This Thursday, broadcaster Tavis Smiley joins a very elite group. The author, radio and TV host and activist will get his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Smiley wanted to share his gratitude with the Tom Joyner Morning Show because he says the 12 years he spent on the show helped him reach that peak.
“It’s thankful Tuesday and how much more thankful can I be for the opportunity to have served as your resident commentator on this show for 12 years,” says Smiley. “I got a couple milestones this year. The star on the Walk of Fame will be nice; I don’t know how I got it, but I’ll take it. Number 2, I turn 50 in September.
“The older I get, the more I realize life is more about moments than milestones. Much as we want to take time and celebrate them and revel in what God has allowed us to achieve and accomplish, life is much less about milestones and more about moments. I mean, you look back on the moments and you take a break to celebrate these milestones and the 12 years I spent on this program – this occasion allows me to come back and say thank you.”
Smiley was involved in numerous campaigns during his tenure, and he thanks the listeners as well for supporting causes near and dear to the TJMS and the entire Black community. Smiley says that his time on the Tom Joyner Morning Show was also memorable for all the things you heard on the air during his run – and a lot of things that listeners didn’t.
“We can’t repeat the stuff Jay said off the air,” Smiley says. Tom remembers going to Africa with Smiley, especially one trip where Joyner sat between President Clinton and April Ryan, whom he says talked the entire 17 hours the trip took. Other memories include the creation of The Sky Show, voter registration drives, the controversial Comp USA campaign and even the save Living Single campaign. Smiley was there for it all. Tom tells the story of a time they traveled to Jamaica for a vacation and there was a talent show, where Smiley decided to unveil his previously unheralded comic skills.
“Let him tell it, he killed,” Tom remembers.
Smiley was a favorite of TJMS guests as well. He was once called “booger pudding” by Aretha Franklin and Maya Angelou called him, in her resonant tone, “Young Tavis.”
Smiley enjoyed widespread popularity during his run on the Tom Joyner Morning Show until the presidential election in 2008. Then candidate Barack Obama refused an invitation to join Smiley’s State of the Union address, a popular PBS broadcast that brought prominent African-Americans together from varying fields to discuss the economy, politics, race, poverty, opportunity and other issues of relevance to African-Americans. Smiley’s criticism of Obama’s refusal led to his ultimate departure from the TJMS, as listeners didn’t agree that Obama had purposely dissed Smiley and the event.
“My view on that and there will be a serious ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting when President Obama is out of office where we can be honest about the condition of our people and the suffering of our people, “ Smiley says. “I realize that some people are in a space where they can’t really have that conversation. What I loved about SOBU is that because we weren’t in this ear, we could have those kind of transparent conversations where people were willing and able and underscore both of those to tell the truth about the conditions and suffering in our own community.
“There will be books written about this. This is admittedly a moment that Black America has never entered into before and we all had to learn to do a very awkward dance about truth telling and accountability. Once we get past this era, I think there will be a lot of books and symposiums about what this era meant for black folks and I look forward to that day somewhere down the road.”