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"My Journey with Maya" Excerpt by Tavis Smiley

Maya Angelou and I shared a friendship that I count as one of the great blessings of my life.


Maya Angelou and I shared a friendship that I count as one of the great blessings of my life. As you will soon see, she appeared—and kept appearing—exactly when my spirit required repair. I do not consider those appear-ances coincidences but rather precious gifts. The aim of this book is to share those gifts with you. It’s a lesson Maya Angelou taught me. Maya was all about sharing. In her writing and public appearances, her soaring spirit attracted legions of loyal fans. But without minimizing those literary and televised encoun-ters, I have to say that the personal experience—the one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with Maya—held a power all its own. Those are the meetings, whether during our journey to Africa or in her homes in Harlem and North Carolina, that I seek to bring to life in this memoir. I do so to honor my dear friend and, to the best of my ability, give you what she gave me—words and atti-tudes that invigorate the soul. Maya’s great mission was to demonstrate how courageous love can heal even the deepest wounds. She taught me about bravery, about lis-tening, about language. The ideas expressed to me were ones she had shared—and would continue to share—with many oth-ers. She was remarkably consistent in expressing her loving vision and strategies for spiritual survival. Maya freely spread her sagacity to as many people as possible and in as many forms as possible. I was only one of many who had the good fortune to sit by her side and glean her wisdom. When we met, I was in my twenties and Maya was in her late fifties, a strong and vital presence. During the course of our twenty-eight-year dialogue, we both faced enormous challenges and went through life-altering changes. Up close, I was privileged to see how Maya re-sponded to those challenges and changes. And most poignantly, I was able to see how she approached what manyconsiderthegreatesttrialofall:impendingmortality.