Maya Angelou Elementary School in Miami's Allapattah holds day of mourning

Maya Angelou sent the Miami-Dade public elementary school several gifts

MIAMI - Maya Angelou Elementary School principal Adrena Williams' favorite poems are "On The Pulse of Morning" and "Phenomenal Woman."

Williams remembers the pride she felt when she watched the powerful African-American poet read "On the Pulse of Morning" during President Bill Clinton's inauguration ceremony in 1993.

"My dad raised my sisters and I to be avid readers," Williams, 43, said. "I started reading her poems since I was a little girl."

A teacher who seemed distraught rushed to her office Wednesday morning to tell her Maya Angelou was dead.  The renowned poet, novelist and actress died at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., her literary agent Helen Brann said. She was 86.

Williams' couldn't stop the tears from rolling down her face. She said the sadness and sense of loss was immediate.

"My love for Dr. Maya Angelou and my love for the school are bigger than words can explain," Williams said. "It's a great loss ... She is the epitome of a strong black woman, a leader and a mentor. She was someone who broke through the glass ceiling."

Miami-Dade County Public Schools dedicated the school in Miami's Allapattah area to the poet in 1995. The school, 1850 NW 32nd St., is south of 62nd Street, which was dedicated to Angelous' friend Martin Luther King Jr. 

Williams grew up in Miami's Northwest Miami-Dade. She went to Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University and Florida A & M University. She started her career with Miami-Dade County public schools in 2004 and became the school's principal in 2012.

The school has 741 students; they are ages 3 to 11 years old.

"The news was more emotional for the adults in the school, because we really know who she was," Williams said. "We know the impact she has had on our society."

Through the years, the legendary poet, who President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom, sent the school gifts such as keys to cities that she had received in honor ceremonies.

The school's flag was flown at half-staff. The students had a moment of silence in her memory in the morning.  Williams is planning other events. She said she wants girls to remember the poem "Phenomenal Woman," which has been a source of strength for many.

"What girl wouldn't be inspired by that poem? It inspired me," Williams said.

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