Tavis Smiley Tackles Poverty in America in a Weeklong Series on PBS' "Tavis Smiley" and on PRI's "The Tavis Smiley Show"

Sep 29, 2011, 08:00 ET from WNET New York Public Media

Special programming to air beginning the weekend of October 7

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tavis Smiley will put a human face on the alarming new data about poverty in America 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" will kick off with a roundtable discussion on The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI on Friday, October 7 (check local public radio listings), and be the focus of five special episodes on the PBS program Tavis Smiley Monday, October 10 through Friday, October 14 (check local listings).

Tavis Smiley is a co-production of THIRTEEN and The Smiley Group, Inc. in association with WNET New York Public Media. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs to the New York community.

To start the conversation, Smiley will sit down with poverty experts on The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI, airing October 7. The panelists include: Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA); 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.

Each night during the unprecedented weeklong series on poverty, Tavis Smiley on PBS will feature video highlights from Smiley's nationwide August 2011 poverty bus tour with his Smiley & West co-host, Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West. Stopping in 18 cities across nine states, Smiley spoke to everyday Americans, including children, about their struggles in today's economy. Each night, following highlights from the tour, Smiley will speak with a leading poverty advocate.

"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."

Featured guests in this TV special series include:

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who will address how poverty is impacting the health and wellness of American families.
  • Economist and author Jeffrey Sachs who has been at the forefront of economic development, poverty alleviation and enlightened globalization for more than 20 years. His latest book is titled The Price of Civilization.
  • Vicki B. Escarra, president of Feeding America, which is the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization that provides food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors.
  • Jim Wallis, best-selling author, public theologian, speaker and international commentator on ethics and public life. He recently served on the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and currently chairs the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum.
  • Princeton professor and New York Times best-selling author Cornel West who is considered to be one of America's leading public intellectuals.

Funding for the weeklong programming on poverty is provided in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AARP Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation.

For more information and to listen and watch the shows online, visit www.tavissmileyradio.com and www.pbs.org/tavis. You can also follow us on Twitter @Tavis Smiley.

About Tavis Smiley

With his late-night PBS television talk show and two weekly public radio programs, Tavis Smiley is the first American ever to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both public television and public radio.  He has authored 15 books including The New York Times best-sellers, What I Know For Sure and Covenant with Black America.  TIME magazine honored him as one of the "The World's 100 Most Influential People," in 2009. NEWSWEEK dubbed him one of the nation's "captains of the airwaves." He is also the creator of AMERICA I AM: The African American Imprint museum exhibition.  Smiley has received numerous honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater, Indiana University.

About WNET New York Public Media

WNET is America's flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces such acclaimed PBS series as Great Performances, American Masters, Nature, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state's unique culture and diverse communities through SundayArts, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. For further information, please visit the foundation's website at www.wkkf.org.

About the AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation is AARP's affiliated charity. The Foundation is dedicated to serving vulnerable people 50+ by creating solutions that help them secure the essentials and achieve their best life. AARP Foundation focuses on: hunger, housing, income and isolation as our key mission areas. The Foundation envisions: "a country free of poverty where no older person feels vulnerable." Foundation programs are funded by grants, tax-deductible contributions and AARP. For more information about AARP Foundation, please log on to www.aarp.org/foundation.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization, whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today's vulnerable children and families. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

SOURCE WNET New York Public Media