A remarkable story of friendship, love, and courage.
When Maya Angelou and Tavis Smiley met in 1986, he was twenty-one and she was fifty-eight. For the next twenty-eight years, they shared an unlikely, special bond. Angelou was a teacher and a maternal figure to Smiley, and they talked often, of art, politics, history, race, religion, music, love, purpose, and -- more than anything -- courage. Courage to be open, to follow dreams, to believe in oneself.
In My Journey with Maya, Smiley recalls a joyful friendship filled to the brim with sparkling conversation -- in Angelou's gardens surrounded by her caged birds, before lectures, sharing meals, and on breaks from it all, they sought each other out for comfort, advice, and above all else, friendship.
It began when he, a recent college graduate and a poor kid from a big family in the Midwest, was invited to join the revered writer on a sojourn to Africa. He would be handling her bags, but Maya didn't let that stop a friendship waiting to happen. Angelou was generous, challenging, and inspirational. Like a mother to him, she was selfless.
Here Tavis Smiley shares his personal memories of Maya Angelou, of a decades-long friendship with one of history's most fascinating women, one who left as indelible an imprint on American culture as she did on him.
This salute to the legendary Maya Angelou by PBS talk host Smiley is occasionally over-adoring, but it's totally respectful of the special achievements of the recently deceased cultural icon of black arts and history. A friendship between Angelou and the 21-year-old Smiley began with a chance meeting in Los Angeles when he was a junior mayor for former Mayor Tom Bradley in 1986. The meeting was the beginning of a decades-long close bond; Smiley made a triumphant trip to Ghana in Angelou's company and later accompanied her to events and dinners. Drawing from private chats, interviews, memories, and portions of Angelou's books, Smiley, with the help of ghostwriting maven Ritz, stuffs the tribute with mostly familiar material plus a few surprises about the author's personal life and career, including his combative time at BET. Smiley can do a heck of an impression of Angelou's warm, heartfelt voice when she speaks of black mythic figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Richard Pryor. For Angelou admirers and those intrigued by black American culture, Smiley's glowing praise-song is a wonderful reminder of what Angelou's singular, exceptional presence meant to her community and the nation.