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Poet Maya Angelou Lends Powerful Voice to Film Series on DOCS Program

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    On location in Winston-Salem: Maya Angelou is interviewed in her home by Ali Habashi (kneeling). Seated on the couch are Ed Talavera and Christina Delphus, associate director of the Arnold Center.

    Legendary poet Maya Angelou, whose powerful words have inspired generations and been read before audiences of schoolchildren, politicians, presidents, and even an archbishop, has lent her distinctive voice to a University of Miami initiative that helps the underprivileged.

    Angelou will soon be featured in a film project about the Miller School of Medicine’s Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS), speaking generously in support of the student-run program that organizes and staffs free health fairs across South Florida.

    The world-renowned poet, writer, educator, actress, historian, and civil rights activist was interviewed recently in her Winston-Salem, North Carolina home by UM filmmaker Ali Habashi for the film project project DOCSumentaries, a nine-episode series and educational media campaign being produced by UM’s Edward H. Arnold Center for Confluent Media Studies.

    As a filmmaker and producer, Angelou is no stranger to being behind and in front of the camera, possessing a keen awareness of what goes on and what is needed for optimum productions, noted Habashi, director and producer of the film series who heads up the Arnold Center.

    “We started with Dr. Angelou reciting one of her beloved poems for us, and she did it perfectly in just one take,” Habashi said. “She said, ‘That’s why they call me one-take Angelou.’ It was a real privilege to see her in action up close and connect with her on a personal level.”

    After production, Angelou invited the crew to lunch in her home. “Filming Dr. Angelou was like filming no one else,” said Ed Talavera, director of photography on set, associate professor of communications and chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media at the School of Communication. “Ever the humanitarian, she is naturally graceful, poignant, and heartfelt on camera, and comes across equally so in person.”

    The DOCSumentaries project was designed to showcase and gain additional support for DOCS, and to emphasize the importance of medical screenings and early disease detection. Generously funded by the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation since 2006, DOCS was founded in 2000 as an umbrella organization for the Miller School’s health fairs, which have been serving the community since 1971.

    “Having Maya Angelou involved in the DOCSumentaries project will be of great support to DOCS and thus to medically underserved people in South Florida,” said Mark O’Connell, senior associate dean for educational development and DOCS faculty advisor. “We are grateful for our relationship with Dr. Angelou. She is a true humanitarian and great supporter of those in need.”

    DOCS health fairs provide screenings for and education about the most prevalent health problems in our community, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, mental illness, cancer, and vision, hearing, sleep, and neurologic disorders. Supervised by 50 Miller School faculty volunteers, about 250 DOCS students see about 2,000 patients annually and provide long-term primary and specialized care to hundreds more at three student-operated, physician-supervised community clinics.

    The Edward H. Arnold Center for Confluent Media Studies at the College of Engineering is dedicated to producing educational media campaigns and documentary films that highlight pressing global issues and major research conducted at the University of Miami and other relevant institutions.

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