Esteemed academic and scholar, Jackie Royster, identified Angelou as contributing to a movement in the 1980s in which "the works by African American women were being celebrated as a literary 'renaissance'" (Traces of a Stream, p. 18). Angelou's prolific literary creativity resulted in books, plays, essays, poems, music, and much more, as she cut a path for other women and African American women writers to broaden the literary canon and to, as Royster argues, reach back through history and bring the past into contact with our current lives and culture: "Their work...began to shed light on the lives, conditions, and achievements in ways that pushed the boundaries of knowledge and questioned former interpretations of what is valuable in human endeavor" (Traces of a Stream, p. 18). As a result of the growing numbers of America's public welcoming and acknowledging the "literary renaissance" of the 1980s, I can't help but believe that Angelou's creative and literary works undoubtedly contributed to preparing that same American public, and indeed the world, for the triumphant moment when an African American president would be elected. Even in 2012, as Obama's ratings floundered in the polls, Angelou stood fast to her belief that Obama had delivered on his promise. In that way, Obama's presence in the White House has always had a dual purpose -- one of governing the country and the other of making dreams, rooted in unimaginable histories, absolutely possible.
For young people, Angelou's belief that "we may even become friends" may be the most enduring contribution of her life's prodigious work. She leaves hard-fought roadmaps and passages, discussions, stories, and guideposts, even the sounds of freedom, hope, and beauty; she invites young people, all people, to see in themselves the sparks of humanity's greatest achievements and she never wavered from inviting us or demanding of us that we participate in the moral project of identifying racism and prejudices, and then staring them down until they became nothing more than dust. In the project of dust-making, we can certainly become friends, and friends for all time. Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for being, throughout your incredibly full life, a source of wisdom, strength, and hope for all who struggle against racism and for all who have the audacity to dream of friendships.