We've all had to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at one time or another in our lives. Most likely assigned by a teacher who was as passionate about Dr. Maya Angelou's prose as the woman herself, we studied Angelou's autobiographical tale about the early years of her life with eyes and mouths wide open, the disturbing narrative of racism giving us a better grasp on the habits of the past than the lessons offered up in our history books. A celebrated voice of contemporary literature as well as a poet, educator, historian, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, Angelou has used the wisdom she's gained from her experiences to excel in every undertaking she's attempted, her life and words providing hope and inspiration to those who've struggled with personal hardships. During her Thursday night performance/lecture at Mahaffey Theater, Angelou stresses the value of ethnic, economic and religious diversity in all undertakings, and challenges her audience to devote themselves to the elevation of the human condition. Thurs., May 24, 7:30 p.m., 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg, $40-$75, 727-898-2100, mahaffeytheater.com.