The following is the video transcript of Smith’s 2020 CARES Gala Interview:
Roland S. Martin: All right, of course with Susan Taylor, she’s the founder, it’s been so what you started this what was it 11 years ago?
Susan L. Taylor: Oh, actually 14.
Martin: It was under Essence…
Taylor: And then we said we had to do more at the Essence festival for the children who were really left homeless and hungry and lonely and depressed. And so that gave birth to Essence cares, which has grown into the National Cares Mentoring Movement.
Martin: And of course you now have to move it to this place you’ve grown, uh, from where the gala first started.
Taylor: That’s true. We’ve outgrown every space, this is the largest indoor ballroom in New York City. So here we are. We better fill it tonight, I know that.
Martin: And of course the honoree tonight, this man standing right here Robert Smith.
Robert F. Smith: Roland Martin, so good to see you, so glad you’re here. Happy to see you, my brother.
Martin: You know had to be here always got to support Susan and of course this actually guarantees you come here. So last year when the gala was over she’s like okay the date is February 10th, so put it on your calendar right now and then block the date off. So I couldn’t say no you know because I already…
Smith: Understood and she is persistent but her persistence is driven by love and that’s the point of it and that’s why I really love being around her and being a part of all that she does. She takes a holistic approach to how we heal our community one person at a time, you know, one child at a time and I think that’s really why we’re here.
Martin: And obviously a lot of people really don’t understand, uh, how great the need is when you talk about mentors cuz you’re now what fifty eight cities?
Taylor: 58 cities, Roland, that’s right. I mean and this is not what I ever thought I would be doing after 37 years of Essence. I thought I’d be teaching journalism, you know newspaper making, magazine making. Well you know, digital world I’m not as familiar with but really helping our young ones with literacy and understanding journalism at black colleges. My own program that would travel but the village is on fire. I had no idea that the crisis among our young is as deep as it is. You know writing about it, sending journalists to report on it and really waking up and going into schools where kids literally are coming to school hungry and high and having slept in cars and shelters. We can, we’re gonna do better than this. I don’t have any depression around, I have confidence around.
Martin: Probably there are a lot of us obviously who grew up with parents who understand that those are the original role models but the reality is not everybody has a stable home with the mother and the father raising them.
Smith: I think the important part is we have to realize it’s a community that’s important. I just remember growing up how everyone I met and I knew and got introduced to who was framed in regarding their role in the community. If they were part of the Boy Scouts, if they actually, you know, were part of head-start in our neighborhood, that’s how my parents introduced them. And so I realized it was important to be part of the community. Not everybody had two parents in their home. Not all but or not every parent got to come home and take care of the kids, but people in the community made sure they had a place to come after school, made sure that they studied, made sure they worked with each other and I just remember that as being a fabric of how I grew up. So as Susan started talking about the ways we need to really heal our community, those are the things I thought about and how do we ensure that that happens in every community that we touch. So I’m just happy to be a part and do my part wherever I can.
Martin: Susan, it’s not just the young folks with mentors you also have his parent’s university. I played the golf tournament that was in Atlanta we raise money for that and I mean and that’s something that people don’t think about that there are parents who were not raised to understand how to raise a kid. They need help, they need to be educated in doing stuff.
Taylor: You know, I mean when you said yes to that you changed their life. And people don’t understand that there are parents none of us really knew how to raise a child. Now I know how to be a mother now that I’m a grandmother and I’m really practicing you know royally I think I’m doing a good job. But what I’m so proud of is that the solicitors general right from the cab and also one of the other counties in in Georgia they are referring their their their clients to us rather than incarcerating them. You know people who created low-level crimes but now first of all we had a hard time recruiting parents at the University for parents now they don’t want to leave. Which you gotta get out the…
Martin: It’s called graduation, y’all gotta go.
Taylor: You gotta go we have more people who need to take these seats but it’s really working beautifully and thank you for your support.
Martin: Always, always. The last question for you Robert so it was always interesting I do panels all the time people in social media and they always talk about man if if I were celebrities and entertainers and sports people was give give give but I used Bernie Sanders as an example. This is somebody who’s running whose average the nation’s $19. If you look at St. Jude, I’m one of the national ambassadors, they raised eight hundred, they have to raise $800 million a year but the average gift is around twenty bucks. And so so what do you say to the person who’s saying oh he’s got enough without realizing that no no no your five, your ten, your twenty, actually also makes a difference in the kid’s life.
Smith: It all matters I saw my mother write a $25 check to the United Negro College Fund every month as I grew up and she did it for over 50 years. She realized and even though I had some wants in my life. She said we have some needs in our community.
Smith: No question about it. And look she was a schoolteacher, my parents were school teachers, we had, we didn’t have a lot of money and frankly I wore my my brothers hand-me-downs until I was 14 years old watching her write those checks. But she told me how important it was to be a part of your community and give to your community in ways that mattered and in her mind education, which I believe as well, is one of the principal ways that we have to do it. So five dollars matters, 25 dollars, 35 million, I mean whatever it takes to actually help and uplift our communities is what each of us should do. Everybody’s got to do their part.
Martin: All right Susan, before we go you make your money appeal.
Taylor: My money appeal?
Martin: You, you got to raise the money.
Taylor: My [Indiscernible] were your heart first because if you open your heart to children whom society has written off, you will help us write them in with a check.
Martin: There you go and we can we also auction this suit — we can raise some money too. And so I appreciate it Susan. Robert thanks so much for it, I appreciate it baby. I appreciate it.