“If I had my druthers, I’d rather be born black, American, female and in the 20th century. And I was. What luck I have,” said Maya Angelou in 2010.

With these words, Angelou spoke with the White House on the cusp of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor in the United States, an accolade certainly befitting of Angelou.

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The author, civil rights activist, poet, educator and mother was a phenomenally bold force of blackness. Angelou, who authored three dozen books and won countless awards (including a National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize and three Grammy Awards, to name a few), is perhaps best known for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, though verses from her iconic poem,Still I Rise,” have become a mantra, an affirmation, for many black Americans. Earlier this year, Angelou even became the subject of documentary, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Needless to say, Angelou’s influence has gone far beyond what we can put to words.

Angelou died in 2014, and on what would have been the icon’s 89th birthday, girls from the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based nonprofit Black Girl Project and beyond, breathe life into the words of the prolific poet Maya Angelou.

Here they recite “The Black Family Pledge.”