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Karla Burns remembers Maya Angelou

05/28/2014 2:54 PM

06/25/2014 5:53 PM

WICHITA — With the Wednesday death of Maya Angelou, 86, Wichita's Karla Burns remembered the poet for the simple yet significant way she affected her.

Angelou was a guest professor at Wichita State University when, in March of 1974, Burns was involved in a reader's theater of Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

"I played her grandmother," says Burns, who went on to become an educator and performer.

"She came over to me," Burns says of when the production ended. "She talked to all of us."

Angelou shared small bottles of Chanel with everyone.

Most important, though, was a comment Angelou made to Burns.

"She said, 'You made me smell my grandmother's kitchen,' and I've never forgotten that in all my life," Burns says. "It really shaped my feelings about theater ... about being a woman and her as a poet. How poetic to have such a colorful comment made about your work."

Burns says Angelou influenced her as an educator as well.

"She was such an inspiration," Burns says. "She really moved my heart."

About Carrie Rengers

Carrie Rengers joined The Eagle's Business team in 2002 despite her inability to even balance a checkbook. Fortunately for her, and readers, her Have You Heard? blog is about business scoops and contains lots of news but almost no math.

A Michigan native, Carrie’s father was quite tragically transferred to Little Rock, Ark., in the middle of her sophomore year of high school. To make matters worse, her parents put her in a girls school. She recovered, though, and went on to enjoy being an English major at Hendrix College (the Harvard of the Ozarks, don’t you know). She worked for the weekly Arkansas Business and the statewide daily Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before moving to Wichita to be with her favorite writer and cook, husband Joe Stumpe.

Carrie encourages readers to contact her with tips, questions, behind-the-scenes business news and even funny quotes from business people. Reach her at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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