Tavis Smiley to Appear at South Florida Book Festival

Award-winning journalist and talk show host Tavis Smiley will be discussing and signing his latest book, My Journey with Maya Angelou at this year’s South Florida Book Festival July 17-18 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC).

The festival will also feature a collection of New York Times bestselling authors, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, an Oprah Winfrey Book Club Selection author. It kicks off Friday evening with a glamorous “Evening with the Stars” and book signing event where guests can enjoy meeting the authors at a dressed-up affair complete with food, wine and an autographed book of their choosing. The event is $25 in advance or $30 at the door at the AARLCC, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd in Fort Lauderdale.

Smiley, a popular figure on NPR and current host of Tavis Smiley on the Public Broadcasting Service and The Tavis Smiley Show on Public Radio International recently spoke with the South Florida Times about attending the festival.

Smiley’s book, My Journey with Maya Angelou, details his 28-year friendship with the renowned wirter. He met her while an intern for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the only African American mayor of the city. He presented an award to her on behalf of Bradley. He was already a fan because he’d studied her work while in college.

“She was a surrogate mother to me,” Smiley said. “It is a mother and son story.”

The book begins with Smiley trying to find his path in life, he said. As a young man in his 20s, Maya took him on his first trip out of the country to Africa with others for two weeks.

“She helped me to become a man and find my voice,” Smiley said. “She placed me under her wing and helped me to become who I am.”

The book is currently being crafted into a Broadway play, Smiley said.

He has two new books set to be released next year. In 50 for Your Future: Lessons from Down the Road, Smiley shares 50 lessons he’s learned during his life journey.

“I offer good advice and hope to share it with people down their road,” Smiley said.
He will also release Before You Judge Me: The Tragedy and Triumph of Michael Jackson’s Last Days, which details the last 16 weeks of the entertainer’s life from the moment he announces the performances at the O2 arena in London to his tragic death, Smiley said.

The book is “meticulously researched” from information gained from family members, financial advisors, AEG concert promoter and others he worked with as well as court documents from Dr. Conrad Murray’s trial, Smiley said. Jackson was stressed, had lost weight and was fighting with friends, collaborators and creditors during his last weeks, Smiley said.

“What happened to the most famous person in the world?” Smiley said.

On Saturday, the festival will be chock full of book readings, lively panel discussions and book signings with authors such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Nick Chiles and Georgia attorney Robbin Shipp, who will discuss the timely topic of how the American justice system treats young African-American men. Chiles and Shipp co-authored an NAACP Image Awards 2015 finalist book entitled Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System.

New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey will also discuss his latest provocative thriller, One Night. He has written more than 21 bestselling books and his novel Naughty or Nice has been optioned by Lionsgate Films.

Other speakers include a trio of entrepreneurs including rocket scientist and media maverick Mary Spio along with Felecia Hatcher and Sylvester Chisom who were both singled out as top entrepreneurs by the White House (Hatcher) and by Ebony magazine (Chisom). Dr. Sonjia will discuss her book, “Sex in South Beach” about sex, relationships, and staying healthy between the sheets.

A new addition to the festival is a Chef Smackdown where guests can attendees can taste and vote on their favorite samples of fried chicken, mac & cheese, collard greens and cheesecake at the ticketed event with limited seating Saturday evening.

For more information, contact AARLC at 954-357-6210.