My appearance on the show this week is a follow up to my first appearance in 2011 when I was interviewed on the show during the Poverty Tour in Memphis. At that time I had just completed graduate school with a masters in Geography at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I did not have a job and I had so little money that I could not afford to maintain an independent residence. So, I moved back home with my mother in Memphis, TN. Early that fall, I learned that Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West would be coming to a church in Memphis to hold a community forum as part of their poverty tour. During the forum, I asked a question about the difficulty in navigating a job search in a time when so many barriers, especially in online systems, were set up to seemingly keep qualified people from finding and obtaining employment. After I spoke, a member of the film crew approached me and asked if I would speak on camera with them about my experience. I agreed and spoke on camera for about 10 minutes. In October, 2011 my story was featured on Tavis Smiley on night four of the poverty tour coverage.
Click here to learn about the 2011 Poverty Tour
Click here to see episode 4 of the Poverty Tour on Jobs (October 13, 2011)
During this time I also became a client with Dress for Success in Memphis. Dress for Success is a nonprofit with the mission to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Dress for Success provided a free multi-week program targeted to women who were seeking employment. I was in class with women of every age demographic and economic status. The program directors and coordinators for Dress for Success were extremely helpful to me. They overhauled my resume to better align with current trends. They helped me prepare a 30-second pitch and prepare for interviews. They also provided me with a free set of professional dress clothes. Even as I worked in a daily retail job, this program continued to give me confidence, encouragement, and guidance on finding long-term professional employment.
In the early spring of 2012 the opportunity I was seeking came to me while I was attending a free speakers forum at the Clinton School of Public Service. I went to Little Rock to see author, journalist, and environmental activist Cynthia Barnett. She was speaking about water issues of the southeast and specifically about issues in Florida where demand was increasing, which was causing conflict in the neighboring states of Georgia and Alabama. However, the conflict actually extended further as Georgia had been eying the Tennessee River as a potential answer to their increasing water scarcity issues. The evening was very informative and inspiring to me and while I was standing in line to meet the speaker, I learned of a new position in Northwest Arkansas with Ozarks Water Watch. I contacted the executive director of the organization and we exchanged several emails. A few weeks later I interviewed for the position and in April 2012, I relocated to Northwest Arkansas and began my professional work for Ozarks Water Watch.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the producer of the Tavis Smiley show asking me if I would be interested in participating in a 5 year update show on the Poverty Tour. I excitedly said yes. Several days later I received another email inviting me to Los Angeles to tape a show. I must admit I was surprised to receive this email, because it never occurred to me I would be in Los Angeles to film an update to my story, I suppose because I was just in jeans and a t-shirt in Memphis when I previously met Tavis and attended the poverty tour forum. Over Labor Day weekend I flew to Los Angeles and taped the show with Tavis.
Working with the staff, crew, and interviewing with Tavis Smiley was an incredible experience. Everyone was incredibly kind and professional. I felt as though I was being treated with the same respect as the dignitaries, elected officials, artists, and actors who have been guests on the show. I was also amazed to see the diversity represented in the staff of the Tavis Smiley show. I couldn't imagine many other shows or films having the level of diversity that is seen behind the camera at the Tavis Smiley show.
As a result of flying to LA, I had the opportunity to also meet fellow guest Willie "J.R." Fleming. Willie Fleming is a seasoned community leader and human rights defender based in Chicago. He has also been a delegate to the United Nations for protecting the human right of Americans. I was inspired by his story and his work in the streets of Chicago along with his conviction for ensuring that everyone has safe, liveable, and affordable housing.
Interviewing with Tavis Smiley is a powerful experience. Tavis sits in the chair and leans in while you are talking. He is a great listener and a great responder. He also wanted to make sure my story as his guest was told the way I wanted to tell it. I don't think there are many interviewers who would be as respectful of their guests, especially, people like me who do not do these types of interviews on a day to day basis.
I knew my time at the studio would fly by and now it all seems like a blur. Of course I wish I could have done more to talk about water quality because water is simultaneously a national issue for all of us but it is also a local issue. The drought in California persists. The Atlanta area has also now been declared in a drought. The city of Atlanta is also spending 300 million to develop a new 30-day source water supply. Their current supply can only extend for 3 days. In my job, I work to protect the Upper White River and specifically the Beaver Lake Watershed.
Today, I have a list of three things you can do to help protect water quality.
1) Find out what your drinking water source is. Is it a lake, a river, an underground aquifer, or something else? You can call your local government or water office to find out.
2) Find out if there is a local watershed group or an agency responsible for working with residents to protect that water source. If there is, sign up for their newsletters, find out when events are happening, or send an email to them and introduce yourself. Your participation in water quality protection matters!
3) Find one best management practice to protect water and start doing it. If you need some suggestions, you can read my blog I wrote after our 10 inch rainfall this past December. Start thinking about protecting water quality and share the information with your friends!
See my interview with Tavis Smiley below or Click Here