Philadelphia, May 28, 2014– Mayor Michael A. Nutter made the following statement on the passing of 7-year old Sebastian Gerena, a Philadelphia elementary school student, and the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou, the famed American poet and author, at a press availability earlier today.
“Today is the funeral for Sebastian Gerena, a 7-year old student at Jackson Elementary school, who tragically passed away last week. I spent some time last evening at his viewing with his mother and father, and as a parent, there can be virtually no worse feeling than to see a young person’s life cut short… a young person who will never know his true potential. As I said in promise to his mother last night: may Sebastian’s soul rest in peace, may his memory never leave us, and may he be an inspiration to all those who care about children.
“In addition, this morning we as a Nation experienced the loss of America’s Poet, Maya Angelou. During her lifetime, she left an indelible mark on American society. Whether you are a poetry fan or a particular admirer of African-American literature, Maya Angelou spoke to so many people through her work. I’ve been a fan and admirer of hers for a long time, and I am saddened by her passing. I heard her recite, in person, “On the Pulse of Morning” for President Bill Clinton’s Inauguration, and I was moved by her presence and her presentation. I also had one occasion to actually meet her, when she received the Marian Anderson Award in 2008, which was particularly special to me.
“Maya Angelou was a great woman, and for me, a very powerful black woman; a role model. She was, in fact, the inspiration for me to begin thinking about the City of Philadelphia having a Poet Laureate. Her words, her literature, and her presence will never leave us. My hope is that there will be a whole new wave of Maya Angelou fans created today and that school across America will take a moment to reflect and read some of her great work.
“These are tough and challenging times – a true rollercoaster of emotion – whether it’s about the passing of a young boy or a much more senior woman, they both touched many of us in different ways. Let us all find a way to honor their memories in our own lives.”