Her poetry and prose have inspired generations with messages of hope and harmony, and her poise and gracefulness are the very definition of a phenomenal woman. Her wisdom has influenced countless high-profile power brokers, from President Bill Clinton to Oprah Winfrey.

Born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Maya Angelou, a celebrated poet, author, educator, actress, director and civil rights activist, has continually pushed the boundaries and created a blueprint for living life boldly, yet, gracefully.

This week as Dr. Maya Angelou celebrates her 84th birthday, ESSENCE editors share the 15 reasons why she is our inspiration.