Top students from Maryland recognized by Johns Hopkins University

— Joi Haskins, a student from Reisterstown, was recently honored as one of the brightest young students in the nation at a regional awards ceremony for academically advanced children sponsored by The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY).

The Center honored Joi, a participant in the CTY Talent Search, for her exceptional performance on a rigorous, above-grade-level test given to academically talented second-through-eighth-grade students.

As part of the CTY Talent Search, which is going on now, advanced young learners take above-grade level tests that CTY has used for years to spot academic talent and reveal gaps between a child’s academic program and his or her actual capacity for learning. Seventh and eighth graders take the SAT or ACT—the same tests used for college admissions. These students, along with second through sixth graders, can take the School and College Ability Test (SCAT), an above-level test.

Joi, a student at The Park School, was one of more than 38,000 students from over 120 countries who participated in the CTY Talent Search. Because of the difficulty of the tests, only about 30 percent of students who participated earned an invitation to a CTY Awards Ceremony where they are individually honored for their academic performance and potential. Most students honored in 2014 CTY Awards Ceremonies also qualified academically for CTY’s summer courses and online classes.

“The CTY awards ceremony congratulates students for their academic achievement, and it recognizes the defining roles that parents, educators, and others play in developing the academic talents of our outstanding honorees,” said Elaine Tuttle Hansen, executive director of CTY. “For these advanced learners, as with all children, there should be no gap between their capabilities and the opportunities open to them.”

This spring, some 9,700 CTY Talent Search honorees were invited to participate in 43 CTY Awards Ceremonies across the country, and one in Hong Kong.

A global leader in gifted education since 1979, CTY is focused on recognizing academic talent in exceptional K-12 students and supporting their growth with courses, services, and resources specifically designed to meet their needs. Education Week called CTY “one of a set of remarkable nonpublic institutions dedicated to the discovery and nurture of the most talented young people for the highest levels of accomplishment.”

For more information about enrolling in the CTY Talent Search, visit:

Baltimore’s Jada Pinkett Smith directs new ‘Annie’ film

Jada Pinkett Smith knew from the very moment she saw Quvenzhane Wallis the 10-year-old would make the perfect “Annie.”

“It wasn’t difficult at all choosing her, she has the size, charisma and the talent,” said Pinkett Smith, a Baltimore School for the Arts graduate and the wife of superstar Will Smith.

The comment shouldn’t be taken lightly because Smith’s own daughter, pop star Willow, had originally been tapped to play the lead role but Hollywood’s power couple decided on Quvenzhane because of her age and sheer talent. Willow, age 13, has simply outgrown the part.

Quvenzhane, who received an Oscar nomination for her outstanding performance in the 2012 film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” joins a cast that includes Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.

The Hollywood heavyweights have begun putting the finishing touches on, “Annie,” which is scheduled to hit theaters in Baltimore and around the country in time for the Christmas holidays.

“It’s something that’s been in production for a little while and I’m really looking forward to it,” Quvenzhane said in a previously published interview. I’m honored to have been chosen.”

In March this year, Pinkett Smith, who is co-producing the film with her husband, Will and hip-hop impresario Jay-Z, released the first trailer for the movie which depicts Quvenzhane and others in the All-Star cast dancing and singing to favorites such as, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow.”

“Just think, three years ago, [Quvenzhane] was a truck driver’s daughter in small town Louisiana, now, the other side of an Oscar nomination for best actress, she’s likely to be the mainstay of a potential Christmas blockbuster film,” said film critic Andrew Pulver, who writes for the Guardian in Great Britian. “And, she’s still only 10. Quvenzhane Wallis’ acting career is nothing short of miraculous, so it’s probably appropriate that she’s the star of a remake of ‘Annie.’”

Directed by Will Gluck, “Annie” is the story of an orphaned young girl who finally gets an opportunity to escape the madhouse and cruelty of an orphanage and its mean headmistress.

In the Smith/Jay-Z version, Annie encounters Benjamin Stacks and not the original’s Daddy Warbucks.

Stacks is campaigning for mayor of New York City and, after a chance encounter with Annie, he strikes an unusual bond with the young girl and becomes a father figure to her.

The remake updates the original, which was set in Depression-era New York.

The trailer offers several references to how the film has been updated, with references to social media and the housemistress, played by Diaz.

Celebration banquet held for outgoing UBMC president

— Five hundred well wishers gathered the evening of Friday, May 23, 2014 to celebrate the end of Reverend Dr. James B. Gray, Jr.’s successful four year journey as president of the United Baptist Missionary Convention (UBMC) of Maryland and its Auxiliaries, Inc.

According to Dr. Gray, he enjoyed every minute of his presidency, which included several accomplishments that will impact the convention for many years to come. One of the most noticeable accomplishments was the revision of the constitution, which changed the officer election procedures along with the addition of the newly organized Children, Youth and Young Adult Auxiliary.

Instead of having a keynote speaker, greetings and accolades were delivered by current and former UBMC officers, auxiliary leaders, Pleasant Zion Church leaders and family members. Vice presidents, including the newly elected president, Rev. Dr. Cleveland Mason, spoke of the evening as being a “happy and reflective time” Other speakers frequently referred to Dr. Gray as a “man empowered by the vision”

Speaking for the family, his daughter Marvella Gray revealed how happy she is that the family can now cruise the waters without interruptions due to her father’s constant telephone conversations regarding convention issues.

In a previously recorded video interview by Rev. Domanic Smith when asked how he would like to be remembered, Dr. Gray stated that he wants people to remember that,“I did my best.” The video also shared some of his past history and intimate thoughts with guests at the event.

Even though the Martins West celebration was designed to pay tribute to Dr. Gray, he took time to thank the past presidents and a number of other people who he felt were helpful to his administration. Throughout his tenure, he humbly said, “I can’t do it by myself.”

Rev. Dr. Gray, Jr. was inducted into the Former President’s Council by the two living past presidents, Rev. Charles Coger and Rev. Dr. Matthew Jones.

“He is a good man, a kind man,” said Rev. Coger and added that God has more things in store for him.

Music for the occasion was provided by soloist Jewel Perry, the Statham Singers and the Just Us Jazz Band.

Focusing on ADHD treatment options

Education Matters continues the series on special education. This week focuses on treatment options for ADHD. Parents and guardian should be aware that their child’s teacher or guidance counselor will often be the first to raise concerns a student is ADHD. However, ADHD is a neurological condition that requires a diagnosis from a physician. While your child’s school may suspect ADHD, only a medical doctor is equipped to conduct the proper assessments, make a diagnosis, and determine which, if any medications to prescribe.

The following information is offered to give parents an overview of treatments and other remediation options that are available to help your child reach his or her full academic potential. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) is the primary source of information for this article.

Once a child has been diagnosed with ADHD parents are faced figuring out what to do next. It is important to remember that while ADHD can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed. There are many treatment options, so parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment— teachers, coaches, therapists, and other family members. Taking advantage of all the resources available will help you guide your child towards success.

Remember, you are your child’s strongest advocate! In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way.

Treatment for ADHD falls into three categories: behavioral therapy, medications and parental support therapy.

Research shows that behavioral therapy is an important part of treatment for children with ADHD. ADHD affects not only a child’s ability to pay attention or sit still at school, it also affects relationships with family and how well they do in their classes. Behavioral therapy is the option that can help reduce these problems for children and should be started as soon as a diagnosis is made. Following are examples that might help with your child’s behavioral therapy:

•Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime.

•Get organized: schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so your child will be less likely to lose them.

•Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, radio, and computer, especially when your child is doing homework.

•Limit choices. Offer a choice between two things (this outfit, meal, toy, etc., or that one) so that your child isn’t overwhelmed and overstimulated.

•Change your interactions with your child. Instead of long-winded explanations and cajoling, use clear, brief directions to remind your child of responsibilities.

•Use goals and rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then reward your child’s efforts. Be sure the goals are realistic—baby steps are important!

•Discipline effectively. Instead of yelling or spanking, use timeouts or

removal of privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior.

•Help your child discover a talent. All kids need to experience success to feel good about themselves. Finding out what your child does well— whether it’s sports, art, or music— can boost social skills and self-esteem.

Medication can help a child with ADHD in their everyday life and may be a valuable part of a child’s treatment. Medication is one option that may help better control some of the behavior problems that have led to trouble in the past with family, friends and at school. Several different types of medications may be used to treat ADHD:

•Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used treatments. Between 70-80 percent of children with ADHD respond positively to these medications.

•Non-stimulants were approved for treating ADHD in 2003. This medication seems to have fewer side effects than stimulants and can last up to 24 hours.

Medications can affect children differently, where one child may respond well to one medication, but not another. When determining the best treatment, the doctor might try different medications and doses, so it is important to work with your child’s doctor to find the medication that works best for your child.

Parent education and support are important parts of the treatment plan for a child with ADHD. Children with ADHD might not respond as well as other children to the usual parenting practices, so some experts recommend additional parent education.

This approach has been successful in teaching parents how to help their children become better organized, develop problem-solving skills, and cope with their ADHD symptoms. Parent education can be conducted in groups or with individual families and is offered by therapists or in special classes. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations on local support groups.

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about education matters because on the educated are free.

Juneteenth officially recognized in Maryland

A bill requiring the governor to annually proclaim June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” was signed, making Maryland the 43rd state to recognize the African American commemoration of the end of slavery.

After it unanimously passed the state Senate and House, Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill on Thursday, May 15, 2014 and it takes effect on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

“In the home state of the hero and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, this is a huge moment for the movement,” said the Reverend Ronald Myers, the leader of a campaign to make Juneteenth a national observance.

Myers also serves as founder and president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation and the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council.

“This is a big day for all of us because of Maryland and now we must continue to press on until every state recognizes this and Juneteenth is a observed the way other holidays in this country are recognized,” said Myers, who is also a medical doctor and founder and director of the Myers Foundation Christian Family Health Centers which provide care to the poor and underserved in communities throughout the south and other areas.

Juneteenth, or the 19th of June, recognizes June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that all slaves in the last southern state were free. The announcement came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Myers says that history shows that upon reading the general’s order, the former slaves celebrated jubilantly, establishing America’s second Independence Day celebration and what he called the oldest African-American holiday observance.

“The news of freedom was met with shock and joy, and in subsequent years the now free men and women began to celebrate the day they heard of their freedom with their descendants,” State. Rep Melvin Stukes (D-Baltimore), who serves Maryland’s 44th District, said in composing the bill. “Although it declined in popularity during the early 20th century, there has recently been a resurgence of interest in the holiday and several presidents have also observed Juneteenth.

Myers says he particularly thanks Stukes for leading the efforts in Maryland and he is optimistic that other states will also pass legislation to observe the holiday.

Currently, there are seven states that do not recognize Juneteenth including Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

Reportedly, Democratic Senator Martha Fuller Clark of New Hampshire is pushing hard for that state to recognize Juneteenth.

“It seems to me that this is an opportunity to recognize and honor an important tradition in the history of African Americans, and it’s hard for me to see why anyone would object to New Hampshire doing this,” Clark told the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

Myers says momentum has built nationwide and his efforts have even received the support of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn, Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts and others. He went on to say that he continues working to get presidential support and he hopes that President Barack Obama will eventually issue a Juneteenth Proclamation at the White House.

“Why not? When Obama was a senator he spoke in support of it,” Myers said. “And, the White House was built by enslaved Americans of African descent during the tyranny of slavery.”

Indie Soul Entrepreneur of the Week: Avery Dey

What is your purpose in life? Many people have jobs they don’t enjoy and are simply doing it for a paycheck. Others have dreams and aspirations they don’t follow because they think they are too old or don’t have the time. This week’s Entrepreneur of the Week is defying the so-called odds by following her dreams.

Avery Dey has a great job making great money. She has a loving husband and children. The one thing she enjoys more than anything is music. She attends many concerts from the Capital Jazz Festival, The Hoodie Awards (now called the Neighborhood Awards), to countless other music cruise getaways, Avery has always been around music. It wasn’t until recently that her husband, Derrick Steward, along with friends in the entertainment business, suggested she start a blog to chronicle her journey attending these shows and behind the scenes looks she gets at a lot of them.

According to Avery,” I had no idea if I could or if anyone would take me seriously. With the support from family and friends, I took the plunge, and I am loving every minute of it.”

Just by taking the chance doing something she loves, her dream has now become reality, as she has had the chance to be around the likes of a Phil Perry, Eric Roberson, Candy Dulfer, Sheila E., New Edition, Douye’ and others.

She says it’s not about the money, but about doing something she is passionate about!

For more about Avery Dey and her journey through music and shows:

Legendary author, poet Maya Angelou dies at 86

In true Maya Angelou form, the poet’s last words to the public were as profound as any others the great wordsmith had previously uttered.

“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God,” Angelou wrote to her 397,000 followers on Twitter on Friday, May 23, 2014.

Angelou died Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8 a.m. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” Angelou family members said in a statement. “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Like many of her fans and those who emulated Angelou, Ardyss Rutledge, a Baltimore resident and aspiring poet, says she is devastated.

“It’s one of the worse days imaginable,” said Rutledge, who has written about four dozen poems after being inspired by Angelou’s 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “When I read that, it was all that I needed to know that anyone can face obstacles head on and come out victorious.”

Perry Singleton, who lives in Essex and is an English major at the University of Maryland, says Angelou’s works remain unmatched.

“There will never be another Maya Angelou. What she did with a pen, a typewriter, has never and will never be repeated,” Singleton said. “I idolize her, not just for her work, but for her courage and her willingness to spread a positive message.”

Born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Angelou’s biography notes that at the age of three, her parents divorced and she and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother in Arkansas.

Her mother’s boyfriend sexually assaulted Angelou when she was just eight and, when family members found out about the attack, it wasn’t long before her attacker was murdered, incidents that sent the young girl into even more shock and rendering her unable to speak for a half dozen years. That’s when Angelou began to write and she took up a primary interest in poetry.

A single mother, Angelou supported her son by waiting tables at diners and restaurants, but she also had a passion for writing, music and dancing. She traveled to Europe in the 1950s with the touring production of “Porgy and Bess,” and she also released an album in 1957 titled, “Calypso Lady.”

Although Angelou never attended college, the poet extraordinaire had 30 honorary degrees bestowed upon her and she also taught at Wake Forest University.

In addition to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou also wrote several other autobiographies, including, Gather Together in My Name in 1974, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas in 1976, The Heart of a Woman in 1981, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes in 1986, A Song Flung Up to Heaven in 2002, and Mom & Me in 2013.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama counted among Angelou’s closest friends.

“You are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be,” author J.K. Rowling posted on Twitter, borrowing a quote from Angelou. “And, Maya Angelou, [you were] utterly amazing,” Rowling said.

Best-selling author Jodi Picoult also joined the parade of celebrities, fans and others in saluting Angelou. “Thank you for teaching the rest of us how to use words with bravery and grace to move the world to tears and action,” Picoult said.

Closer to home, in Baltimore, officials at the Maryland State Arts Council, also offered their condolences.

“I am deeply saddened by our loss of Maya Angelou. We think our literary

giants should last forever,” said Carla DuPree, a member of the Maryland State Arts Council and former executive director of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.

“She was a woman of many talents. Out of a torn silence she dared to reinvent herself, and taught us what that looks like. Her words of wisdom are legendary and could be a handbook on how to live a celebrated life. Some of her quotes have carried me through difficult times, but Maya would say be changed by troubled times, but don’t be reduced by them. One of my favorite quotes of hers is ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ Maya taught us, now it’s up to us to remember and to listen.”

Family members said funeral arrangements for Angelou were pending.

“That’s where I’d like to be, at her farewell service,” Singleton said. “That’s where everyone should be because she meant so much to so many, including those she never met or never knew existed.”

Indie Soul Student of the Week: Danny Shand

Here is the scenario: You are separated from your mom until the age of nine; your mother works three jobs to provide for the family; someone in your home gets murdered. What are the odds that you make it? This week’s Student of the Week, Danny Shand lived this.

According to mentor Choo Smith, a former Harlem Globetrotter who now owns and operates Choo Smith Enterprises, Danny’s mother knew she needed help raising her son. “When Danny’s mother came to me when he was 14 years of age, she asked me to help her with her son. I took the challenge because I saw the potential in this kid when others gave up on him,” said Smith.

Choo set out to make sure Danny focused on his education, which had not been a priority. Entering his freshman year of high school, Danny had a grade point average of 1.3 and each year he worked to improve it. During his senior year, he made the honor roll. Not only that, Danny is Second Team All-Metro in basketball.

On May 28th, Shand announced he would be attending Barton College a Division 2 college on a full scholarship. “Danny chose that school, because he felt that college would not let him fail in academics. When he went for a campus visit, he was more concerned about the campus library, since that is where he wants to spend his time.” Said Smith.

When others were telling Danny he would never make it, Danny believed in himself. With the support of his mother and mentor Choo Smith he proved them wrong.

Congratulation to Danny Shand, our Student of the Week.

Men want ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ expanded to include black females

— More than 200 African American men, ranging from a taxi driver to university professors, sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday urging him to expand his Black male initiative to include Black girls and women, saying they were “surprised and disappointed” that the president had sought to include only half of the race to tackle community-wide issues.

A copy of the letter to Obama was obtained by the NNPA News Service.

After praising the president for saying that addressing the needs of those left behind is as important as anything else he is undertaking, authors of the letter wrote, “So we were surprised and disappointed that your commitments express empathy to only half of our community – men and boys of color. Simply put, as Black men we cannot afford to turn away from the very sense of a shared fate that has been vital to our quest for racial equality across the course of American history.”

The letter continued, “As African Americans, and as a nation, we have to be as concerned about the experiences of single Black women who raise their kids on sub-poverty wages as we are about the disproportionate number of Black men who are incarcerated. We must care as much about Black women who are the victims of gender violence as we do about Black boys caught up in the drug trade.”

The 893-word letter maintained a respectful, dignified tone throughout, but was consistently firm in asserting that President Obama had erred in limiting his initiative to Black males.

“We write as African American men who have supported your presidency, stood behind you when the inevitable racist challenges to your authority have emerged, and have understood that our hopes would be tempered by the political realities that you would encounter,” the letter stated. “While we continue to support your presidency, we write both out of a sense of mutual respect and personal responsibility to address what we believe to be the unfortunate missteps in the My Brothers Keeper initiative (MBK). In short, in lifting up only the challenges that face males of color, MBK – in the absence of any comparable initiative for females – forces us to ask where the complex lives of Black women and Black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?”

On Feb. 27, President Obama announced his “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a program to assist young Black males. With the parents of slain Florida teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis looking on, Obama said: “After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success. And we’re committed to building on what works. And we call it ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’”

Among those signing the letter to Obama were Luke C. Harris, associate professor of American politics and constitutional law at Vassar College; Robin D.G. Kelly, professor of history at UCLA; Michael Hanchard, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University; James Turner, founder of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University; Robert Hill, professor of history and editor-in-chief of the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project at UCLA; Houston Baker, professor of English at Vanderbilt University; Charles Steele, president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); poet Saeed Jones; David Melton, a taxicab driver; writer Robert Jones, Jr.; psychiatrist Adisa Ajamu; filmmaker Byron Hurt; and former NFL player Wade Davis Jr., executive director of the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to ending discrimination and homophobia in sports.

“Everyone is focused on getting nearly 300 girls safely returned home in Nigeria and rightly so,” said Steele, president of the Atlanta-based civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We should stay focused on the 300 girls in Nigeria, but at the same time not forget about the millions of Black girls and women suffering right here at home.”

Professor Harris said the men’s activities will not cease with sending the letter to Obama. He and several others will write a series of articles for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and, NNPA’s companion website, beginning next week. They will host a webinar in June and continue to educate the public about the issues raised in the letter.

Meanwhile, the group will continue to collect signatures [] and provide updates on future activities at the African American Policy Forum’s website, Organizers said more than 200 men had signed the letter by Tuesday.

The letter to Obama stated, “We are not suggesting a national moratorium on Black male-oriented projects. But our sense of accountability does reflect the fact that our historic struggle for racial justice has always included men as well as women who have risked everything not just for themselves or for their own gender but for the prospects of the entire community.”

Food, friends and freedom: Nikki Giovanni remembers Maya Angelou

— I must have met Doc, as we called Maya Angelou, way before I remember.

We often attended readings, but the first time she absolutely caught my attention was at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

It wasn’t all that cold, but Maya and others had fur coats on. My mother, who was a big fan of the Seven Sisters colleges, had come with me. We both had on cloth coats.

Doc, as we all know, was 6 feet or taller. Mommy was 4-foot-11, and I am 5-foot-2. Not only were we shorter, we felt smaller.

I looked at that group and made a silent vow to never allow my mother to be with this group again without a fur coat. We purchased one soon after.

When Mommy died, I shared that story with Doc.

Maya laughed. “We had no idea,” she said. And laughed again. Mommy owes Doc.

When Doc moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she was not far from me in Virginia, so I got to see a lot of her. If I had any inkling she was frying chicken, I’d go down and spend the night. When Jay-Z sent her a case of wonderfully expensive champagne, those days I had to spend the night!

Everyone came to Doc’s place, which was great fun. You’d wake up in the morning not knowing who would be down to breakfast. The superstars; the wonderfully funny; old friends from another country; a congressman. And Doc treated them all the same.

Her ability to speak to everyone in the same voice was what made her the force she was.

Our only disagreements were about food.

She was a great cook, and I think of myself as a good one. We were arguing about rack of lamb, one of my specialties. My recipe comes from the late, great country cook Edna Lewis. I went home after my visit and decided I should not just talk the talk but also walk the walk.

I called my good friend Joanne Gabbin from Furious Flower Poetry Center to have her come with me to Doc’s to cook. Jo is a great cook, too. We got on Doc’s calendar, packed all our ingredients and spices and boogied on down.

Doc sat at the head of the table, where she could see everything going on in the kitchen. She inspected the lamb, checked the veggies, tasted everything and praised Joanne.

I think she loved me a little bit because she, like my only living aunt, always felt free to make minor corrections. “I think the lamb is a bit overdone,” she offered.

“Well Edna Lewis is in heaven, and I checked with her before I put this on the table,” I responded.

We both laughed. I know if the lamb was not done properly, she would have eaten it and not said a word.

I wanted to fry chicken for her, too, but time just ran out.

Our mutual friend, the late author Alex Haley, always said, “Find the good and praise it.” Maya took it to heart. She would always seek the good in any situation, or she avoided the question.

In all my years of knowing her, I only heard her once speak ill of someone and that was well deserved.

Like everyone, I have read and reread “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” And like that caged bird, Maya sought an inner freedom.

We only have to look at her life to see that she took every ounce of joy life had to offer.

I will remember her as a courageous woman who always wanted to love, and wish her a rightful place in literature.

Nikki Giovanni is a poet, writer, and a professor at Virginia Tech. Her latest work is “Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Nikki Giovanni.