared that she had the opportunity to meet Angelou at Mount Saint Mary’s when she visited the Chalon campus in the early 80s. “I still remember when she spoke at the Mount and that memory always stayed with me,” said Weekes.
The next event in celebration of Women’s History Month will feature a discussion with film director Nevline Nnaji, who will talk about her documentary “Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights,” which focuses on Black women’s contributions and experiences during the Civil Rights era. The event will be hosted by professor Kimberly Nao, PhD, and it will take place on Tuesday, March 22nd at 1:00 pm via Zoom. All members of the Mount community are invited to join and no registration is needed.