Maya Angelou Garden Party

Celebrating Maya Angelou’s Birthday

Maya Angelou Garden Party Podcast Flyer

2020 Maya Angelou Garden Party Podcast

Apple Podcast



YouTube (Coming Soon)

For 30 years Dr. Maya Angelou inspired generations of Wake Forest students to become better writers, thinkers and citizens. She frequently enjoyed “garden parties” with friends and family in her own backyard. Bailey Park serves as a wonderful location to celebrate her 92nd birthday, uniting natural beauty with the vibrant cultural and arts community in downtown Winston-Salem. We use this event to celebrate community, storytelling, art and the spirit of one of the most influential artists, poets, and voices of our time, the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou.

This year due to growing concerns regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Garden party will no longer be able to take place in person. Although this news is disheartening to many, we are choosing to transition the programming into a pre-recorded podcast that will be curated and shared over the coming weeks. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time, and hope to honor Dr. Angelou with this new form of the Garden Party!

Each year this event is free and open to both the Public & Wake Forest Communities , with poetry slam and spoken word performances on display to honor Dr. Angelou’s literary legacy. Food, music, and lawn games are also part of the celebration, and members of the Angelou family will be in attendance. This event is possible due to the generous donation of time and resources from multiple University and Community entities.

At the second annual Maya Angelou Garden Party, volunteers performed Angelou poems and their own poetry and songs.  Pictured above, Ishmael Khatibu reads an original poem titled Grandma’s Hands. Ja’Net McDonald reads an original poem, Dream Catcher. We also heard from volunteers Allison Thompson and Donovan Livingston who performed readings of original pieces as well as Angelou original works! 

Hu Womack and Tanya Zanish Belcher from Z. Smith Reynolds Library brought pieces of Dr. Angelou’s personal notes from the University’s Special Archives collection. Event attendees were encouraged to read and interact with an early hand written draft of Caged Bird, one of Dr. Angelou’s highly treasured works.

In addition to the spoken words, music, and poetry readings, we also had various Garden Games around Bailey Park for the enjoyment of our younger crowd. You can expect to see all of this and more at the 2020 Birthday Celebration for Dr. Maya Angelou!

2020 Garden Party Podcast Speaker Bios

Daniel Oberti, Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Wake Downtown

Daniel Oberti

Role: Speaker, Creator/Editor

Bio: Daniel Oberti is a graduate of Wake Forest University (’19), and currently serves as the Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Wake Downtown. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, he is now a proud member of the Winston-Salem Community. He was excited to create and edit this Garden Party Podcast for all the enjoy as one of the final acts of his Fellowship. He chose to read Alone by Maya Angelou to emphasize how we all depend on each other to survive, and if we embrace the humanity in all we will never be alone.

Dori Colly, Podcast MC

Dori Colly

Role: MC, Speaker

Bio:  This year’s Garden Party Podcast MC is Dr. Angelou’s Great Niece, Dori Colly. Dori is a Human Family member, global citizen, lifelong learner. A Mother, sister, niece, daughter & granddaughter. An Autism awareness advocate, urban gardener and member of SGI-USA. And She is Committed to leaving this world more inclusive for future generations. Dori Currently resides in the Historic Boston-Thurmond neighborhood of WS/NC.

Mike Silver, Podcast Reader

Mike Silver

Role: Speaker

Bio: Hello, my name is Mike Silver. I am an administrative law judge for the State of North Carolina and I am a 2020 candidate for District Court Judge in Forsyth County. I chose to read Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” because I remember watching her read this poem with my parents when Bill Clinton was inaugurated President of the United States in 1993.

Piece Read: On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou

Samantha Smart, Speaker

Samantha Smart

Role: Speaker

Bio: Samantha Smart is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University (’20) and is from Cape Coral, Florida. She chose this poem because it represented a big breakthrough in her perspective of someone who was different from her.

Piece Read: Figurines and Broken Dreams by Samantha Smart

Brenna M. Casey, Speaker

Brenna M. Casey

Role: Speaker

Bio: Brenna M. Casey is a writer and educator who lives in Durham, NC. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wake Forest University. Brenna holds a Ph.D. in English from Duke University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. You can read her poems and essays in Public Books, Bitch, Hyperallergic, and Ploughshares. She chose the poem Thickly Settled: A Poem Begun in August which was published last year in The Boiler.

Piece Read: Thickly Settled: A Poem Begun in August by Brenna M. Casey

Malik Yarber, Speaker

Malik Yarber

Role: Speaker

Bio: Malik Yarber is a poet, faith advocate, song writer and author who has been preforming spoken word around the state of North Carolina for the last decade. Malik has two published books  “Poetry form an Interesting Place” and  “The Joy of Empathy”. The poem “This Pen” explores how freedom and fulfillment can be obtained through the gift of writing.

Piece Read: This Pen by Malik Yarber 


Marybeth Sutton Wallace

Role: Speaker

Bio: Marybeth Sutton Wallace is a graduate of Wake Forest University, where she works as special assistant to the president and directs the Wake Forest Fellows Program in Winston-Salem.

Ashley Harris, Speaker

Ashley Harris

Role: Speaker

Bio: My name is Ashley Harris and I am the author of “If the Hero of Time was black”.  I am also an aspiring medical professional and graduate student in the Masters in Biomedical Sciences program at Wake Forest School of Medicine. I wrote this poem because I notice that many discussions on racial disparities in medicine are not addressed. Instead of explaining them, and how they are historical and ongoing, they are simply placed under the sentence “black people don’t trust the medical field”

Piece Read: The US is still sick by Ashley Harris

Lily Walter, Speaker

Lily Walter

Role: Speaker

Bio: I’m Lily Walter, a former demon deac (‘19), and one of the reasons I originally chose Wake was because of Maya Angelou. She was one of my favorite poets and authors, and this poem, like everything she did, was so simple, elegant, and beautiful. It speaks so gracefully of the trans formative power of love, something all of us need to lean into in this moment in time.

Piece Read: Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou  

Matthew Ayocock, Speaker

Matthew Aycock

Role: Speaker

Bio: Matthew Aycock was a student of Dr. Maya Angelou as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University (‘11).  Born and raised in Raleigh, Matt recently returned to Raleigh from Spain where he has lived since receiving a Fulbright scholarship from the U.S. State Department in 2016.  Currently he works for Equality North Carolina, the largest LGBTQ rights organization in the state.  Matt holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Wake Forest and a Master of International Education from Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain.  Today Matt chose to read Conscientious Objector by Edna St. Vincent Millay一one of Dr. Angelou’s favorite poems that she taught in her “World Poetry in Dramatic Performance” class.

Piece Read: Conscientious Objector by Edna St. Vincent Millay  

L. Lamar Wilson, Speaker

Dr. L. Lamar Wilson

Role: Speaker

Bio: L. Lamar Wilson teaches creative writing and literature at Wake Forest University and The Mississippi University for Women. His documentary poetics has been featured in two poetry collections, a stage production, and a film: Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press, 2013); Prime (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014); The Gospel Truth (2017); and The Changing Same (PBS/POV Shorts, 2019), a documentary co-produced with Rada Film Group.

Piece Read:  “To a Man” and “Sepia Fashion Show” by Maya Angelou  

Aileen Imana, Speaker

Aileen Imana

Role: Speaker

Bio: I am Aileen Imana, Mom, author of I Got Issues, licensed clinical mental health counselor and Buddhist practitioner. WFU (‘17) MA in Counseling. I am local in the Winston-Salem Community and podcaster of We All Got Issues Podcast. I am also a Mindful Wake Buddhist representing Soka Gakki International USA (SGI-USA)  IG:@weallgotissuespodcast and @aileenimana

Piece Read: Immortal Butterfly by Aileen Imana

Dr. Ed Wilson, Speaker

Dr. Ed Wilson

Bio: Edwin Graves Wilson (b. February 1, 1923), known affectionately as “Mr. Wake Forest,” is Professor Emeritus of English and Provost Emeritus for Wake Forest University. Wilson was born in Leaksville, North Carolina and began classes at Wake Forest at age 16. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A (1943) in English and after graduation, he served as a U.S. Naval officer on a destroyer escort during World War II. Post-war, he received his A.M. (1948) and Ph.D (1952) in English from Harvard University. Wilson returned to his alma mater as an Instructor in English, and was named Professor of English (1959). A skilled and articulate teacher, Dr. Wilson focused on the British Romantic poets, such as William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, and others as well as the poetry of William Blake, William Butler Yeats, and Dylan Thomas.

Piece Read: Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Media Sources in the Podcast!

World Book Club – Maya Angelou

Type: Podcast

Presenter: Harriett Gilbert

Date: October 7, 2015

Publisher: BBC

Description: Maya Angelou answers listeners questions about her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

what it takes – Maya Angelou: Righteousness and Love

Type: Podcast

Presenter: Alice Winkler

Date: December 19th, 2016

Publisher: Academy of Achievement

Description: In this episode you’ll hear that iconic voice, in interviews, speeches and conversations, and be reminded why she was one of the most inspiring figures of the past century.

Desert Island Discs: Maya Angelou

Type: Podcast

Presenter: Michael Parkinson

Date: 1987

Publisher: BBC Radio

Description: Maya Angelou inherited her love of music from her grandmother, who used to sing to her as a child at the family home in the southern United States. The first volume of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was a bestseller, describing her life as singer, actress, stripper, dancer and writer. In conversation with Michael Parkinson, she looks back on a remarkable career and chooses eight records she would take to the mythical island.


Type: Song

Artist: Pharrell Williams

Album: Hidden Figures

Time: min 5:02-6:08

Georgia on My Mind

Type: Song

Artist: Ray Charles

Album: Live at l’Olympia

Time: min 11:21-13:33

Mambo in Africa

Type: Song

Artist: Maya Angelou

Album: Miss Calypso

Time: min 18:54-20:11

Killing Me Softly with His Song

Type: Song

Artist: Roberta Flack

Album: Killing Me Softly

Time: min 23:28-25:05


Type: Song

Artist: Alicia Keys

Album: As I Am (Expanded Edition)

Time: min 48:17-52:41


Location: Bookmarks, 634 W 4th St #110, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Mission:Bookmarks is a literary nonprofit organization and independent bookstore that works to ignite the love of reading. We are passionate about connecting our community with books and authors.

Bookmarks Resources & Recommendations

Executive Director Statement! “All profits made from book sales go right back into our nonprofit’s mission of connecting readers with books and authors. This is done through events at Bookmarks on 4th Street, our outreach in schools, and through our annual Bookmarks Book Festival. At our very first Festival, we hosted Dr. Angelou as one of our featured authors.Very good memories of this!”

Best Link to Share Click Here!

 This is a direct link to all of Dr. Angelou’s books available through our website. People can then see all the books about and by Maya Angelou and can easily order through our website. We are offering free shipping for any orders over $25.

Top Choices from the Executive Director!

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Description:Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned….Click the link below to read more!

Link Here!

The Complete Poetry

Description: The beauty and spirit of Maya Angelou’s words live on in this complete collection of poetry.Throughout her illustrious career in letters, Maya Angelou gifted, healed, and inspired the world with her words. Now the beauty and spirit of those words live on in this new and complete collection of poetry that reflects and honors the writer’s remarkable life. Every poetic phrase, every poignant verse can be found within the pages of this sure-to-be-treasured volume—from her reflections on African American life and hardship in the compilation Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’fore I Diiie (“Though there’s one thing that I cry for / I believe enough to die for / That is every man’s responsibility to man”) to her revolutionary celebrations of womanhood in the poem “Still I Rise”…Click the link below to read more! 

Link Here!

Letter to My Daughter

Description: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Maya Angelou shares her path to living well and with meaning in this absorbing book of personal essays. Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight. Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that led Angelou to an exalted place in American letters and taught her lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward, six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son. Whether she is recalling such lost friends as Coretta Scott King and Ossie Davis, extolling honesty, decrying vulgarity, explaining why becoming a Christian is a “lifelong endeavor,” or …Click the link below to read more!

Link Here!

Phenomenal Woman

Description: A collection of beloved poems about women from the iconic Maya Angelou. These four poems, “Phenomenal Woman,” “Still I Rise,” “Weekend Glory,” and “Our Grandmothers,” are among the most remembered and acclaimed of Maya Angelou’s poems. They celebrate women with a majesty that has inspired and touched the hearts of millions. These memorable poems have been reset and bound in a beautiful edition—a gift to keep and to give.

Link Here!

Children’s Book Recommendation

Great picture/biographical book about Dr. Angelou for kids ages 4 – 8: Maya Angelou – Little People, Big Dreams

Link Here!