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Tamara Banks speaking at the annual MLK awards

Tamara Banks speaking at the annual MLK awards

Voyage Denver Interview

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tamara Banks.

For Emmy Award-winning journalist, Tamara Banks, the statement, “One Person Can Make a Difference,” is more than just words.

Tamara is a freelance journalist, talk show host, and documentary filmmaker, focusing on social justice and dedicated to creating transformative social change through excellence in journalism.

Her areas of expertise include: social justice and political issues, nationally and internationally, particularly in South Sudan and Darfur, and other parts of the globe where there is little or no news coverage about crimes against humanity and genocide. Her documentary short film, “The Long Journey Home,” was accepted into the 2009 Hollywood Film Festival, “HollyShorts.”

Her work has been featured on numerous news networks including PBS, CNN, ABC News, HDNet’s World Report, BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera, WB 2 News, FOX News, as well on as a number of radio stations and newspapers over the past 20 plus years.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
While my mom, a single parent, made sure our house was filled with love there were many times when food was scarce. But she always taught my brother, sister and me to believe in ourselves and know that we can do anything as long as we work hard and do our best to make the world a better place.

She instilled in me, us, that it’s important to find out what my passion is (everyone is passionate about something), do the work and research it takes to learn more about it and then go do it! And do it the best I can. When I got frustrated or discouraged, she’d say, “If it were easy then everyone would be doing it.” (Whatever it is.)

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I’m a freelance journalist, primary TV news, but I also work in radio and produce documentary films. In addition, I produce videos for clients whom I’m aligned with regarding social justice issues.  I’m so honored to have reported on and produced a number of stories and events that have garnered recognition by the journalism profession and my peers. However, while I’m honored to win Emmy’s, even getting nominated is an honor, I’m not a correspondent and producer to win awards. This is my calling. My passion. Nikki Giovonni says this about her passion to write poetry, “Writing is what I do to justify the air I breathe.” Storytelling through excellence in journalism is what do to justify my place on this earth. 

To answer your question about what I’m most proud of, it’s difficult to point out just one story. But I can say that I love going to South Sudan, Sudan, and the Nuba Mountains to not just report on crimes against humanity but more importantly report on the people who are making a difference. I’ve learned that people who have the least tend to be the people that will give you the most. This was also true in Iraq. I met people who were struggling to survive during the war and would take time to tell me their stories about their lives, their families, the dreams of a better future.  

Recently, in Haiti I worked on a story about an American doctor and a Haitian American nurse who gave up the comforts of the U.S. to provide health care to Haitians who would otherwise not have the means or access to quality medical treatment.

People like that are showing up in the world in a way that is, well, brilliant! Which brings me to my BE BRILLIANT initiative.

1.2 billion people around the world live without electricity. 173 million live in urban areas. As a way to give back to the world as well as get viewers to engage and connect with the people and places I tell stories about I encourage people to help me light up the world. BE BRILLIANT is a call to action. You don’t have to go to South Sudan, Haiti, Uganda, Latin America or anywhere. You, your family and friends can connect with families across the globe by taking one meaningful step: purchase portable, solar-powered lamps for them.

I’m truly blessed to have this career. 

To further share stories about people and places, I’m also a keynote speaker and emcee for numerous events.

Any shout-outs? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My mom was my biggest cheerleader. Without her believing in me I know I’d not be where I am today. Also, my brother and sister are always supportive, although they worry that I go to too many dangerous places far too often. And my girlfriends, my BFF’s have been my lifeline over the years.

My boyfriend is also one of my greatest supporters. First and foremost, God has blessed me tremendously. I’ve only accomplished so much and reported and continue to report in conflict zones and come back home to tell the stories because of the grace of God.

(Reproduced with permission from Voyage Denver, a platform that fosters collaboration and support for small businesses, independent artists and entrepreneurs, local institutions and those that make our city interesting.)

Sistahbiz Spotlight on Tamara Banks by Danielle Kym

Emmy Award winning journalist Tamara Banks is a pillar in the Denver community and our Sistahbiz Spotlight for this week. We appreciate her light, depth and commitment to truth and justice. She has been making waves as a Black Female entrepreneur, creating transformational social change through excellence in journalism.

Tamara is a former anchorwoman for WB2 News, and has been featured on numerous news networks including PBS, CNN, ABC News, HDNet’s World Report, BBC, Al Jazeera America, FOX News, as well as on a number of radio stations and newspapers over the past 20+ years. The shift to freelance journalism and consulting is one that requires boss moves and Tamara dropped a few of those gems in this interview for sure.


What’s the #1 piece of advice you have for black women starting new businesses?

Believe in yourself! That doesn’t mean you can’t have moments of self doubt, butterflies, or an uneasy stomach. Just don’t let them consume you. Get your prayer warriors and support team behind you and keep moving forward! Get a mentor or a few mentors.


Has your product/service gone through iterations and changes? What was your strategy for learning from customers and improving the product?

I’ve learned to do as much pre-planning as possible for a client needing a video produced. The flip side is I’ve learned how to manage a client’s expectations. This is not always easy since clients will sometimes change their minds in the middle of a production.


How did you acquire the necessary capital required to scale your business and get to this level?

I put money aside before I stepped completely in to the freelance world.


What is a strategy (or two) that you use to ensure that you meet your annual goals?

I have to write my goals down.
Secondly, I put benchmarks in place to stay focused and on track.


How do you recharge and restore and how often?

I don’t recharge and restore often enough! But when I do I spend time laughing with my BFF’s. I also meditate, and EVERY DAY, several times a day I pray, thanking God for all of my blessings.


What area of your business did you have the least experience in when you started? How did you handle the learning curve and ensure the business succeeded in that area?

I’m a creative… I get bored with numbers and had no experience in bookkeeping. I had to learn how to do at least the basics. And when I was able to afford it I hired a great accountant.


What is your morning routine?

1. I thank God for another Day and ask Him whom I can bless that day.
2. Read my daily devotional.
3. Read the news headlines.
4. Go for a run.


Tell us about your first big deal and how you achieved it? (This can be a retail distribution deal, large-scale contract, sponsorship or funding round)

Every job I have been hired for I felt was a “big deal” because I knew it was a right where I was supposed to be. With that said, when I got my anchor/reporter contract I felt I was really on the path I wanted to be on. Later, each time I’m able to work for a national or international network I’ve landed a “large-scale” contract in the TV journalism world.


What advice do you have for women trying to cross cultural lines to grow their business? Can you speak to this from both a race and class perspective?

First and foremost, be yourself. If you wear your hair natural then wear it that way when you give a presentation, pitch a story to network, or approach a client. Just like any relationship, you need to be authentic from the very beginning. With that said, meet potential clients where they are. In other words, find something you do have in common like sports, activities, family. This will make you relatable to (almost) anyone. Again, don’t hide your light!


How have relationships impacted your business? What advice would you give entrepreneurs about how to manage business relationships? What relationship skills are most important for business success?

Relationships are the key pillars of success and those strong relationships are built on a foundation of integrity. This looks like keeping your word, following through, and calling your client regularly just to see how they’re doing. Much of my work now comes from referrals from people who trust me and my work.


Can you tell us about a great failure or disappointment that you learned or benefited greatly from in your business?

One of my shows was cancelled with no real explanation. I was surprised but not shocked when I learned the money for the show would go toward someone else’s. But, I learned that other doors were opening… bigger, better doors… once that one closed! I needed to leave that job but hadn’t. They blessed me by discontinuing my contract!

If you can share one message to inspire black women in business, what would it be?

It’s important to find your passion and follow it! Get the support and resources you need. Ask questions. Get a mentor(s). Be thankful for the good and tough times.


Danielle Kym, lifestyle blogger, photographer and digital marketing and community manager for Sistahpreneurs.

Answer the call: At the Table with Dr.King

Answer the call: At the Table with Dr.King

Rocky Mountain PBS: Arts District - Answer the Call

Tamara Banks reports on the multi-faceted musical performance, "At the Table With Dr. King," which explores his life of challenges and victories, and how answering the call for a deeper life purpose can serve our community and promote peace.



Support Black Churches Destroyed by Arson

From Tamara: Here's info on where you can send donations to help rebuild black churches torched in Louisiana. The campaign was posted on GoFundMe last Wednesday by the Seventh District Baptist Association, which includes 54 Baptist churches in southwest Louisiana, including the three that were burned.