The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “forever” stamp at a star-studded event at the historic Warner Theatre.
“I miss her so, and those of you who’ve lost those who were close to you know, that that missing comes at some of the most unexpected times,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey said she “literally LOLed” when she first heard the news that Angelou would be on a stamp.
“I knew that’s exactly what Maya would have done. She would have heard the news, and she would have called me up, and she would have said, ‘Babe, ha-ha-ha!'” Winfrey said. “They’re going to have a stamp with my name and face on it. How incredible is that?’ Upon hearing that news, I did my own ha-ha-ha! Incredible that this has happened. So thank you, United States Postal Service.”
Winfrey’s speech was interrupted by a power failure in downtown Washington. With no functioning microphone, Winfrey recited one of Angelou’s most famous poems, “Phenomenal Woman.”
“Sometimes, she walk into a room, just as cool as you please, and to a man, the fellows stand or fall down on their knees, then they swarm around her like a hive of honey bees,” Winfrey improvised.
Poet Sonia Sanchez performed a spoken word piece dedicated to Angelou.
“I have seen how our sister Maya crossed cities and countries to document our bones. How she stood tall as lighting, heard the trumpeters of death called racism, segregation, colonialism, greed, sexism, homophobia, ignorance…” Sanchez said.
The stamp features a headshot of Angelou accompanied by a quote, which is causing a bit of controversy.
The quote, which the Postal Service attributes to Angelou, first appeared in a children’s book of poetry published in 1967, A Cup of Sun, by Joan Walsh Anglund.
The Postal Service released this statement: “The Forever Stamp honoring Angelou contains the sentence ‘A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.’ Maya Angelou cited this sentence frequently in media interviews and other forums and it provides a connection to her first memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The sentence was chosen to accompany her image on the stamp to reflect her passion for the written and spoken word. The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”
In 2011, the Postal Service revised its rule requiring deceased public figures to be dead for at least five years before appearing on a stamp. Now, anyone can be on a U.S. stamp.
“I’m an admirer of her and a fan of her work. Her words still ring true today. It’s not just for the African-American community, but [for] us as a whole in the United States,” said Berachah Dubose, an 18-year-old Chicago native who attended the ceremony with her family. “Her legacy will continue to live on for people like me, and people in general.”