Sarah Grady Ackerman interviews award-winning journalist Carmen Cummings on her battle with low self esteem.
Carmen: When I say I am a straight country girl, I really am. I grew up in a small community about 25 minutes southeast of here called Wacissa, Florida.
Sarah: Wacissa rests in Jefferson County. In the 2000 census its population was 380. As a child, Carmen admits she was horribly embarrassed to say where she was from – something she tried to shake when moving to the big city of Tallahassee, and attending Florida A & M University.
Carmen: I remember having a kid tell me, a football player, that because I was from Wacissa, that I was never going to be anything. And as I went on to Civics class, and I walked through this crowd of kids, they were laughing, and it just made me feel bad. You know, I learned early that words hurt.
Sarah: Yet Carmen vowed that day she would no longer listen to what the world had to say. Instead she recited this scripture from Matthew.
Carmen: The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
Sarah: After FAMU she took on a minor behind-the-scenes job with the number one television station in Tallahassee (WCTV). She was content and proud of herself. But just like in the movies, or shall we say miraculously, Carmen was thrust into the anchor seat one night unexpectedly by her news director. The little girl from Wacissa stayed there for nearly two decades.
Carmen: I call that favor and grace, because He looks beyond what we need and beyond the faults and sees the future. And so He, obviously, saw something that I never saw.
Sarah: But then Carmen had to deal with a new battle of self esteem involving racism.
Carmen: At the time that I started anchoring there were no other prime time female women of color on the news desk.
Sarah: To this day she remembers the phone calls from viewers unwilling to accept her. Not to mention Carmen was constantly self conscious about her pronunciation, being from a rural town, and with little experience as a broadcaster.
Carmen: There are many nights that I would get off the set and I’d go straight to the bathroom and I’d boo-hoo - “I didn’t do this right. Why am I doing this? God I don’t want to do this. Please, just let me go back to being a reporter.”
Sarah: It took a lot of prayer, but Carmen says she finally realized God thought she was perfect for the job, and would serve as a light.
Carmen: He put me there to witness to different people and to help people, which I’ve tried to do.
Sarah: Now with more journalist awards than space on her walls, interviewing famous faces from Jerry Rice to Hillary Clinton, and changing lives for the better across our region, Carmen Cummings says “Father knows best.”
Carmen: All of those hurdles in life – I wouldn’t change it. I’m glad I didn’t have the silver spoon. I’m glad that I came through the backdoor. I just wouldn’t change a thing, because now I have something to share with other young people who are genuine in their mission to try and make a difference.