Famed poet Maya Angelou is to receive the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama this month. She will also be hosting her first-ever public radio program.
“Maya Angelou’s Black History Month Special” is available to all Public Radio International (PRI) affiliated stations and African American Consortium stations free of charge. Intimate and provocative stories, poems and conversations will illuminate African American history including comedy, film and family life, rounding out the hour with memories of “mother and sister friend,” the late civil rights activist Dorothy Height.
On comedy Maya Angelou observes, “Often in the black culture it is said, we laughed to keep from crying.” Joined by comedian Chris Rock, they discuss Rock’s childhood in Brooklyn, rise to “Saturday Night Live” and his view on comedy. As Rock defines the comic currents of our time, Maya Angelou offers historical perspective, reflecting on the 1930’s and 1940’s including Dusty Fletcher’s “Open the Door Richard” and the brilliance of early comedians who literally set the stage for African American comedy.
A film director in her own right (“Down in the Delta,” 1988), Angelou explores African American films with a focus on the work of director Lee Daniels. Daniels and Angelou discuss the success of his movie “Precious” and how work from this filmmaker can impact and change dialogue in American Culture.
From the stage of the Urban League’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, Angelou and the rapper Common perform a glittering “Old School/New School” call and response. The poet recites each stanza of “Songs of the Old Ones,” as Common interprets in what Angelou observes as “his preferred language of hip hop.”
Recalling their relationship in the 1960’s, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appointed Maya Angelou as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Maya Angelou honors the memory of civil rights activist Dorothy Height ending with a poetic tribute.
Maya Angelou’s Black History Month Special is underwritten by AT&T.