S2 Ep32: Facing The Poverty FEAR: Face Everything And Rise. Triumphing over adversity and finding the way out of deep poverty and welfare through advocacy and anti-poverty programs.
4:36PM Apr 11, 2022
Shelli Ann Garland
Hello, and welcome to A Dash of SaLT. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann, and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. SaLT is an acronym for society and learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal. So let's get stuck in shall we.
Welcome to A Dash of SaLT. Today I'm joined by Pamela M. Covington. Pamela is a speaker, author and anti poverty advocate from Atlanta, Georgia. She's a brilliant storyteller and has penned a beautiful memoir entitled A Day at the Fare: one woman's welfare passage, and she has a long list of five star reviews from readers around the globe. Pamela has earned multiple degrees, including two master's degrees, she shares openly about her own struggle through the welfare system and finding a way out of poverty to find independence. This summer, Pamela will begin helping women by serving as a life transition coach. I've asked Pamela to share her journey through deep poverty and how she's triumphed over adversity, and to share with us some tools for overcoming adversity through self directed learning. So thank you so much for being my guest today. Pamela.
It's a pleasure. Dr. Shelli, thank you so much for having me.
So would you start off by telling us a little bit about your background, your life experiences and why you're passionate about helping others overcome adversity?
Sure, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. And as the years went on, I lived up and down the East Coast. At one time, I met a gentleman who was just totally ideal. His name was Watson. And he had served in Vietnam, we had set up a beautiful home, I mean, just everything was so comfortable. He was very proud to make sure that everything at home was always just perfect. He was great with our two boys. But he suffered with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of having been in Vietnam, and as broke my heart. But I had to leave what I really to this day, consider the sweetest man I've ever known. Because he actually became frightening at some point. He had the changeability of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I was getting where I was wondering which one of them was coming home from work each day. So at some point, as much as I enjoyed him on his best days, he was everything to me and the boys. But on those other times, he was quite scary. And so I had no choice but to make the decision that for my children and my safety that we would leave. So I made an unplanned move, and ended up moving four hours away because I felt the need to put some distance between us. And I ended up in Jacksonville, a city that I only really visited the twice just for pleasure, but I really liked it. And I found myself living first on the street that children and I because it was an unplanned move. And we had a moving van that had a few of our furnishings and things in in it. The children and I went from hotel to hotel. We went to the YWCA someone said I should go there, but we got there. We were refused because my male child was nine years old. And I think they stopped taking them at maybe six. So then I met a woman who offered to put me and the children in a trailer that she had in her backyard. But having gone from living extremely comfortable, and I mean really comfortable. We lived in a Victorian home that was fully restored in downtown Savannah, Georgia. And now all of a sudden, I'm on the street. It's just me and my children watching my baby in the sink at McDonald's. Of course he's googoo gaga and thinking it's a fun thing, right? And I'm there with my foot on the door and him at the sink and it was really rough, you know? So we were on the street for almost a week. Hotels rent meant spending money that we really didn't have to spare washing up wherever we could would be eating what was considered garbage food by us because where we came from, we always ate only the cleanest of foods. But now we were down to McDonald's level. So after some time, the children and I, we did find a place to keep us off the streets. That's all I can call it. It was basically a huge cement tenement shaped kind of a U shape that had only windows in the front and windows in the back. And this is in Florida now. And our bedrooms were upstairs with no air conditioning. We had no heat in the wintertime. For eight months, I did not have a refrigerator, no a stove. For three months, we had no refrigerator. And you know, when you get food stamps, the cardinal rule of food stamps is you can only buy food you can take home to do what cook cook. So there was already some assumptions being made that I couldn't meet basic, you know, things. So the children and I were really grateful just to get out of the truck. The truck was costing me per mile per day. So there's more of the money, little money we had. And at some point, I was finally able to get rid of the truck after being turned down from several rental realtor's. But I found one gentleman, I explained my situation to him that it was just me and my children. And we had left a very comfortable, happy home. But we didn't feel safe because of Watson and the post traumatic stress disorder. So he took a chance on me Dr. Shelli. And he says, Well, you I know you don't have much credit, you don't have any family here, he was willing to leave those blanks on the application and take that chance with me. And so the children and I toughed it out in there. For about a year and a half, it was on a dead end street right next to the railroad tracks. So that was something else that we had to get used to, we'd gone from living in front of this beautiful lush green 30 acre park that was the centre of the whole neighbourhood in Savannah, to living by the railroad tracks on a dead end street with no kitchen appliances, no heat, no air, nothing. We stayed there about a year and a half, until I began to learn about anti poverty programmes. And before I go any further, I have a confession to make. And that is that when I was living very comfortable, where the only thing I had to worry about was pretty much nothing. I had the same negative stereotype about public assistance that many people have. And I had nerve because I didn't even know anyone on welfare. But what I had taken in was what I saw in the media, I remember seeing this old guy on TV saying they're just freeloaders. They're lazy. They're nice through that. I remember Time Magazine having a a piece in it that was derogatory about anti poverty programmes. And so I had bought into that. But when fate knocked on my door after my children, and I ended up in that apartment, I found out that I needed to find out about those kinds of resources. So one of the other single moms in a tenement told me that there was something called Section Eight, she had came to my apartment and saw that the children and I didn't have any heat. And she said you should go and apply for Section A, she says, but you should do it as soon as possible because the waiting list is about a year and a half long. So I found out about housing help. In the meantime, I had a lot of decisions to make about okay, am I going to try to work and keep us here? Or get us out of it? Or am I going to try to go to school, maybe get a new skill. And honestly, it was such a culture shock to be that the first thing I had to do was a just here we are now in this drug infested crime ridden very down and out neighbourhood. And I was nervous about being there. And so I spent the first year just adjusting, just learning what was safe and what was not. I felt I was a little edgy because I was feeling that maybe somebody's watching and they know there's nobody but me and the children there. And then one night I'll never forget this. One night in July. Somebody had came in our house. My son got up in the morning and went downstairs before I got up and was going to watch the Saturday cart turns, he comes running up the stairs Mama Mama. Somebody's been in a hot somebody has been in the house. And I'm like, oh my goodness, how could that be? We were upstairs here sleep that night. Well, unbeknownst to us as we were sleeping that night, probably during the time that a train was passing, they knew we wouldn't hear the sound of breaking glass. So they popped the living room window, and took what few things I had. Now first of all, I didn't have a tonne of I had a television, it was a little 13 inch black and white TV. And they had taken the television, they took the only electric cooking appliances that I was using in lieu of having a stove, and little squarish sunbeam deep fryer, and a small toaster oven, they took those and and they went in my refrigerator because I did get an A frigerator after three months, and they took my food. So again, my first year, I still hadn't figured out my way out of the mess, but we were sitting we felt safe in some forms and not in others. And it was really tough. It was really tough on me.
You know, it's, um, it's really interesting, because, you know, the way you're, it's like, when things just don't feel like they can't get any worse. There you go deeper down in. And something that you said earlier was, you know, you said, Well, when I was living this wonderful life, I have this viewpoint of kind of looking down my nose at those who, you know, needed welfare benefits. And I think that's one of the hugest misunderstandings is that that you know, what I what welfare is for. And, you know, you're always going to have those people who have that on unfortunate viewpoint. I mean, it never changes year after year, there's always going to be those people that have that same viewpoint. And it's really just more than anything, I think, a lack of awareness, and maybe not so much a lack of awareness, but a lack of desire to educate yourself and to make yourself aware of the fact that welfare is, you know, you were actually the kind of family that welfare, that's what it's for, that's what it was put in place for it was to help people. There's a, you know, I lived in Ireland for almost six years. And I, I remember when I used to stand on the platform on the train, there was this old building, just off from the side at Connolly station, just in Dublin, of a building that was kind of rundown. And it was, you know, it needed to be demolished, but it was just sort of the shell of a brick building. But I, I would always look at this saying that was printed on the side of the building. And it would say, you know, I can't even remember what exactly it was for. But it was promoting the fact that we're here to give you a hand up, not a handout. That's what that's the saying the part of the thing that I will always remember is, you know, we're here for you to give to give a hand up, not a handout. And I think that's the awareness that people, you know, don't really see that the importance of what welfare benefits are for, not just nationally in the US, but internationally. In other countries as well. You know, there are services that are meant to be there for, you know, helping to give you a hand up, you know, you're down on your luck, you're as low as you can go. Here's my hand, let me pull you up, you know, let me bring you back up again. And yes, we know that, you know, there are again, people who abuse the system, just as much as there are people who have that narrow view and that narrow focus. Well, I mean, I think, yeah, I think you're right, I think at some points we all do, we all have have that, you know, because we do have such a narrow focus, we get so comfortable and set in our own lives, that we don't look at wider society and the troubles that that other people are facing until you until you go through something or you know, somebody that you're very close to that goes through something like that. So those are the two things that I really took from what you were saying and that really the fact that you were down on your luck, but you probably found it really hard in the beginning to excel.
So it took me a year just to have some semblance of it's okay for me to feel safe. And then that happened. I'm like, so I was pretty much in the right state of mind. Yeah. And I'm so glad you mentioned the abuse because you know, that's the question And then I always get a response I always get well, people are busy. First of all to be factual, it's about two to 3% is actually abuse. And then my answer to that is always, we have all different types of types of abuse occur, you have domestic abuse, you got drug abuse, you got alcohol abuse, you got abuse of power. Now, why in the world just because this is a hand up for people? Do you think it has a force field around it that it's not going to be subject to abuse? What does mankind have access to? That is not subject to abuse? And that's my four Oh, answer to that? Query...
Absolutely. So So what tell me what was the start? So you said after that one year, when when did you start to see, okay, I'm starting to, you know, I'm starting to come up out of this what point and tell me tell me about that journey, and how that that started there and where you went from that point on?
Well, once things settled down at home, I sought out a church and one of the church members there was a professor or faculty member at the local community college, she and I became friends. And every Sunday when I went see her, she was asked me how we were doing how things were coming along and ask me Have I considered going back to school? Well, initially, I wasn't interested, I felt that I had so much that was already going against me. I had a baby one and a half years old. I had a nine year old who had behavioural problems, and I just couldn't imagine that I would be able to have the same abilities as a untethered student. Because I've got this survival thing going on. I've got a child who has behaviour problems. My other one is a baby, you know? And she would ask me, it got so bad Dr. Shelli that some Sundays I would try to duck her as he here comes to me again, she's gonna ask me that again. She doesn't understand everything I'm going through. Well, eventually, she said, Well, give it some thought. And I actually started opening up to it. Okay, maybe I have finally reached a point where I actually had a daily routine and felt some semblance of stability. And she talked to me about it. And then before I knew it, I was going to her on Sundays and asking her questions, because even when I began to consider going back to school, I thought about, well, I got a baby who's gonna watch my baby, I can't afford this childcare stuff. She says, there's a programme for that. And I'm like, Okay, well, I transportations a problem, the old beat up 72 Buick. That was totally done the back of my moving van. The transmission had gone on it. So I asked her why don't have any way for transportation, how will I get my child to school and this and that and, and then be able to get to the college campus. And she said, we can get transportation aide for you. So everything that I would counter her idea for me with, she had an answer. And so I went to the college. And I'll never forget that, how I felt getting on the bus that day. And going into the college that I had been right across the street at the Jacksonville Urban League, which is a social service organisation. And that's how I eventually found the different realtors to start going in literally begging for housing. And it was right across the street from college. So the five days that my children and I were reporting to this gentleman who was a specialist in housing, we were sitting in the office and I'm looking over there and I'm like, wow, that's that looks pretty nice, you know, welcomes find out. That's the college does Sylvia was telling me about. And then I had to kind of decide what it was I wanted to major in. She told me when I mentioned to her that I had an interest in doing some kind of communications well, back then. The television production was like the big thing, even though they had these big, clunky cameras, you know, and everything was analogue and tape. Nothing was digital. And so I decided to take a broadcast journalism class. And I really enjoyed college. I was very careful though, because I didn't want anybody to know I was on welfare.
Love it. optimism versus pessimism.
So that stigma that stigma was still with you.
Yes, yes. Yes. And so I was very careful about that. And in as I had mentioned, Sylvia had found out sort resources for me for every thing that could possibly cause me a problem. In fact, one of my one of my years there, I got a best of 4.0 award, because that's how bad I wanted this, right. And so then that was kind of how I got started. And then, a year and a half later, exactly like the neighbour told me, I got a call to get section eight housing. Now, granted, it was a four apartment unit. But I could again, walk over to a wall flip a switch called air conditioning. Wow. And we had central heat. And this kitchen was fully equipped, you know. And not only that, but by being there, I got to use my welfare check for other things. You see, while we were in a tenement, I was paying $170 for a cement box on roaches. But my welfare check was only 152. So you see, every month when I got that check, I was already in a deficit, I still had water and sewer, I needed a telephone, if I was going to try to get a job and have cell phones, then, you know, so there were so many things that took that check. So when I was able to just pay zero in the section eight apartment that enabled me to be able to do more for and with the boys and granted that their dad did pay child support. But it really it just freed me up from all of that. So, and again, my thing was when I went to apply for public assistance, why didn't a caseworker telling me that there was a housing thing that I could have applied from day one? You know, and I think that's one of the problems with today, the way the welfare system is too fragmented. I feel it's too fragmented. And the other thing is, is not giving people a path. It's not adjusting, addressing the soft skills that the individual needs. It's not even boosting morale. And I saw that so much as I was working in upper level jobs out, Oh, wow. All the supervisors and managers, they get these retreats and motivational everything and all that, and they're already there. So I'm like, Why isn't anybody doing this for the underdog? So eventually, what was the outcome of my two year college education? Well, I'm gonna use this as an example of why I tried to teach people to overcome fear. I was doing an internship that was offered to me through the instructor of the television broadcast journalism courses. And I did an internship at a city lifestyle magazine, you know, pretty glossy magazine full colour and got all these ads and restaurants, beautiful homes the whole bit. And the editor, I'm sitting in and sharing this huge large space with the editor, and she's on the phone and I can hear her she's talking to somebody about possibly trying to help or whatever. Well, it turned out that it was a brand new newspaper national newspaper known as USA Today. And this is a 1986. And they're calling all the newspapers around town, trying to find someone to drive up to St. Mary's, Georgia and give some coverage. On then President Reagan's funding of the Trident submarine system and its effect it would have on the immediate vicinity. She didn't have anyone, she hangs up, she calls me over to her desks and asked me when I go I was I was scared. I'm not gonna lie first of all back in those days, and you could count the number of Black Journalists on one hand, okay. Secondly, I had no kind of press credentials or anything. Thirdly, St. Mary's Georgia was a predominantly white town kind of place and I'm like, I'm gonna go up there me welfare person black, no kind of credentials or nothing and do this. So I was coming up with all this fearful stuff of why I shouldn't do it. I made myself go in the restroom. You know, I have this thing that God's in the restroom. So I go in there and I have one of these talks with myself and I'm like, come on, and then I thought about my professor. He had been my greatest guide all along through this communications field. And how disappointed he would have been in me, had I not taken that am I They've been disappointed in myself. So since my child was at daycare until 6pm, and my children's dad had paid us a visit maybe seven or eight months previous, and gave me a used car. Now, this is how good this man was, I left him, but he said, I brought you this because I know you can't do anything for the children without a car. So I had the car. Okay, I had this opportunity. I talked myself into it grabbed my little yellow legal pad, you didn't have laptops or anything back then we had trs at RadioShack when I finally got to a daily newspaper, but back then all I had was my yellow legal pad. And lo and behold, I drive up there. And I'm looking around trying to pick who to go and start talking to about the impact of this submarine programme. I don't know anything about submarines either. The guy was so nice to me, Dr. Shelli, a big rotund guy kind of Santa Claus built kind of guy with white hair and everything. And he was so nice to me that I felt guilty for having expected to been treated any other kind of way. He offered me a cold Coca Cola, and told me that gave me his feedback on what he thought I chose this real estate office because I figured who would know better than a realtor. And he gave me his input and told me that when I'm done talking to the other people that I could come back and dictate it on his phone. That's what you did back in those days. So I almost let fear stop me from doing that. And I can't tell you how it felt. The next morning, I walk up to the newspaper machine, you know, you just put the two quarters and and pull it a little rack open. And hopefully you only take one paper, right? I used to walk past that every day on my way to class. This morning. I'm saving to my quarters, and I save for change for washing clothes when I cashed food stamps and they had begin to change back then. And I put two of those precious quarters in that machine pulled out that USA Today. I tore that paper almost in shreds until I got to this section. And there was there was my name. And the thing that I was mixed emotions because like, Oh, my God would have wanted a welfare caseworker sees this. I said no, they'll just say it can't be her. She just had another welfare mother. And so then I got to run to run my professor who was my mentor through the whole process, and show him what I did. I felt like a little kid rode home to show mommy what I mean in school that day. And there was at my very first published piece ever in a national newspaper, which then when I graduated, made it easy for me to go to a daily newspaper, because I had done something national. Yeah, but I almost let fear mess me up. So I tell people all the time, many people have probably heard if E AR stands for false evidence appearing real. So you have two choices when false evidence appears real. You can either face everything and rise, or you could forget everything and run.
I was I was scared. I'm not gonna lie first of all back in those days, and you could count the number of Black Journalists on one hand, okay. Secondly, I had no kind of press credentials or anything. Thirdly, St. Mary's Georgia was a predominantly white town kind of place and I'm like, I'm gonna go up there me welfare person black, no kind of credentials or nothing and do this. So I was coming up with all this fearful stuff of why I shouldn't do it. I made myself go in the restroom. You know, I have this thing that God's in the restroom. So I go in there and I have one of these talks with myself and I'm like, come on, and then I thought about my professor. He had been my greatest guide all along through this communications field. And how disappointed he would have been in me, had I not taken that am I They've been disappointed in myself. So since my child was a daycare until 6pm, and my children's dad had paid us a visit maybe seven or eight months previous, and gave me a used car. Now, this is how good this man was, I left him, but he said, I brought you this because I know you can't do anything for the children without a car. So I had the car. Okay, I had this opportunity. I talked myself into it grabbed my little yellow legal pad, you didn't have laptops or anything back then we had trs at RadioShack when I finally got to a daily newspaper, but back then all I had was my yellow legal pad. And lo and behold, I drive up there. And I'm looking around trying to pick who to go and start talking to about the impact of this submarine programme. I don't know anything about submarines either. The guy was so nice to me, Dr. Shelli, a big road tonne guy kind of Santa Claus built kind of guy with white hair and everything. And he was so nice to me that I felt guilty for having expected to been treated any other kind of way. He offered me a cold Coca Cola, and told me that gave me his feedback on what he thought I chose this real estate office because I figured who would know better than a realtor. And he gave me his input and told me that when I'm done talking to the other people that I could come back and dictate it on his phone. That's what you did back in those days. So I almost let fear stop me from doing that. And I can't tell you how it felt. The next morning, I walk up to the newspaper machine, you know, you just put the two quarters and and pull it a little rack open. And hopefully you only take one paper, right? I used to walk past that every day on my way to class. This morning. I'm saving to my quarters, and I save for change for washing clothes when I cashed food stamps and they had begin to change back then. And I put two of those precious quarters in that machine pulled out that USA Today. I tore that paper almost in shreds until I got to this section. And there was there was my name. And the thing that I was mixed emotions because like, Oh, my God would have wanted a welfare caseworker sees this. I said no, they'll just say it can't be her. She just had another welfare mother. And so then I got to run to run my professor who was my mentor through the whole process, and show him what I did. I felt like a little kid rode home to show mommy what I mean in school that day. And there was at my very first published piece ever in a national newspaper, which then when I graduated, made it easy for me to go to a daily newspaper, because I had done something national. Yeah, but I almost let fear mess me up. So I tell people all the time, many people have probably heard if E AR stands for false evidence appearing real. So you have two choices when false evidence appears real. You can either face everything and rise, or you could forget everything and run.
Love it. So I optimism versus pessimism.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. And I almost so even I would go on for decades, reminding myself that. You know, I'm a big music fanatic. When I moved one time I had all these vinyl records. I still do. Nobody likes to help me move by the way. And when I moved this particular time, I have such a large collection, I box them up and put them on a roadway transport truck. Well, when I finally get the truck comes to my place and we're unloading all the stuff my turntables in my living room, lo and behold, I go to get some of my favourite jams and put them on your turntable and I clicked the button, it is not going around. So I'm like oh my god, my turntable. You know, we did have all the convenience music things that we had back in the early 80s. So for six months, because I was too chicken to get a screwdriver and go inside that turntable. My house was silent. I went in there the belt had just came off of the platter. So I let fear stop me and starve me music for six months. So fear only plays one good role in our lives and that is when it's for self preservation. Otherwise and that other things fear is is not is for us to come.
Yes, Absolutely, it's for us to conquer.
And I always think about Ralph Waldo Emerson, who's one of my favourite writers, he said, what lies before us, and what lies behind us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us. And when I went from living very comfortable to, on the streets, to box roaches with no appliances, and all of that, you see, that's why we can get so wrapped up in material things. Because when it's something happens, and it goes away, we have the essence of ourselves to count on. The pandemic has taught a lot of people that very thing, if they base their lives on job security or other things like that, you as you can see, anything could happen and cause you to lose the person's, the places or the things that you count on. So it's so important to acknowledge your internal strength that you're made of, because you never know when you may have to tap into it in a life circumstance.
And you have penned an amazing memoir about your experiences and you know, finding yourself in poverty and then working your way out of it, finding your way out of it. And it's called a day at the fair one woman's welfare passage. We I mentioned it at the beginning in your bio. And obviously, you've been telling some of the story that I'm sure you know, that I know is within the book. Yes. So the question that I have for you is when when you started writing this and when you decided that you wanted to write this, what do you hope that that somebody that would pick up a copy of this book, or? Or read it on Kindle? Or find it in? You know, on the ebooks? What do you hope that they'll get out of out of reading your amazing story?
Well, I had a couple intentions when I did it. Because it was so deeply personal, I had to make decisions about how much of my self am I going to put out there. And then I realised, well, it's not worth me writing, if I'm not going to go into the deep stuff, because that's life. So I was hoping to inspire other persons who find themselves and faced with adversity, to just as I say, keep scratching it, the dirt, and you get some that come up out of it. And I also wrote it because policymakers, many of them have that same attitudes that I used to have, because they never been in a dire circumstance like that before. And so I felt that it was my opportunity to give a very accurate portrayal of what that whole experience was like, so that they could feel it. And I went to so much detail some of the feedback that I get, the main thing people tell me is it's so inspirational. And the second thing I get is the amount of detail that I put in it. They were feeling at all, they were rooting for me when things were going good. And they were boo if somebody was treating me bad, I mean, and that's what I poured myself into it. In fact, somebody was on Twitter the other day on my twitter head. And they were saying, when you got ready to write your genre, did you read other books in there? And I responded and said, Nope, when I decided that I was gonna write a day at the Fare by the way, that's FARE, like in welFARE, that I purposefully chose to not read any of the other poverty memoirs, because it was so important to me that I maintain and go ahead with my own dialogue, my own thoughts, and I did not want to, I wanted my authenticity was my goal. Like I said, if it was a thing, I can make them feel it or make them smell it or imagine what this was like. That was my goal. And then I did not want to allow myself to be even the slightest degree of influence from some other writer. And I didn't even want to go through comparison itis because they all went through major publishing houses and I did my own self published my book, but, but I'm happy because I do hear the word inspiration so much, that and courage.
Yeah, I read when I was reading the reviews on Amazon. And for the listeners, I will make sure that I have the link in the description of this episode, so that you can go and find Pamela's book on Amazon and but when I was reading the reviews that that was the reoccurring theme from one to the next it was five stars, five stars, five stars, five Stars, you know, so many people have been so touched by, you know, and and again, not only were they have they been touched by it, but you have created that awareness, you have presented them with an awareness that many people don't have prior to end, you know, and it is such a warm and engaging story. But like you said, it's also very deeply personal. And, you know, what's it like for you to share to to have sat there and thought to yourself, how much do I share? How much do I give? How much do I present of myself, especially in this day and age when people, people can often be really cruel and not have good things to say about somebody, you know, you deserve it? Or, you know, who knows, like the kinds of stuff that especially in this world of social, social media, but what what was it like for you, I'm sure there was a level of fear in, you know, pressing that publish button, so to speak, you know, what was it like to share such such a deeply personal part of your life with the world,
because I feel like the value in doing so is so much more than any hesitance that I could have. It was a life thing that happened, it happened to me, it was my scar, it was my wound, it was my story. And the book clearly indicates that, obviously, I came out of it through some very, because of certain traits that I have. And in the book, there's another young lady who's basically in the same position as myself. That is, we're approximately the same age we met in junior college. And she had two children too. And as the story goes, you can hear the two of us how we become friends, we're helping each other when one of our back in those days, food stamps were issued, on certain days on the month based on what alphabet your last name was. And I had a C on and of mine, and she had some other alphabet way down there. And so we were so close that I would let her have some of mine. And that last week of the month was always hard for every family. And she would do the same thing. And but back in early 80s was a time when crack cocaine came into the black communities primarily and just destroyed, made made a Spectre out of everything that used to be lively. And over time, it took me a while to recognise that my friend had begun using crack. And so although we both started in college, needless to say, only one of us graduated. Yeah, so
and it is all about that perspective, and in which path you end up taking. Yeah, you know. So, as part of that journey, you've been up to a lot other than just writing a book. Tell me a little bit about some of the things that you've been doing over the years. And you know, what you're doing now to advocate for anti poverty programmes?
Well, I work with an organisation that's been around about 41 years, they're called Results. And they have chapters in all 50 states and maybe about 20 or 25 countries. And I recently, I'm a new newbie here in Georgia, I've been here not quite three years got here, just pre COVID kind of thing. And what I do is we, right now we're doing it all through zoom, where we're actually contacting members of Congress office, and depending upon what the issue is that I'm going to address, it could be housing, Child Nutrition, you know, all of those kinds of things and the things that make up the anti poverty programmes, and speaking out in support of them. Not typically, when we were having physical meetings, I would actually travel to DC get with the group of for my state, and we'd have specific issues we always know what we're going to talk about. And I do I work I advocate on the domestic side, some persons advocate for a on the global but typically what will happen is I take time to share my story with these individuals. And again, because I let them know that I used to have that same attitude. But fate knocked on my door and that had there not been things like school lunches when I have no appliances and subsidised childcare. So that I could go back to college and become this newspaper reporter. I ended up doing being that how important those things are And now I'm in my 60s. And this is all I care about that those things were there for me, and I don't want them to go away. I want them to be there for other persons who find themselves. I mean, look, what again, look what COVID did. You had many people finding themselves out of work, they still have families to feed. They had other burns, because Okay, those children were some of them. Were getting school lunches, and now that had gone away. And so what did they one of the responses was the the pandemic snap programme, you know, so that's what I do. I go, and I go to set an example. And it's important to me that I set a very refined example, and let them know that hey, today, I have two master's degrees, two associate's degrees, and a bachelor's degree. But it all began while I was on welfare. And I've been taking care of myself 30 40 years since. So how many times that you figure I paid that back?
That's right, Yeah. And paid it forward, paying it back paid it? All the way around? Yes, absolutely. There are several recommendations, again, from those reviews, that your book should be a must read in schools and colleges everywhere. Why do you think everybody is saying this? Why do you think as the author, it's so important to get your book out there? A Memoir, not a textbook? Not you know, it's not your average textbook, it is a memoir, a story? Why do you think everyone is saying, this needs to be in schools and colleges everywhere?
Well, I kind of looked at it from a couple of different angles, because when I started seeing them repetitively saying that, I guess the first one would be, it can drive home the value of education, or even just the curiosity or the hunger to want to know, and seek and pursue an education, because it's also showing, if you look at it in terms of long term, had I not decided to educate myself, I might have began a second generation of poverty. And I just wasn't going to have that, regardless of what I had gone through, I just wasn't going to have that I wanted to make sure that I was going to be there in that circumstance for as short possible time as I could. So I would imagine that it's being viewed by some readers as if students at a grade level or in high school level could see this, they would not even think about dropping out of high school, or perhaps college, I would see the value in it, because in college people are taking political science, they're studying sociology, and this is a book that, you know, sets a story for a in a case study, actually, or, you know, there's so many different ways that that can be viewed. But it's, I that's one of the reasons why I wrote it to inform, you know, so I guess that's why I'm saying it, because one of the be a preventative, for high school students. And, two, it could inspire students who are thinking of being social workers, or studying economics, or sociology and all of that, it can serve as an example of what I when
I, I do absolutely love that. Because I think it's so important, I am very much an advocate and support and promote, you know, stories in through education. And I think it's important, you know, it might be a bit radical for me to say, but I think that we should take the textbooks out of the classroom, and start putting in the stories and hearing the stories and talking through the stories. And, you know, looking at it from the various angles, you know, that that rather than having the textbooks in the class, and you know, you know, who really cares what I mean, I do before I say this, I'm just gonna say, I was gonna say, who really cares what social stratification is, right? The term social stratification, or educational stratification, but at the same time, if you actually told it, you know, through somebody's story, their lived experience, you could have a better understanding of what social and educational stratification is, rather than just reading the term in a textbook and spitting it out onto an exam. And I think that's one of the reasons why it just caught my eye when, you know, I was I was reading the things that people were saying was, yes, yes. Yes. More of these stories, more of these lived experiences, what really is important and education, both formally and informally? Yes. One of the things I wanted to ask you Pamela is, your children are now grown. What are they up to?
Well, my oldest son, the one with behaviour problems, he's not been doing much with himself. He never He grew up to be the person that he was struggling to be. Then the baby Devon in the book, he's an aviator. He loves aeroplanes. He, he bought an older model plane called a Mustang to. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He drove from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Canada to take it apart, assess it if it was worth his investment. And he put it on a trailer drove it through three blizzards to get it back to Tulsa. I spent two years doing complete renovation on it. And he is self taught. He started out very young, initially, he was interested in astronauts. And then I noticed maybe when he was about nine or 10, that it was starting to change. He was getting into aviation. So I went and I start buying him all kinds of books, James Book of planes, the history of aviation, Tuskegee Airmen, all of that, and I started feeding that. And then when he was 13, or 14, I made him join the Civil Air Patrol. And now he ended up going to school when he was ready. He wasn't ready initially out of high school, but decided some years later that he was going to go and get an FAA certification. And so he is like, Mr. Aviation, he owns a glide plane and he owns the Mustang too. And he's just everything. aeroplanes. So that's a Devon in the book.
Yeah. And, you know, I think, again, you touched on a really important point, even for your eldest son, you know, when, when, even when you're, you said that when somebody is ready, you said when Devon was ready, and he decided to move on in his education, and that he self taught, and your eldest son, you know, now may not be the time but you know, what, you know, a year from now, or whatever unawareness may come to him, and he'll say, now's the time. And I think that's what's really important about having access to education is that it doesn't matter whether you're a mature student, a non traditional student, you know, when your time comes, and you're ready, you should embrace it and not fear it. Don't fear the learning.
I'm a perfect example of that. I didn't enter into community college until the first time. Well, let's see, I took one class before I got a chance for I moved to Jacksonville, and I did not get back into college and really start completing things until I was 2829 years old, you know, you're not ready to you're ready. Exactly. And it's a whole lot of money to take a chance with. Yeah, yeah. But I would love to see, community colleges become free to everyone. Again, that is where I began. It seems like aeons ago, but that is where I began. And when I was in, in those circumstances I had dealing with the domestic issues. I'm heartbroken because I left the sweetest man I've ever loved. My nine year old has given me behavioural problems. I'm in a strange place with no family, and they're living in deplorable conditions like I've never experienced before in my life. But school was just such a stability thing for me. And had it not been my going back to school, I would have never discovered you see, you see how I can run my mouth? Well, I never thought that my ability to think of something and instantaneously be able to express it, just like that. I never thought that was a big deal. So one day, I'm in a journalism class with Ron, my professor, he always had us call him, Ron. And he says to me, could you come and see me after class? And I thought, oh, boy, that last paper I turned in must have really been bad. I've been dealing with issues at home with survival and my son's been acting up and everything I get in his office. And yep, I was right. He had my paper in his hand. But you know what he said? He said, Pamela, this is pretty good. I'm gonna be honest with you. I see a little weak spot here and there, but that's no big deal. He says, I'm gonna tell you, you get turned word, dollars. That was his words. Now I'm on welfare to scraping eking out a living. And somebody just told me that my ability to do this thing that I do with words, whether I'm writing them or speaking them, I could turn them into cash. So you know, it all began at community college.
And that's that's really important is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and instead of breaking you down and nitpicking every small mistake you made, take you aside and say You know, this your this is really good, you know, keep keep up on this. And you know, like you said, you can turn words into dollars.
I'm like, wow. Otherwise, I would have just went on and on and on and never thought anything about my communication skills.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, we talked a little bit earlier about you advocating with for the anti poverty programmes. And you do this with members of Congress, and you in through these programmes, and through your campaigning, so to speak, you know, you really want to help others rise up out of Prop poverty. What does a typical day at the office in that aspect look like for you? And do you find it frustrating straining? Do you find it rewarding or both and why?
I find it challenging and I love it. Now I'm working at home these days, I gave up being out there about maybe 10 years ago. And I'm really at the point where I would like care about is using my gifts, my accumulated knowledge and skills to be helpful to make contributions. So a typical day for me is whatever I've managed to write up on Sunday nights, I write up all my things, I have two or three calendars that I kind of have to coordinate. And every every time I turn around, it's something different. I mean, look how many times just during the pandemic that we had to switch gears. Okay, first we had, okay, well, you don't have everybody has health care. Okay, so that became an issue, then we're like, oh, no, we can't be evicting people. We can't put them out there. So the COVID can get them. And so we change and we go wherever the most immediate and the attention needs to be. And I try to get people to realise, yes, this has been terrible. I had, I ended up with COVID in January of 21. But there was so many good things that came out of it. And I know that sounds really weird to say, but there were some realities. Dr. Shelli, that you and I were aware of that maybe people were just too busy to pay any attention to. First of all, there was this, under misunderstanding that what everybody doesn't have access to the internet, now that the children have to go to school and everything. And like, I've known about the digital divide for years, you know, then people who always revenant seeing us as a totality of the human race, oh, people over here, that's not us. That's their country. That's the MO this people I'm here. But COVID taught us all it's a global thing. And that we all can never be as healthy as everybody else is healthy first. You know, the, those are just kind of lessons. But basically, however I can help is is is what I pinpoint on whatever the next issue is, like right now, one of my concerns is there's a possibility of having a renter's credit, you know, if you're a person a property owner, you have certain tax credits. If you're a simple homeowner, like myself, I have certain tax credits. But really, and truly renters are paying a lot more than than some of our mortgages and getting nothing in return for there's no investment there. Yes, exactly. And, and then then we have all 50 states, in all 50 states of the United States. No, there is no housing arrangement for anybody making $7.25 an hour. They're all 50 states, none of them there are maps, anyone that's listening, if you will go online and type housing cost search by state, you will see that all 50 of the United States they have varying ranges of what it would cost a person on an hourly salary, How much salary they'd have to be making per hour to be able to afford a basic two bedroom apartment.And none of it says 725. I remember when I bought my first home, the the the the guidance was to not spend more than 25% of your income. Now you have people who are routinely spending 3540, almost 50% of their income that's considered overburdened. So again, housing is you know, like I said, is a current issue for me right now. And again, I know what it's like to be on the streets with children. When I had COVID I was so grateful even every day that wow, at least I'm in my own house with it. At least I can be comfortable, at least I can control my environment, who comes, who goes and that kind of thing. So, and then I have other projects I'm working, I want to work on another book. And if I had my choice and resources was not a problem, I would totally revamp the welfare system. I know exactly what it needs. Yeah, I'm sure if anybody does, you do, I have, I have all the ideas of what's wrong with it the way it is, and how it needs to change, that would not only make the investment that the government makes by providing anti poverty programmes, they would get a return on their investment. But also, the individuals would actually come out of that programme feeling enriched. And that's what I would really like to be known for.
I love that. I love that I think that's a great aspiration, to fight for that, you know, it's a goal to get to and something to fight for, for sure. And get others on board in the same way. I'm on board with you on it, for sure.
Thank you so much. And I'm so glad that you mentioned the stories, because you know, it's one thing to get data. But people remember stories last we're still stories are sticky stuff. That's right. And you know, as an alumna of the moth storytelling organisation, I take material from my book and turn it into stories and perform them on stage to helps people to really get the message.
Yeah. And you just mentioned the moth. I'm a I'm a lot. I'm a huge lover of audible. And I would just love to listen to your story on Audible. And I know right now it's not available. So is that in the works?
Yeah. So this is something that I actually had started. But due to inexperience on my part and the studio that I was working with, we went through the budget, but wasn't able to finish the project. And so now I'm going to independently equip a spot here in my home, and where I can just go and work on my own and do it because now the technology that's the thing about the technology is making so many things possible. But yes, a day at the fair will eventually be a full audio book, as read by the author.
That's it. And you know, I have to tell you, I cannot wait because I love listening to stories, especially when they're read books, stories, fiction, nonfiction, whatever, especially when they're read by the authors. And I can't wait to hear you tell your own story with your, you know, with your own levels of emotion. And because nobody is going to feel that story more richly than you do. And you're going to make others feel it richly because it's in your own voice. And I can't wait for that. So that so I that was just a little side question that I had. But actually, I would like you to tell listeners, how, how and where we can find out more about you and your work. Where can we find you online?
Well, I'd welcome anyone to join me on Twitter. Like I said, I'm a Twitter head. I've made wonderful connections on Twitter. And just by searching Pamela M. Covington or Pam, Pamela Covington. But also at pm Covington. You should find me on Twitter. I have a Facebook page. Pamela Covington. I am on Instagram. As Pamela Covington Pamela M Covington in all instances, and then I have a website that is just Pamela M covington.com.
And again, I just want to reiterate that the book is called a day at the fareFARE like welfare. Buy Guess what? Pamela M Covington?
Yes. And finally, Pamela, if you can share with us just one thing that you want the audience to remember, what would that
I'm going to say Believe in yourself if you have a few and first one I want to tell you is how important and how unique and every individual is. It took a cross between 250 million sperm cells to meet up with one of 10,000 eggs to make you and Do you realise what that means. That means that there's 249,999,000 and 999 who didn't make it and you did and that is such a unique thing. There's a reason for that. And I just want people to realise what you really have within you, you are your own best resource. And that's why it's important that you acknowledge that because you never know when you need it. As I expressed in my story when I was stripped of all my luxuries? Guess what? I had to really count on myself to find my way through. And you can do it also. And then I also like to remind people that a celebrity you see all these celebrities shows and people following so and so and just worrying about and watching everything they do. What if you put that same energy in, in cultivating the star within yourself? A celebrity is just a person who believed in themself enough to keep trying to do something over and over again until they got it perfect. And you have the same capability?
Absolutely. And, you know, you remind me of the fact that so many times I talk to people and they're like, Oh, well, I'm nothing special. Of course you are, everybody is special, and everybody has something that they contribute can contribute and something that they can give. And Pamela it has been an absolute pleasure to spend this hour with you and and to hear your story and to and to feel your passion. And I thank you so much. And you've been a very, very honoured guest and I have really enjoyed having you. Thank you so much for being part of A Dash of SaLT today.
And thank you so much, Dr. Shelli. I appreciate everything that you do.
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on A Dash of SaLT, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Seasoned with just the right touch of experts in education and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to A Dash of SaLT on PodBean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.