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Tavis Smiley puts a face on American poverty


Tavis Smiley shook the rafters of American comfort when he put a human face on the alarming new data about poverty in the nation. He showed the world what being poor looks like with special programming on both his national public television and radio programs.

With nearly 50 million Americans, or one-in-six, now living in poverty, “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience” kicked off with a roundtable discussion on “The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI” in October.

To start the conversation, Smiley sat down with experts Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association; Emily Allen, vice president of the AARP Foundation; Vicki B. Escarra, president of Feeding America; and Patrick McCarthy, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The weeklong series featured video highlights from Smiley’s nationwide August poverty bus tour with his “Smiley & West” co-host, Union Theological Seminary professor Cornel West, Ph.D.
On his tour, Tavis stopped in 18 cities across nine states, highlighting everyday Americans and their struggles in today’s economy.

“What I witnessed firsthand during The Poverty Tour was both inspiring and heartbreaking,” says Smiley. “Americans who were recently middle class are now considered the ‘new poor’ and they live in our cities, suburbs and rural communities. But in the darkness, we also saw rays of hope in programs that are working on the ground, right now. The federal government has to find the will to continue to fund those programs in honor of a better tomorrow.”