Maya Angelou hosts an hour-long syndicated radio special to celebrate Black History Month. In the special program that will air throughout this month on about 200 public radio stations across the country, she's joined by Grammy-winning singer Mary J. Blige.
Her other guests include such notable figures as Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, economist and Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, and 2011 National Book Award winner for poetry, professor Nikky Finney.
"We want to reach a time when there won't be Black History Month, when black history will be so integrated into American history that we study it along with every other history," she said. "That's the hope, and we have to continue to work until that is true, until that becomes a fact."
Angelou also discussed the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. She's pleased that the truncated inscription of a King quote at his new memorial in Washington will be corrected. "The artists - the sculptor and the architect - had the right to put on their work what they wanted to place," she said. "I am a friend of Martin Luther King and a mentee and so I had the right to say what I thought."
Blige, meanwhile, talked about influential people like Coretta Scott King, Ruby Dee and Angelou herself, and how she's inspired by them. In return, Angelou said of the singer, "She's just as charming as I would wish for a daughter of mine to be and just as dedicated to her field, and to be the best she can be."
In addition to praising Blige, Angelou also applauded First Lady Michelle Obama. "My heart almost burst when Mrs. Obama came out and spoke so highly of my work and what it had meant to her and President Obama over the years," the 83-year-old gushed.
When it comes to Common, however, Angelou sang a different tune. She expressed her disappointment regarding the use of degrading words to refer to women on his new album, where she's featured. "I said I'm disappointed, but on the other hand, he's a fine artist and a good man as far as I can see," she said. "So he uses the word this week. Maybe next week he won't, and I'll be smiling widely."