*Poet Maya Angelou threw a party in the backyard of her Winston-Salem, N.C. home on Thursday to celebrate her 82nd birthday, which included tributes from such celebrity attendees as filmmaker Lee Daniels and rapper-turned-actor Common.
According to the Associated Press, about 100 guests gathered in her newly refurbished backyard garden to mark the occasion (her birthday was April 4) and to express what Angelou has meant to them personally.
“She inspires me to tell the truth,” said Daniels, the Oscar-nominated director of “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Lee Sapphire.” “Her voice can’t be any more powerful. And she inspires me to do better work, to dig deeper in my soul and do better work.”
Common, currently starring in the film “Just Wright,” said he first discovered Angelou’s poetry in the fifth grade on the South Side of Chicago, when her poem “Still I Rise” touched his soul.
“It was always something that I could reference to at times when I was feeling down or doubting myself,” he told AP. “I just thought of that phrase, ‘Still I Rise.’ And it still resonates with me.”
The party was sponsored by Lowe’s, the North Carolina-based home improvement store chain, and Harpo Radio, where Angelou has a radio show. Guests gathered under a tent with yellow and white drapes covering the tables.
Sporting a pink pantsuit, a printed top and a mauve hat, along with fuzzy socks that helped her walk, Angelou Country stars Naomi Judd and Martina McBride sang “Happy Birthday to You.”
Angelou’s next project, a cookbook titled “Great Food All Day Long,” is scheduled to be published later this year. The recipes are based on the idea of eating small amounts of food during the day, a way of eating that she said helped her lose 40 pounds over the last two years.