With the current state of America, it can be challenging to be Black in this country and watch a news program without feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and disheartened. The adversities and struggles our community faces have become the number one national news story, day after day. If just hearing about it can be difficult, imagine how the Black news anchors and journalists delivering that news must feel. It’s their job to give you the facts and ask uncomfortable questions—even when the struggles of their own communities are the very headlines they’re covering.
How do they cope and find their own peace amid ongoing turmoil in the news cycle?
“I belong to the Lord,” says FOX news anchor Harris Faulkner, who is currently the only Black woman to helm a daytime cable weekday news program—and anchors two daily daytime programs, Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner and Outnumbered. “And when it gets really tough, I hit my knees.”
Faulkner, 54, is a married mom of two daughters who has had to lean heavily on her family and her faith to remain committed to her work as both a journalist and a Black woman in power. Her work most recently led her to a widely covered one-on-one televised interview with President Donald Trump, following his very controversial comments about looting that were directed toward Black Lives Matter protestors across the nation. Faulkner says she feels empowered by her female-led Outnumbered Overtime team, and she’s excited to keep bringing necessary conversations to the forefront.
As she prepares to debut her one-hour primetime special, entitled Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight For America, on Sunday, July 19th, at 10 PM EST, Faulkner sat down with ESSENCE to discuss how she navigates balancing life at the news desk with real-life issues that hit close to home.
ESSENCE: You’re helping to lead important conversations right now. Do you feel successful?
Faulkner: I do feel successful. You know, I grew up military, and my dad was a combat pilot—a couple of tours, and two tours in Vietnam. My mother was an officer’s wife and a therapist and a school teacher for a little while as well, for some years. Success in my family always meant that you were ready for your next assignment. And through your faith, you knew that there was one coming. I feel successful. I feel like I’m ready for that next assignment. And I can’t always forecast exactly what that will be, when it will be, what it will look like. I’m meeting measurements of success, like ratings accolades and that sort of thing, but the true success is how we feel in those moments. And I feel prepared. And right now is a tough moment in our existence as the human race. But this isn’t easy for anybody.
How do you take care of yourself and manage the emotions surrounding covering a frightening global pandemic in such a major way?
Faulkner: Well, the good Lord has so blessed me with a partner in life who is my best friend, Tony. And we have two daughters, my 13-year-old Bella, and my now 11-year-old Danika—she just turned 11 a week ago. And we are in quarantine together…. I remember one day right before the show, I’d done my usual hours-long morning prep. And I had taken in so much of that hurt, that material about the death counts. You remember in New York, I mean, there were a thousand—oh my God. People dying in numbers…who would ever think it. They sounded like they’ve gotta be national numbers, not just for one state. And particularly for one or two areas in one state. And I turned up on my commute—my commute is two doors and stairs. So I do my commute in my army-print camo fuzzy slippers. And I turned around on my commute and I went back upstairs, and I knocked on both doors. And I said, “Does anybody have time in their school day to give mommy a hug?” And they both opened their doors. And that moment crystallized for me where we are and that I’m in it the same as everybody else. And at that moment, I needed love. And I thought about people who are quarantining who don’t have anybody.
How does it feel to be a Black woman, at this time, at the anchor desk at the helm of a major news network—during a time when you’re actually talking about things you’ve always cared about as a Black women that are only now sort of front and center?
Faulkner: You know, people will ask, “Well, do you believe in BLM?” And I’m like, “Well, what do you mean by that? Are you trying to ask me if Black lives matter? You realize I’m Black, right?” Of course, my own life matters. Like, what are you asking me? But at the same time, I do an unscripted show every day at noon, and my show is chock full of newsmakers—and I want to be that place, and that person, where you bring everything. So I’m approaching it differently. And it is kind of like an on-air self-care session. Because here’s how I’m handling it: I’m gonna ask and come with every crayon and paint in my toolkit, just like everybody else…. I’m asking a whole lot of questions I don’t know the answers to right now. I’m breaking every rule—I mean, a sit-down with the President, I don’t know what his answer are going to be, but I’m asking what I think are the important, urgent questions of the moment. If you get honest answers back, that is in a way self-care. ‘Cause look, I don’t have to grade the answers, this isn’t school. It’s not my job to tell people how to feel, and to legislate what they do and and how they answer a question. It’s my job to be prepared with a follow-up, if I’m listening carefully enough, and to have done my homework. But what I realize now is, I gotta find my own journey when I try to get answers from people who I know are in positions of influence. And that’s a whole different level than what I used to do. And that’s why I ask for the extra eucalyptus in my facial!
If you could give one piece of advice to women about really pouring into themselves, while we have a little bit more time to do it than we’re used to, what would you tell them to do?
Faulkner: I wonder if we do enough dreaming. We are such incredible mask-wearers when it comes to keeping all the balls in the air and keeping that smile on our face, and I know our mask has a different meaning these days….
But I do think that we do a lot of masking of our feelings about things, because we are so great at multitasking. And purposeful in our steps and keeping everything all together. And we are the artists. It’s our super power to keep stuff from hitting the floor. We keep all the balls in the air…. You know, what we don’t do enough of is dreaming. And I don’t mean when you’re asleep. I mean the important time when you’re awake and you can take notes on what bubbles up. I journal every day, and I’ve had a lot of dreams come true, and I’ve had my heart broken many times too. It’s an indication that there’s more to come. And I encourage women in this time to journal, to rediscover what makes them open up and say yes to the world. Yes!