Spotlight COlorado  

Have You Met?

We’ve had some fun recently featuring various media personalities around town who have made contributions to the community. Experienced Broadcaster, Journalist, & Anchor, Tamara Banks fits this bill perfectly. Tamara has unparalleled credentials in the areas of community outreach; and Ms. Banks has always helped to give a voice, through the media, to those in the underserved communities who struggle against social injustice. Banks is a well-known face in the Denver media, most notably as a television News Anchor and Reporter for Denver’s WB2 News. Recently she worked in Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s office as his Neighborhood Liaison and greatly enhanced the coordination and communication between the City and County of Denver and its neighborhoods. After graduating from college, Tamara jump-started her career as an anchor and reporter for KRDO-TV (ABC) in Colorado Springs and was a radio news reporter for stations in Denver, Dallas, Albuquerque and Greeley. Tamara has a passion for international news, politics and world relations that has taken her to Kenya, Jordan, Senegal, Peru, Panama and Haiti to produce special reports and documentaries. Tamara believes that a democracy can not survive without “Freedom of the Press.” Tamara shares: “I am working on a curriculum that will teach emerging democracies the relationship between the media and the government, and the true principles of Free Press. I did some work in Kenya a few years ago with about seven of my fellow National Association of Black Journalists members where we worked with Kenyan journalists and the Kenyan government on media training. I am expanding the program and will be working with some of our local universities on the curriculum.”

A level-headed, realist, the focused Tamara Banks has made changes in her life with aplomb. With her keen sense of curiosity and unsurpassed integrity, this strong, gutsy “lady of many skills” will surely make her mark on this world.

(On Wednesday, November 1st, come meet Tamara - who will help host the Blacktie-Colorado, “Martini on the Rockies FM 101.5”, the Denver Daily News and the Four Points by Sheraton - Denver Southeast, first-ever “Vendor Fair” at the Sheraton starting at 3 p.m.)

What do you hope to accomplish while you are the News Director of Martini 101.5 FM - and Sassy 107.1? I want to make sure we bring updated news and information to our listeners while still providing unique music to them; music and a mood they won't get anywhere else. I'm on the air from 5am to 9am, Monday through Friday on Martini, and I produce news for Sassy during that same time period. News is in my blood and it's sometimes hard for me to give people just the basics of a story, but that makes it a fun challenge for me. I also host an hour long public affairs program that airs Sunday nights on both stations called "Clearly Colorado." I have an opportunity to discuss topics, issues and people that affect us in Colorado, some of which have national and global ramifications. This really helps feed my quest of being in search of quality, information filled stories which people can become educated, informed touched and perhaps moved to act.

Did you find holding such a high-profile position with Mayor Hickenlooper’s office interesting? I loved working with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. For years I covered Mayor Wellington Webb's administration (another mayor I have a great deal of respect for), and city issues and by being on the "inside," I had an opportunity to look at the same issues I covered as a reporter from a different perspective, an opportunity most people never get a chance to experience. Mayor Hickenlooper is a visionary and I hope some of his brilliance rubbed off on me! Denver's been blessed to have some of the best leaders in the country, Mayor Federico Pena, Mayor Webb and Now Mayor Hickenlooper, and to be a part of that legacy was an experience I will truly treasure.

Do you miss being on television full time? I have always told young people not to be defined by a title; Dr., PhD., starting quarterback, number one on the charts, CEO, head grand poo-pa because one day you won't have that title. And if you defined yourself with a title or job, once it's gone, you're lost. You have to know "who you are and whose you are." I'm a journalist and will always be a journalist. With that said, I have been blessed to be able to step away from daily news for a time to get perspective on the industry and where it's going. Also, I still get my "TV fix" by hosting "Issues and Options" on Denver's Channel 8, a program that takes an in-depth look at issues facing Denver residents.

Also, if the right opportunity presented itself, I would consider more TV news work if I had the chance to contribute in-depth, meaningful work.

Tell us about your work with the documentary production company “Little Voice?” I am producing documentaries and mini-documentaries and video that, while being informative and educational, evoke social change for the positive. We're giving voice to those who don't have one, children, the elderly, the poor, those discriminated against, etc.

You are so involved with the underserved, low income communities in Denver, What progress is being made there? I think Mayor Webb did a great job of laying down the ground work for neighborhoods that needed some help through focused neighborhood initiatives. And Mayor Hickenlooper's administration is continuing that work through a number of programs like Community Development Grants but we can't rely on the government, local or federal, to do all the work for us. There are so many volunteer opportunities that individuals can get involved in just a few hours a month to make an impact on their community. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done: providing quality, safe housing for lower income families, quality education for children of all racial, economic and social backgrounds as well as offering visual and performing arts and sports opportunities to all children, just to name a few.

In general, how do you think Denver has changed through the years? Denver has changed from a "cow town" to a more progressive city. Our Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the country taking passengers via non-stop flights to all parts of the world. Our mass transportation system is slowly becoming more effective The growth in Denver and the metro area is a reflection of a vibrant, economically thriving city.

With that said, as I mentioned before, affordable housing is becoming a challenge for families who are struggling to make ends meet. As Denver continues to grow and thrive, we have to make sure that everyone is afforded the opportunity to have a slice of the pie.

I would like to see a wider variety of cultural events and activities in Denver. While we do have groups like "The Shadow Theater" and "Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater" we do need to diversity our art world more to reflect the diverse community that Denver has become.

I’ve heard many comments about how “real” and relatable” you are; what makes you so easy to communicate with? That's a very nice compliment, thank you. I think this goes back to what I said earlier is that you have to know "who you are and whose you are." I don't try to be anyone else other than me. God has blessings with my name on them so if I tried to be someone else or fake it or pretend to be something I'm not, then I would miss those blessings. So, I guess just being me makes sense and if I allow myself to be "real" then I think other people feel comfortable being themselves as well.

I understand you are very into horses, when in your life did that begin? I started riding horses when I was just four or five years old. My mom and my aunts rode and instantly found a buddy in my first pony I rode, Lady. (she had a mind of her own, stubborn but smart and kind all at the same time - maybe that's why I could relate to her. I love horses! They're such great companions, smart, each has his/her own personality and they're loyal.

Going back to when you first started your career, what has been your proudest personal accomplishment? I think one of my proudest moments early in my career (although at the time I didn't look at it that way. I was just doing my job, asking tough questions) is when I asked the authors of the anti-gay rights amendment back in about 1990 why they thought they could legislate how grown adults could live their lives. I compared it to interracial couples who were not allowed to get married not long ago.

Also, when I reported on how a suspect was treated at an accident scene. It was a controversial move in many people's eyes: the suspect was a young Black teen; the victim, killed in a car crash as a result of the suspect stealing a car and running a stop sign, was a Hispanic Denver Police Officer. The paramedics and police officers at the scene who were caught on tape kicking the suspect as he lay in the street were white.

My decision to show "the rest of the story" was an unpopular move and that became a very lonely time for me. It was really interesting how the rest of the media, including CNN wanted to make me the story, trying to interview me. I refused interviews saying that I was not the story. The story is on the tape. Look at the tape that our extremely talented and sharp photographer shot. That is where the conversation needs to be focused. Again, I was just doing my job: shining a light on the potentially dark crevasses of society and exposing possible corruption.

Who do you consider your mentor? My mentors range from my mom to Oprah, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ed Bradley and from Rosa Parks to Broderick Bell (the then-6-year-old boy who was shot in the head, caught in gang gun fire in 1993).

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Well, nothing is perfect but what I will say is what makes me happy is being with my family and friends and laughing and sharing love.

Professionally, happiness is truly making an impact through good journalistic work. We may not all agree on issues but if I can help inform and educate people than they can make intelligent choices at the polls, in their communities, school and so on.

Who would you like to be stuck on an elevator with? I would love to be stuck in an elevator with my mom (who has now passed away) or Nelson Mandela. I want to ask him how his soul survived being imprisoned for years and how he was able not to lose sight of hope.

If your life were being made into a movie, whom would you like to portray you? I would love to have Vanessa Williams or Halle Barry portray me in a movie!

What three things are always in your refrigerator? I always have wine, diet Pepsi and spinach in my fridge. Usually, that's ALL I have in my fridge!

You spent some time in Jordan recently and journaling your experiences there. What can you tell us about life in Jordan? Jordan is an amazing place, and Jordanians are beautiful, educated people who for the most part love Americans. The Middle East is an amazing place. Think about it: Some of the world's greatest religions were born there. Christianity, Islam, Judaism. We Americans need to be more informed about the Middle East. That's why I went there after 9/11 and just before the War in Iraq, to tell stories about people who are not terrorists, to tell stories about one of the most beautiful places on earth. Once we see people as people and not clump them together as demons and monsters, we're more willing to have a dialog and try to find solutions to conflict other than war.

There are places in Jordan that are magical like the Dead Sea. It's almost impossible to get a sunburn there because it's below sea level and the ultraviolet rays are filtered out because of the salt content in the air. The shores are filled with life nurturing mud that restores your skin to a vibrant glean! Petra is where "Indiana Jones" films were shot and where until recently, the indigenous people lived in canyon. Trust me, it's an enchanting spot on earth... and I think King Hussein is a brilliant, progressive leader, especially for being a "king."

You mentioned to me that you wanted to start reading more books; what are some of the titles of those books? I have recently picked up Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial" and Sen. Barak Obama's new book, "The Audacity of Hope." I really want to read both of these before the end of the year. And of course, I would like to read a Harlequin Romance, just for fun!

What’s the best advice your Mom or Dad ever gave you? Mom told me that with hard work, preparation and prayer that I could become anything I wanted to be. My dad told me not to underestimate myself.

What is something you still want to learn how to do? I want to learn how to fly a plane.

What do you most want to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for being a loving sister, daughter, friend; an honest journalist with integrity and a child of God, someone who fearlessly worked to make the world a better place to live.

Some of Tamara’s Community Work: Past President of the Colorado Association of Black Journalists. Serves or served on the Boards of the “Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation,” the Five Points Business Association, the Denver Art Museum’s African American Art Committee and the Metropolitan State College Visual Arts Center. Banks is also a former board member for the National Association of Black Journalists.

Tamara’s Most Fun Award: “Best Hair on a TV Personality – Female.” The “Best of Westword 2003.” Westword said this about Ms. Banks: “Tamara Banks prefers a look that's simple, elegant, and not in any way reminiscent of plastic by-products.”