A very special conversation took place eight years ago between Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle after his unexpected departure from his show on Comedy Central. I would’ve never expected this union, but the message still resonates today that Maya Angelou was a woman of words who could and would appease the soul of anyone in her presence, including a “funny man” comedian.
When talking to Maya, Chappelle expressed that he became sensitive to the way his audience accepted his words or jokes and shared how painful it felt. As the conversation goes on, both Chappelle and Angelou spoke of other greats such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Chappelle tells her how much he admires these “true American phenomenons.” While inspirational, the legacy they left us seems larger than life. Their level of greatness often feels too great to reach for the average young person today.
“This is why it is dangerous to make anybody seem larger than life,” says Maya. “A young person coming up sees this larger than life person and says to himself, I can never be that. I can never do that. The truth is, those men and those women were in the right place at the right time and they got hold of something.”
Every time she speaks in this interview, her words are golden. Her advice is tried and true. I’ve seen people train to play sports, learn how to play the guitar, and go to acting class. I’ve seen people attend voice lessons, practice dancing, and take speech classes. However, I’ve never seen anyone like Maya Angelou who could elicit words to pure perfection to any soul willing to listen. These golden words will forever inspire me. After all, as only she said it best, “people live in direct relation to the heroes and sheroes that they have.”