Guy Johnson is Dr. Maya Angelou’s only child. He hasn’t had the public profile that his mother did, but his moving eulogy to his mom was a highlight of her homegoing celebration. Johnson wants the world to know about his mother’s new book Rainbow In The Cloud The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou is out now and it’s a fitting tribute to Angelou’s work and life.
“What I tried to do,” Johnson says “is synthesize out of all her body of work as well as the things she tried to tell me when I was growing up that I did my best to ignore and put them in a book, because many of the things she tried to teach me were great lessons and I was just a hardheaded teenager.”
Despite his mother’s international fame and the respect of civil rights icons, heads of state and media personalities, Johnson says he didn’t really appreciate his mother until he was 30 years old.
“You spend so much time trying to get your own feet on the ground, trying to find out who you really are that it’s hard to tell that your parents are more than just the regular parents,” Johnson says. “I spent a lot of time rebelling against my mother. Many of the things in were things she said to me countless times. In the 1950’s, when I was in elementary school, my mother would come to school in African dress with her hair natural. And tell the truth, there were like eight Black women in the United States under 100 years old who wore their hair natural at that time and my mother knew all of them.”
Johnson ultimately came to appreciate his mother, as so many did. At one point, after severe injuries in a car accident, Johnson says that doctors had written him off. His mother told the doctors “What do you know? I have gone to a higher authority. My son will walk out of here.”
Johnson says that doctors said ‘We know you have to say that’ and Angelou responded ‘I don’t have to say that. It’s my faith and my belief.”
Sure enough, two months later, Johnson walked out of the hospital, albeit with crutches.
Johnson is full of stories about his mother, who was obviously as extraordinary mother as she was a writer, activist, poet and humanitarian and Johnson’s compilation of his mother’s work reflects not just her public work but her private heart.