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.

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