Salt & Light: An Interview with Tracey Baker-Simmons

 

Salt. Light.

These two words strung together carry meaning to Christ-followers that they do not for anyone else. Matthew 5 behooves us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These verses provoke us to preserve and to shine. It is the contrast that magnifies the value of these elements. It is only set against the pitch of a night sky that stars shine brightest, but we often hesitate to venture into the dark.

Some would say one of the darkest vistas in culture is the entertainment industry. Nearly void of light. Nearly Godless. A place where many things go, anything goes, and the apparent “absolutes” of Christianity may not be welcome. Faith is often whispered, rarely shouted. I deeply admire believers in this field, especially those who are bold about their faith. Tracey Baker-Simmons is one of these.

Right off the bat, you may not recognize the name, but she is a pioneer of reality television. If you’ve ever watched an episode of BEING BOBBY BROWN or heard any of the catch phrases that emerged from that heaping slice of American pop culture, you have encountered her creativity and innovation. And if you meet Tracey, you will encounter her faith.

Tina Dula: You are in a field that is widely unchurched and irreligious. What are the tensions of creating in your field, and living as a believer?

Tracey Baker-Simmons: On the creative side of things – everyone has their own idea of the type of content a “Christian” person should create. Christians and non-believers both judge you from what they perceive as the biblically correct thing to do. I don’t really box myself in in that manner. I believe I am blessed to be creative and whatever ideas I have I should pursue. I know that God can use or cause all things to work for the good. I have my own personal perspective on certain topics, and as I get older and grow spiritually, my approach changes and I try to be more conscious of the message the content I create will deliver to the audience. Often times, when you state you are a Christian, people think you should or only want to do “faith-based” content. Unfortunately, that is not my niche. I started my career in the music industry, and I love pop culture. In our industry Christians are often referred to as “Jesus freaks” and it is not really looked upon as a plus. In this world of entertainment where lying, cheating and all other levels of deception are the norm, most Christians potentially keep quiet about their beliefs until they have reached a certain level of success and feel that individuals will no longer judge them. Typically no one wants to be in the room with a “goody two shoes”, and to be honest there is also an inherent fear that if I say I’m a Christian and then I happen to do something un-Christ-like or make a mistake, then I’m judged even more harshly and I’ve then shamed myself and my faith.

Tina Dula: Do you see what you do as a calling? If so, how so?

Tracey Baker-Simmons: Thanks to my life coach and purely just seeking God, I recently have become aware of what I believe is my purpose or why I continue to long to remain a leader in the entertainment industry. For me, I believe my purpose is to be more aware and encourage others in control to do the same. Media can no longer continue to ignore the effect of media on culture. I don’t think this requires us to be more preachy or less entertaining. I think first we need people to become aware of the effect, and then work towards being more aware of how it affects others.

Tina Dula: Tell us about a time when the way you live your life demonstrated God’s greatness to those watching in your field.

Tracey Baker-Simmons: I would say the most recent was three years ago when my husband and I decided to move to NY. Neither of us had jobs or the financial means to make the move, but we stood on our faith that this was where we needed to be and God showed up for us with a nice place, jobs and the resources to get my son through college. Honestly, the people who hired me saw enormous growth in their business and often times during the most stressful business issues or situations, I would just say, “I’m going to pray.” They watched God’s hand work. One time one of the owners texted me and said “Your prayers work.” That was one of the greatest compliments those people ever gave me. Essentially my God works things out!!

Tina Dula: What do you consider or how do you define success? Personally, spiritually, career – whatever.

Tracey Baker-Simmons: For me it’s the ability to work and grow and strive in an area where your heart is filled. My heart’s desire is to produce for film and television, creating as well as nurturing and developing other creative talent and having the opportunity to continue to pursue that dream and live is success for me. Personal success comes in much the same form for me. Just watching my son and my husband live happily and believing and pushing their dreams means I am being successful as a wife and mother. I am a nurturer, so as I am able to encourage my fiends and other family to pursue their life’s passion, I feel encouraged and successful personally as well.

I define spiritual success as the growth and insight that I gain as I become more connected to God. I honestly rely on the acknowledgment of this from my friends whom I respect spiritually.

Tina Dula: What advice would you offer to a young believer interested in a career in entertainment?

Tracey Baker-Simmons: Have a prayer team! You need folks who are praying for you and keeping you covered.  You’ll often get caught up in the trenches, and that is when the covering is most needed. The industry needs believers. The key is to allow God to determine how he will use you. Don’t let others dictate your role in the industry. Know and trust that God will guide you. He has a place for you, and it doesn’t just have to be faith-based content. God needs soldiers everywhere.

Tracey_Cropped Headshot

Tracey Baker-Simmons is a Christian, Wife, Mother, Visionary, Executive Producer, Boss, Lecturer. Nurturer, Teacher. Professor, Leader, and Giver. She works as a development executive in television and resides in North Bergen, NJ with her husband Karriem and her son Jacob (when he is not away at college). She loves GOD above ALL!! Follow her on Twitter @tbakersimmons.

 

 

Just Pray

I once sat in the kitchen of my aunt’s house feeling spiritually broken. She looked into my eyes and said “Baby, what are you worrying about? Don’t you know we serve a God that specializes in Great Outcomes? Just pray about it.”

Now as I stand with my dyslexic son Jacob, at the threshold of a bachelor’s degree in Entertainment Business obtained in three years of college, I am overwhelmed and reminded that “Our God specializes in great outcomes. All I got to do is pray.”

Jacob was diagnosed with dyslexia very early in life. By the time he reached the first grade, everyone knew he had an issue, and it wasn’t just writing his letters backwards. He had an auditory processing issue, which means he could not hear phonetic sounds. (I’m was thinking how is this child ever going to learn how to read and write)  They also determined he had attention deficit disorder. When all of these diagnoses were handed to us, private school was not an option. As a matter of fact, this all took place while we were living in the valley in sunny California, and I was in the process of unraveling my business relationship with my “friends” and looking for work. His nice little public school decided they did not have time to show Jacob or me any mercy. They wanted an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and demanded that he be placed on Ritalin. My sister, who lived near us at the time, was furious and stated she was praying against the diagnosis and would not speak to me if I agreed to place him on the medication.

I informed the school that I would not be placing Jacob on the medication. When the principal asked what was I planning to do then.

“I’m going to pray,” I said.

“I am an atheist,” he said, chuckling. “And I definitely know that won’t work.”

I thought “that’s what’s wrong at this school, the head is all screwed up.”

However, I began to pray and to ask my family to pray, as well. Over the next few weeks, the principal and the administration decided that Jacob should be placed in a school for behavior issues. I insisted that his behavior or disturbance problems were because of the dyslexia and not because he was ADHD. One of my sister’s friends said she had been through a similar situation and to just remain in prayer and trust God. The principal kept probing me and stated that they were almost done with the paperwork. Jacob would be receiving the transfer soon. He also said he would give me one more chance to reconsider giving him the medication as he felt that I didn’t realize how severe the issues were with the kids at the behavior school. I concluded that I would just remain in prayer and if he had to go there, then God would cover him. I believed that God would cover him but I was scared.

During this time, I had noticed this other school – Chandler Elementary. It wasn’t far from our house and the kids seemed happy there. Every time I drove past, I felt this sense of peace. So one evening I just prayed in the car under my breath, nothing serious “God I want that type of environment for Jacob.” I didn’t think much more about it as we waited to hear about the transfer date to the behavior school.

We waited about 2-3 weeks, and then finally the principal sent a note home with Jacob that he wanted to meet with me the next day to discuss Jacob’s transfer. I dropped Jacob off the next morning and headed to the principal’s office to receive the news and transfer dates. He asked that I sit.

“I really was set on transferring your son to the behavior school,” he said. “But my spirit wouldn’t let me rest with my decision. I have to be honest. Jacob doesn’t really deserve to go there.”

He went on to say Jacob was severely dyslexic and needed to be at a school that can help him function properly. Then he said Jacob would be transferred to Chandler Elementary, a very nice school with an amazing program for kids with learning disabilities.

I began to cry and thank him because whether he knew it or believed it, the Holy Spirit had moved him to do what was just and fair by my child. Jacob was transferred and he loved his new peaceful, amazing school and it was on my way to work and on my way home so no one was inconvenienced.

Also, a few weeks after he left, all the kids from his old class, the ones who had been annoyed and disturbed by him and his behavior, wrote him letters about how much they missed him. I keep those letters in a shoebox for Jacob as a reminder of God’s favor and how he can change the heart of man. I could go on and on about God’s favor in Jacob’s life. How when we moved back to Atlanta, God moved the judge to rule on our behalf and make his Dad pay for Jacob to attend this program providing him with all the tools he needed to succeed in school and provide him with his core phonetic principles. In middle school, Jacob was blessed with a counselor that wrote a grant for him to receive hundreds of dollars worth of software so he could write term papers and do other grammar properly and remain on grade level.

And so the story goes – Jacob passed the dreaded state of Georgia senior test on his second try, he graduated and was accepted into Full Sail University, not a traditional school but an accredited and industry respected institution that has been very supportive of Jacob and his dyslexia. In October of this year he will graduate with a bachelors degree obtained in exactly three years of college. I have been praying for that boy all his life, and when things get tough or I get scared, I only a pray a little prayer. Sometimes it’s our “little prayers” that pack a big punch and yield some of our greatest outcomes.

 

Tracey_Cropped Headshot

Tracey Baker-Simmons is a Christian, Wife, Mother, Visionary, Executive Producer, Boss, Lecturer. Nurturer, Teacher. Professor, Leader, and Giver. She works as a development executive in television and resides in North Bergen, NJ with her husband Karriem and her son Jacob (when he is not away at college). She loves GOD above ALL!! Follow her on Twitter @tbakersimmons.

 

Watch What You Say

Growing up I talked a lot. As a matter of fact according to my husband I am still a big talker. My grandmother used to call me a little parrot. I have also always had big dreams and big ideas. It’s funny how early on as an adult, God allowed me to experience the joy of speaking a lot of amazing things for my life into existence. However during that time, I thought it was all about me and that I held all the power. I felt brave. Then in my early 30’s my world begin to come apart and I suffered some big losses. Although in the natural I lost a lot, in the spirit realm I finally began the journey of my true personal relationship with God. During that transition, I begin to realize that in the past the things that were happening in my life were not just the result of my big vision or my big mouth.  I realized it was God and my faith. I quickly reckoned with the fact that he was the the one who brought these things  in my life into existence. He also, being true to his Word, allowed my words to yield negative results as well. However, in as much as I was calling in all the favor and all the riches I could hold, I didn’t know the words or the prayers needed to hold on to it. Nor was I aware that if I spoke fear and doubt then it yielded a negative return. You see you need to do a little more than call in the blessings. I learned the hard way that I needed to speak preparation and a covering for the blessings. If you only speak “I am driving a new car” then that’s what you get. You have to complete the sentence. You need to request the preparation to receive the blessing, for example a garage. Then the provision to maintain the blessing, for example money for insurance, maintenance and in this economy, gas.

With age comes wisdom, and now I am also aware that this level of faith carries a responsibility. I am aware that God blesses us to be a blessing to others. (He covers more territory that way) Therefore I am more mature and careful to speak words of life and blessing for a multitude of people and not just myself.  I am not only speaking and praying for a great things to happen in my life, but I am careful to also ask for the wisdom and the knowledge to know what to do with these riches. I am also speaking good health and happiness in my life and the life of others. The bible states that life and death lies in the tongue. God has given us the power to use our mouths to shape our world. I am still a big talker and my dreams are expansive, but I am more careful and thoughtful with my words and the power that lies within them. I have now grown to acknowledge and speak “All God’s Best” for not only myself, but for everyone around me. Most important, I have learned to “watch what I say.”

Tracey_Cropped Headshot

Tracey Baker-Simmons is a Christian, Wife, Mother, Visionary, Executive Producer, Boss, Lecturer. Nurturer, Teacher. Professor, Leader, and Giver. She works as a development executive in television and resides in North Bergen, NJ with her husband Karriem and her son Jacob (when he is not away at college). She loves GOD above ALL!!