Dr. Chris Jones, the 2022 Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas, is a physicist, minister, educator, non-profit executive leader, father and husband. Chris, a Pine Bluff, Arkansas native, is a son of two preachers and was raised with a strong sense of faith. He attended Morehouse College on a NASA Scholarship for physics and math, then went on to study at MIT becoming a nuclear engineer and earning a Ph.D. in urban planning.
After becoming ordained as a minister, Chris returned home to Arkansas and led the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Through this work, he has seen firsthand how disparities within Arkansas have gotten worse, not better. He believes there is much room for growth, including improving public education opportunities in every community, strengthening infrastructure from roads to broadband access, protecting and securing our right to vote, and bridging the rural and urban divide. Chris has faith in Arkansas’s potential, and he is running for governor to ensure every person in Arkansas has an opportunity to succeed.
hris is the proud husband to Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, an emergency medicine physician and U.S. Air Force combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. Together, they are proud parents to three daughters.
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[00:00:09] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, often funny, and always informative weekly blog. There, you’ll read, learn, and make comments about her life as a 21st century wife, mother, daughter and entrepreneur. Now, it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:33] KM: Thank you, Gray. You name it, and my guest today can claim it. Dr. Chris Jones, current Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas is a nuclear physicist, doctor with a PhD in Urban Planning, father of three, entrepreneur, ordained minister, and husband to an Air Force combat veteran Dr. Jerrilyn Jones. But one thing he is not, is a politician.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, raised by schoolteacher, this young man dreamed of being an astronaut. As luck would have it, deafness in one year would keep him from that part of his dream, but not all of it. On a NASA scholarship, young Chris went to Morehouse College for science and math, MIT for a Master's in Nuclear Engineering, another Master's in Technology and Policy, and last a PhD in Urban Planning.
Dr. Jones has returned home to raise his family and get back to his home state of Arkansas. It was 2018 when he became the Executive Director of the Arkansas regional Innovation Hub, a division of Winrock, whose mission is to build businesses and create jobs while protecting the environment. Chris calls the Innovation Hub’s Arkansas clients, makers, artists and entrepreneurs. And on top of it all, like the brilliant past Governor Bill Clinton, Dr. Jones is both super smart, and a great communicator as you will hear today. It is my great pleasure to welcome to the table, the well-rounded, smart, personable and ambitious candidate for governor of Arkansas, Dr. Chris Jones.
[00:02:12] CJ: Hey, hey, how's it going?
[00:02:14] KM: It's good.
[00:02:15] CJ: So good to be here.
[00:02:15] KM: Thank you. All right, the first and most obvious question.
[00:02:18] CJ: Oh-oh, obvious question.
[00:02:21] KM: Why in the world, with all that education, would you want to go to be a governor, when in the private sector you could make more money, work less hard? Why? How did that come to be? Did somebody come to you and just yank your chain or I mean, what happened?
[00:02:40] CJ: Well, look, first off, thank you for having me.
[00:02:42] KM: You’re welcome.
[00:02:43] CJ: It's great to be a part of this conversation. And I'll say Arkansas is worth at the end of the day, Arkansas is worth it. I'm a seventh generation Arkansan. So, when I think about my life's journey, none of it would have been possible without Arkansas. So, I want to give back to the place that gave so much to me. And really, it was a chance encounter that planted the seed, for me even being here today and doing this. And that was my dad brought me from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He sold insurance. And he would often ride me around with him when he was out. We were in a, I think a Volkswagen Beetle that had a hole in the bottom, because you know –
[00:03:25] KM: Why did they have those – they all did. My boyfriends had holes in the bottom. Okay, go ahead.
[00:03:31] CJ: Yeah. So, it's pretty common. And we got to the mall, up here and bumped into none other than then Governor Bill Clinton. I was fascinated by that encounter, because he listened, he cared, and he was engaging. So, after I asked my dad, I said, “Well, Dad, what does he do?” My dad said, “He's the governor.” I said, “Well, what's the governor do?” And he said, “Go look it up.” Because back then we didn't have Google, we didn't have cell phones. So, we had to go home to the Encyclopedia Britannica. And when I pulled out G, I found out that a governor could solve problems, and can make a difference in people's lives. So, it was really about the public service aspect. And then at eight I said, I want to come back one day and serve my state.
[00:04:15] KM: How old were you?
[00:04:15] CJ: I was eight years old.
[00:04:17] KM: Have you met Bill Clinton and told him that?
[00:04:18] CJ: I have?
[00:04:19] KM: What did he say?
[00:04:21] CJ: Well, he was almost in tears.
[00:04:23] KM: Yeah, that's so him.
[00:04:24] CJ: Yeah, he was, and the conversation was really about how we make Arkansas better. So, it's important to be mindful of the encounters we have with people because they can literally shape the trajectory of other folks’ lives.
[00:04:40] KM: That's why teachers are important.
[00:04:41] CJ: Teachers are critical. And my mom's a lifelong educator. Everyone, who made the most impact on your life, none of that tend to say teacher.
[00:04:51] KM: Or your parents.
[00:04:52] CJ: Or your parents.
[00:04:54] KM: As a young boy, growing up in Pine Bluff, you want to be an astronaut. Tell us about that dream.
[00:04:59] CJ: Well, I loved science. I loved exploring. I love looking at space. Because we lived out where you could see the stars. And also, when I was eight, something interesting happened that year. That was the year of the Challenger accident. That was a year when everyone was paying attention, because Christa McAuliffe was going to be the teacher in space. And so, there was whole curriculum around science and NASA and space. And between Christa McAuliffe, and Ronald McNair. So, Ronald McNair, African American male, so I saw someone who looked like me.
[00:05:39] KM: And he was going on the shuttle.
[00:05:42] CJ: He was on the shuttle. He's a North Carolina A&T graduate, and he went to MIT. So, studying that, and learning that, when I saw it had that experience and saw the explosion, it made me feel like I wanted to be a part of making it right and going again,
[00:06:01] KM: It seems like it would make you scared.
[00:06:02] CJ: It seemed like it would, but it didn't. It inspired me to say how do we fix it? How do we solve the problem and how do we continue to explore?
[00:06:09] KM: So, your brain at eight years old, that was a big year for you. Eight, you met Bill Clinton. Eight you saw the space shuttle Challenger blow up. It was a big year. So, what's your father do?
[00:06:19] CJ: My father, he worked on Cotton Belt for a while, but then he sold insurance for most of my life and he's a pastor.
[00:06:26] KM: And your grandfather.
[00:06:28] CJ: My grandfather. So, my family has been in Arkansas for over 200 years. And my mother's father, who's from the Stephens area, Jessie Tarts, and he had a third-grade education and he drove a truck. He was a truck driver all my life. He'd actually, when he was putting steel on the truck, the truck fell and cut off two of his fingers. So, he was a strong man and was a quiet man. But he also had a big impact on my life. Because he's the one that told me when I was sitting in his truck bed, he said, “Big man, get an education. Because when you get it in your head, no one can take it out.” This man had a third-grade education.
[00:07:07] GM: And a lot of wisdom for –
[00:07:08] CJ: A lot of wisdom. Interestingly, he and his brothers, he had one sister, Darlene Torrance. He and his brothers all sacrificed their education to make sure she could go to school. And she was one of the first African American graduates of University Arkansas after she went to Philander.
[00:07:27] KM: Lovely.
[00:07:28] CJ: Yeah, they made the sacrifice, and he was saying, education is worth it.
[00:07:35] KM: And she's a woman that gave the sacrifice to a woman, which is even more interesting.
[00:07:38] CJ: There is it. Exactly.
[00:07:40] KM: She must have felt like she was the most bookish of all of them.
[00:07:44] CJ: That was part of it. But they also took care of her, and she was an educator herself.
[00:07:50] KM: She became a teacher.
[00:07:52] CJ: She became a teacher.
[00:07:52] KM: You’ve got lot of teachers in your family.
[00:07:54] CJ: Lot of teachers.
[00:07:55] KM: So, your family can be traced back to 1819.
[00:07:59] CJ: Yeah. Before at 1819.
[00:08:01] KM: All in Arkansas?
[00:08:02] CJ: All in Arkansas.
[00:08:03] KM: Cotton picking?
[00:08:04] CJ: Well, they were slaves. I actually carry around sometimes a few things in my pocket. One of them is a copy of the census record from pre-1960s, and it's just an age and a dash. So, I trace my family back to the foster plantation.
[00:08:19] KM: Where was that one?
[00:08:21] CJ: In south Arkansas, Washington County.
[00:08:22] KM: You're lucky you can trace it back that far.
[00:08:24] CJ: I’m very –
[00:08:25] KM: I watch Finding Your Roots, and they can't find a lot of African American history.
[00:08:31] CJ: Interestingly, one branch of my family actually traces back to be a Wims that are from Ireland.
[00:08:39] KM: Fun. Is that Black Irish? Does that make you Black Irish?
[00:08:42] CJ: That makes me Black Irish.
[00:08:44] KM: That’s cool.
[00:08:44] CJ: Yeah, so Lady Oakwyn was my sixth great grandmother, who was living in a house and you look at the census records, and you see where her father was born. Her father was born in Ireland.
[00:08:57] KM: Do you know how they got to the United States?
[00:09:00] CJ: I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure it out. So, if someone listening knows, let me know.
[00:09:05] KM: There you go. So, how does the boy from Pine Bluff on food stamps. We didn’t mention that, end up at MIT and you call it an X factor? What is the X factor that got you? Is it because you’re – a lot of times, when I interviewed people that do really well in education and go far to get a lot of degrees, it's because their mother was a school teacher. A lot of times I've seen that. So, what is your X factor? How did you end up with a NASA scholarship and at Morehead College for math and science?
[00:09:34] CJ: Yeah. I think it's a few things that make up that X factor. One of it is just God. God gave me the resources, gave me the opportunity, and put me in places that I really, statistically should not have been. So, in other words, though, I grew up in Pine Bluff. You look at the statistics of Pine Bluff and you think it's nothing, it's devastation, it's poverty, it's crime. And yet I was able to do research at the National Center for Toxicological Research. I was able to do research in high school at UAPB University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
So, those experiences exposed me to so many things. I think that's the second part of the X factor exposure, being exposed at an early age to the range of possibilities made a huge difference. The third part of the X factor is being surrounded by folks who believed in me, not because of what I did, but because of who I am. And that was a community that was surrounding me. And then lastly, knowing that I had to work hard, because if I didn't work hard, then somewhat others will be depending upon the outcome.
[00:10:49] KM: Oh, guilt.
[00:10:50] CJ: A little bit.
[00:10:52] KM: That was my motivator. I didn't want my mother to have to buy anything from me because I knew she would have to do without.
[00:10:57] CJ: Exactly. And they would quickly do without.
[00:11:00] KM: Oh, absolutely. Mother would not get a new coat so that I can have a new coat.
[00:11:03] CJ: So, you work hard. You want to carry your weight.
[00:11:07] KM: You want to carry your weight.
[00:11:08] CJ: You want to carry your weight.
[00:11:09] KM: I don't know how you instill that in people, though. I don't know how come I had that. I mean, I don't know what – I don't know. So, you're an ordained minister and your father was a minister?
[00:11:19] CJ: My father was a minister and my mother's a minister.
[00:11:20] KM: Wait, teachers, ministers. Okay. Tell us what denomination?
[00:11:27] CJ: Well, we grew up Missionary Baptist. So, I went to Barraque St. Missionary Baptist Church going up. But we also went to Pentecostal churches, we went to AME churches. So, we had the full range. And what I learned through that experience, is that it's really about where you’re getting the real teaching of the Word of God, it didn’t matter what denomination it is. But when you study, and you explore, and you listen, and you unpack, does it align with the Word of God? If it does, then I don't care what denomination it is.
[00:11:59] KM: What is the Word of God? What is it?
[00:12:04] CJ: It's a lifestyle. We live it out. We should, we should live it out. So, when I go out now, one of the things I say is that, because I believe this, the second most important commandment in the Bible that I read, is love thy neighbor as thyself. So, I don't need to know you to love you. It doesn't say love your neighbor, if you know them, if you have a relationship with them.
[00:12:26] KM: If you agree with them.
[00:12:27] CJ: If you agree with them. So, whatever party you're in, whatever your background, whatever, you're my neighbor, and I love you. Now, love is an action word. So, I have to show that I love you, and love is not a soft thing. It doesn't mean you get to run over me. But it does mean that I'm showing up for you in your time of need and I'm being there with you on the journey.
[00:12:51] KM: So, how do you align science and religion? That's the one.
[00:12:55] CJ: Yeah. You saw my launch video, my announcement video where I talked about this idea that there isn't a conflict between the two, because they're two different things. Religion and my faith, tell me why. My science tells me how. It’s two different things. Religion is about the existential question, and the science is unpacking that existential question.
[00:13:26] KM: How did you meet your wife? Dr. Jerrilyn Jones. My God, this woman is a rock star. She's an ER doctor. What hospital?
[00:13:34] CJ: UAMS.
[00:13:36] KM: She was an ER doctor on the front lines in Afghanistan.
[00:13:38] CJ: On the front lines.
[00:13:40] KM: Tell us how you met her. Tell us a little bit about her.
[00:13:43] CJ: So, she is amazing. So not only is she beautiful, she's brilliant, she's funny. In December, we will be married 20 years.
[00:13:55] KM: Really?
[00:13:55] CJ: Yeah. So, she's been my partner for that whole time. We met in church. We were both in Boston. I was there for grad school, and she was there for medical school. And we were – so the thing is, physicians tend to get up early. Engineers tend to stay up late and get up late.
[00:14:18] KM: Really?
[00:14:19] CJ: Yeah. So, engineers work through the night. Physicians are up early and on it. So, she and her friends were coming from early service at church, the 8 AM service. And me and my engineer friends were coming to the second service like the 11am service and we passed each other. It was a crowd, we bumped into each other and we got to know. And then two weeks later, we saw each other in an event and we just locked in and fell in love and talk to like 4 AM that morning.
So, my wife, Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, not only is she an ER doc, she's also the State Medical Director for disaster preparedness.
[00:14:52] KM: Really?
[00:14:53] CJ: So, she was helping lead us through COVID, while she was also working nights in the hospital. For about two weeks straight, she worked seven days a week nonstop. Because she's committed, because she cares, and because she wants to use all of her gifts to serve others. She also teaches exercise class.
[00:15:13] GM: What a machine. I love her.
[00:15:17] CJ: I would never take her class, by the way. I would never take her class. It’s too hard.
[00:15:23] KM: I just thought you didn’t want her telling you what to do.
[00:15:25] CJ: Well, that too. But it’s too hard. So, she did serve in Afghanistan, and you'll find this interesting since Flag and Banner is your company. One of the most fascinating things I remember about her being over there, was that she took the time to take two flags and fly them, and she brought one back for my dad, and she brought one back for her dad. Her dad is also an Air Force veteran, but he didn't serve in combat. So, she served in combat and he didn't, and she brought – they have them displayed at the house.
[00:15:58] KM: Two flags that flew in Afghanistan. That's cool.
[00:16:01] CJ: She's a first responder as well. You heard of the Boston Marathon bombing? She was working at the finish line. We lived about a mile and a half away from it. So, I've heard the bomb go off and I saw it on TV and I immediately started calling her. It took an hour to get to her. And as soon as I got to her, I was like, “You need to come home right now. You need to come home.” She said, “Hold on. No, I don't. I’m exactly where I need to be and I need to get off this phone.”
[00:16:27] KM: Where is she from?
[00:16:28] CJ: She from she's from Alabama. Born and raised in Alabama. She wasn’t born there. She was raised, because her dad's military. She was raised in Montgomery, Alabama. She went to Howard in DC for undergrad in biology and then Harvard Med School.
[00:16:41] GM: That's awesome.
[00:16:42] KM: All right, it’s a great place to take a break. When we come back. We'll continue our conversation with Dr. Chris Jones, current candidate for Governor of Arkansas in the November 8 election. Still to come, how Dr. Jones, a rocket scientist with a PhD in Urban Planning will use his higher education to advance Arkansas on topics that we're all interested in like health care, which his wife can do. Education, which he grew up with a bunch of teachers in his family. Crime, I want to hear about that. Infrastructure. Well, that's what he's got a PhD. So, we'll be back to talk about the topics right after the break.
[00:17:14] ANNOUNCER: Want to hear some good news? Dancing into Dreamland is already scheduled for next year. Save this date, February 11, 2023. Festivities will start that Saturday night at seven o'clock. The dance competition will start at eight. There are already nine competitors signed up to vie for a cash prize. And audience members get to text in their favorite performers too for A People's Choice Award. It's our favorite annual event. Dancing into Dreamland at the Dreamland Ballroom at Flag and Banner downtown Little Rock already scheduled for February 11, 2023. Dreamlandballroom.org for information.
[00:17:49] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'm speaking today with Dr. Chris Jones, a boy from Pine Bluff that grew up to be a nuclear physicist, doctor of urban planning, minister, father, husband, and who is now running for the governorship of Arkansas in the upcoming election on November the 8th. Was there an event that made you think I need to move back? You're living in Boston, you've got a great life going on? How many girls do you have by now?
[00:18:13] CJ: Two. The third one, we had Maryland and then we came back here,
[00:18:18] KM: Was there something that happened that made you decide to move home to Arkansas?
[00:18:22] CJ: No. I've always wanted to come home. My pathway was to get my PhD, not what – originally, I wanted to go to Morehouse, go to MIT, become an astronaut and come back home.
[00:18:35] KM: You always knew.
[00:18:36] CJ: I always wanted to come back home. So, that was always a part of it. I couldn't become an astronaut because I can't hear it on my right ear, as you mentioned. The year after I graduated and walked across the stage with my PhD, I was back on the ground here. The thing about is I never left Arkansas. I visited three or four times a year, always. My girls came here in the summertime. So, it was going to get my education, but it was never leaving Arkansas. So, it wasn't a hard move back at all.
[00:19:07] KM: Is this true? Does Arkansas have a $1 billion surplus?
[00:19:14] CJ: That is not true. It's 1.6 billion.
[00:19:17] KM: Oh my gosh. I was shocked.
[00:19:20] CJ: 1.6 billion.
[00:19:22] KM: And we're fighting about –
[00:19:22] GM: How to use it.
[00:19:26] CJ: How to pay teachers.
[00:19:27] KM: How to pay teachers?
[00:19:28] CJ: We have teachers that are literally on food stamps.
[00:19:33] KM: Yes, your mother was a teacher on food stamps.
[00:19:37] CJ: So, what are we doing?
[00:19:37] KM: What are we doing? We just talked about how important teachers are.
[00:19:40] CJ: What are we doing? Infrastructure. Diamond City, Arkansas. I was speaking with the sheriff there and we were talking about their water and sewer system. It's three to five years away from failing. If that happens, it’s going to run off into the Arkansas River with a natural state. So, imagine if all of that ran off into the Arkansas River. It's not like we can't do the tough stuff. We can do the tough stuff. The question is, do we have the will to do the tough stuff? And do we have leaders who have the will to do the tough stuff and say, “No, this isn't about my title. This isn't about making a few people feel good. This is about how do we fix things for all of Arkansas.”
[00:20:17] KM: It seems to me that most politicians today are about publicity. What can I say to get me on the front page of the paper?
[00:20:25] CJ: The system is designed to incentivize certain things. Right? So, how do I keep the position by being on the front page? By being out there?
[00:20:39] KM: And you can't blame them, because humans vote on the person who has the biggest followers on – I mean, the social media thing. I mean, name recognition, it's all about that. Most people don't want to do the research, they just want to go, “Oh, I know that name.”
[00:20:53] CJ: What’s consistent, is that people are busy. They're busy trying to make sure their kids are safe, and okay. They're busy trying to make sure they keep a roof over their head. They're busy trying to get their car fixed, because they're driving over roads that are messing up their tires. And they're just busy with life and there's no space to do the kind of political research that we want them to do. Because their life cycle doesn't allow that. And historically, what they found is no matter how I vote, my road still didn't get paved. No matter how I vote, my school still gets closed. So, they aren't seeing changes, which means why would I invest in something that I'm not getting a return?
[00:21:41] KM: I think that is the deal. I ask people all the time, “Did you vote?” “No, it doesn't make a difference.”
[00:21:46] CJ: But it does.
[00:21:48] KM: It does make a difference.
[00:21:49] CJ: So, we're telling folks that and they're listening, and they're hearing it and they're waking up in places that they hadn't woken up before, and they're realizing that actually no, in this election, in this time, in this moment, my vote is my voice. And there's an opportunity to have a seat at the table to actually change things.
[00:22:06] KM: All right. There are lots of topics important to people, education, crime, equality, infrastructure, job, incarceration, health care, families, generational poverty, banking, housing, healthy living, policing, safety veterans. Which one you want to talk about?
[00:22:22] CJ: You pick. All of them are important.
[00:22:26] KM: So, we talked about your mother being an educator, and we think we should raise prices on that. We think they should. We got $1.6 billion surplus. Let’s raise –
[00:22:35] CJ: And we’re losing teachers, and we're not getting new teachers. At an increasing rate, our teacher workforce is decreasing. We’re losing them.
[00:22:45] KM: Your wife is a veteran and I watched something where you said that there is a surplus of federal money available to Arkansas. There are 200,000 veterans –
[00:22:58] CJ: There are 200,000 veterans and we want to serve 95,000 of them.
[00:23:01] KM: And there's federal money sitting in a coffer somewhere that we're not using –
[00:23:04] CJ: We’re not taking advantage of.
[00:23:06] KM: What?
[00:23:08] CJ: One of the challenges that we have, because I've sat with all of the department heads, and talked about – Arkansas doesn't have –it doesn't take much, but doesn't have enough staffing, to both pull down the federal resources and get it out to folks. I asked what would it take to serve all 200,000 Arkansans. 500,000, half a million dollars a year.
[00:23:31] KM: And we've got 1.6 billion.
[00:23:33] CJ: We’ve got 1.6 billion. Half a million dollars a year, and we could have the structure and infrastructure to meet the needs of all veterans in Arkansas. That’s an investment worth, and pull –
[00:23:46] KM: Pull the federal money down there. It doesn't come from taxpayers.
[00:23:48] CJ: Housing, for mental health, services, for educational services. These are things that we can do.
[00:23:55] KM: Why is that not being done? I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist, which you are to figure that out. Why is it not being done?
[00:24:02] CJ: You got to ask somebody else on that one.
[00:24:04] KM: How do you get that done? Does it have to go through legislature?
[00:24:07] CJ: Yeah, anything that's dealing with the purse strings has to go to legislature. So, who you elect as your state rep, as state senate, matters, a lot.
[00:24:16] KM: So, if you were governor, you would go in and say, “All right, guys, I want half a million dollars from the state” –
[00:24:22] CJ: To serve our veterans.
[00:24:25] KM: To serve our veterans.
[00:24:24] CJ: And their families.
[00:24:26] KM: And their families. And then, how would you train those people to get to ask for that money from the federal government?
[00:24:33] CJ: Well, so the structure is already there. They know what to do.
[00:24:36] KM: They do. They’re trained already.
[00:24:37] CJ: They just need additional – it does not scale. It doesn't take a lot of scaling. But for example, you run an awesome blog and an amazing podcast.
[00:24:45] KM: Thank you.
[00:24:45] CJ: Because you know how to do it. If you want to reach 50 million people, the model’s there, you just need a few more staff members. You need a few more – that’s all.
[00:24:57] KM: Your wife's a doctor. What's the biggest problem facing doctors?
[00:24:59] CJ: Oh, my goodness. There's a similar problem with the workforce.
[00:25:04] KM: Every place has got a workforce problem.
[00:25:07] CJ: For us, there's doctors and then there's the system. We are facing a big challenge with hospitals and hospital systems in our rural areas, particularly. Because they're at risk of closing. And there was a report that came out and Roby Brock had them on his show. He issued the report. Some of our hospitals are losing tens to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They're losing it, which they’re at risk of closing because of our Medicare reimbursed rates. And the way we are reimbursed, doesn't actually meet the need of those hospitals. So, you think about a place in, let’s say, my mom's hometown of Stephens, they're at risk of losing the local hospital.
[00:25:54] KM: How do they change the way they're reimbursed?
[00:25:56] CJ: Well, that's the delegation of the governor and our federal delegation has to go to the US Department of Health and Human Services, I believe. Don't quote me on that part. And really ask for that adjusted reimbursement rate. So, it's possible. Now, my understanding is that Governor Hutchinson is actually working to do that, which is going to help and is needed badly.
So, here's a story. my mom, who’s amazing, and I love. Two years ago, she was here for my daughter's violin concert. And as she was in the parking lot getting there, I saw her face droop, and I saw her speech slur. She was actively having a stroke. Within five minutes, she was at UAMS. If she had been in her hometown of Stephens – she's fine now. She's recovered. She's gone through her rehab. And but if she had been in her hometown of Stephens, or my dad's hometown of Hughes, she might not be with us today. Why? Because of access to quality healthcare.
[00:27:10] GM: That's a bigger systemic problem, too, right? You need to invest in those communities so that they support the hospitals that are in them, so that the doctors and the nurses want to keep living there, and they have enough patients to support the hospital and all that stuff, too, right?
[00:27:23] CJ: Yup.
[00:27:24] KM: All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Dr. Chris Jones, who's running for governor of Arkansas in this year's November election. We'll be right back.
[00:27:34] ANNOUNCER: Flagandbanner.com. We have a YouTube channel with over 100 tutorials, decorating tips, interviews, lots more too. Anytime you have a question about flags, we're the experts. Flagandbanner.com and our YouTube channel.
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[00:28:01] KM: You're listening to up in your business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with Dr. Chris Jones, a boy from Pine Bluff that grew up to be a nuclear physicist, doctor of urban planning, minister, father, husband, and who is now running for the governorship of Arkansas in the upcoming election on November the 8th.
I want to talk a bit. We've kind of talked about infrastructure and how we just need to be proactive and not know that Diamond City needs a new water system. But we're not going to talk about toilet breaks. We've talked about education, we know teachers need raises. There's $1.6 million --
[00:28:36] GM: Billion.
[00:28:37] KM: I can't even believe that. I mean, I must ask my husband, Grady three times. Is it billion? And he'd say it's, “It’s billion.” And then we talked about health care in the rural areas. But there's broadband in the rural areas.
[00:28:53] CJ: Oh, my goodness. Yes.
[00:28:55] KM: I'm not sure I care about having broadband out there because my granddaughter just stays on the Internet.
[00:29:02] CJ: Look, you might not, but there's a grandparent out there who needs to access telehealth.
[00:29:06] KM: Oh, you're right.
[00:29:08] CJ: And they can't, right? There are kids out there who need access to educational opportunities, and they can't get it. There's a small business owner who needs to tap into the global marketplace.
[00:29:20] KM: Yeah, and I can relate to that.
[00:29:23] CJ: So, imagine wanting – we talked about flight. Imagine wanting to live in stamps, or Harrison or Clinton, Arkansas and having a business but you can't live there because you don't have high-speed internet.
[00:29:40] KM: Harrison, Arkansas doesn’t have the Internet?
[00:29:42] CJ: Not in the outskirts.
[00:29:44] KM: Didn’t you go to Harrison, Arkansas? You know they hate black people out there.
[00:29:46] CJ: I did and I loved it. No, they don’t. Not Harrison.
[00:29:50] KM: Well, I thought they did.
[00:29:51] CJ: Did I tell you the Harrison story?
[00:29:52] KM: No. But I saw it or something. What’s the Harrison story?
[00:29:55] CJ: So, we were showing up everywhere. We went to Harrison and we reserved a room in a restaurant in the back. As we figured, we get a half a dozen people, so it was just small.
[00:30:05] KM: You get shot? No, I’m just kidding.
[00:30:08] CJ: Kerry, you’re a mess.
[00:30:12] KM: I can’t pass up a good joke. Okay, go ahead.
[00:30:13] CJ: You need to come around with me. And so, we're in Harrison, and that's the narrative of Harrison, what you say. Because it was a sundown town and the clan and everything. That’s the narrative. But here's the deal, I walk up to the restaurant. And as I'm walking in with, it's packed, and so I'm thinking, I'll navigate my way to the back. Because I want to get to the six people that will be there to see me in Harrison. So, about 40, 50 people in there. I walk in and got a standing ovation.
[00:30:44] KM: How many people were in there?
[00:30:46] CJ: All 40 or 50 people –
[00:30:47] KM: And you thought there were going to be six people there?
[00:30:48] CJ: I thought it would be six people.
[00:30:51] KM: You had the same narrative I had. You changed your mind. That’s good. Being open to change.
[00:30:55] CJ: Here’s the deal. I knew there’s knowing and there’s experiencing.
[00:31:01] KM: That's right. Policing and safety? How are you going to get young black man to keep quit shooting each other? I mean, really, and truly.
[00:31:10] CJ: Well, here’s the deal. I think we have to trust the folks that are living in every day, and that are working hard on solutions that actually work. For example, there's someone here, and you'll probably hear some more about it a little bit later. He has a program where he takes ex-felons who used to be on the streets and they're seeking to do something better now. And he puts them back on the streets. They have their different areas and they're there to bring people out of the that negative cycle, to break that cycle. What do you do? How do you break that cycle?
One, you bring more educational opportunities. You bring more economic opportunities, and you show up and actually care. Because right now we're pointing the finger and saying, “Those folks are bad. Those folks are doing wrong.” And yet, we're not providing educational opportunities, we're not showing up, and we have to do that.
[00:32:13] KM: So, damn us.
[00:32:12] CJ: That is not working. What we haven't done, but we haven't had a real conversation with everyone impacted at the table, meaning families that have lost folks to gun violence. People that have incited gun violence. Police officers, community leaders, church leaders, to actually sit around the table. We always have a group of people that say, often, I should say, not always. A group of folks that say, “I know the solution. So, let me put the solution on you all.” As opposed to, I believe the people most impacted by decisions need to be at the table when decisions are made. So, the folks who are likely to be the ones doing the gun violence, bring them to the table, have a conversation with them, along with the police, along with other safety folks, and less lift up solutions that work and matter, because most people don't want that.
[00:33:07] KM: So, how are you going to get everybody to do that? How are you going to get everybody together in one room? I saw one time, in maybe Chicago, the police talking to the gangbangers and the police told the gangbangers said, “We're scared of you all.” And they're like, “You all are scared of us?” And they said, “We're scared of you.” I was like – they both had this aha moment.
[00:33:27] CJ: Look. They did it Chicago, they’ve done it in Boston, they did it in South Africa with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So, the model is there, how you do it? You just come and meet people. 9 out of 10 folks, if you ask them to come to the table to help solve a problem, they're going to show up.
[00:33:43] KM: So, how many people does the governor have that you get to manage personally, to execute all these great ideas that you have?
[00:33:49] CJ: So, one of the things that the governor, one of the roles of the governor, is appointing boards and commissions. So, in addition to the staff, you have to manage a staff. Having managed multiple organizations, I understand how to manage staff. There's also the boards and commissions, and that's where a lot of this work is done. Whether you talk about the MLK Commission or the Safety Commission or the Health Commission. So, the appointment of folks who these boards and commissions are critical because they can be the ones to do the meetings.
[00:34:19] KM: So, generational poverty. There are no banks anymore. Even in my neighborhood. There used to not be banks in Arlo, Washington talked about how, from the PeoplesTrust Bank, talked about how, there's no banks in low-income neighborhoods, and because they're scared. I mean, who wants to put a bank and get robbed. I mean, there's no reason to put a bank there. There's no money in that neighborhood. And I can understand from a business point of view, why you wouldn't want to put a bank.
Now, the PeoplesTrust Bank is doing it because the Winrock Foundation is helping them. But now, banks are even becoming farther and fewer between. How do you get people to understand money and how to use money, because it's expensive to not have a bank account and have to go get your checks cashed at Kroger's?
[00:35:06] CJ: It is expensive to be poor.
[00:35:09] KM: It's expensive to be poor.
[00:35:11] CJ: That’s what we fail to realize. It costs a lot, all the charges and everything. Now, I will say a couple things. One, they're models like PeoplesTrust Bank, like Greenwood Bank that are out there trying to meet the need. It's also important for us to understand how we got here. There's a dynamic called redlining. Have you heard of redlining before?
[00:35:34] KM: No. What’s that?
[00:35:34] CJ: So, redlining is back in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, when lenders would literally draw a red line around certain neighborhoods, and either say you cannot lend here, or the interest rate was much higher there.
[00:35:53] KM: High risk.
[00:35:55] CJ: Well, they called it risk. But it was the circle was drawn based on race. And it became a high-risk category. So, what does that mean? That means investment wasn't made into those areas, and with no investment made in those areas, you fast forward 20, 30 years, 40, 50 years, no, you look and you say, “Well, there are no grocery stores there. There are no banks there.” You say, “Well, it's because the folks there are X, Y and Z.” Well, maybe it's because, during –
[00:36:25] GM: Their parents’ generation.
[00:36:25] CJ: Their parents’ generation, we didn't make the appropriate investment. So, if we understand a problem, then we can figure out how we move forward solution.
[00:36:34] KM: I don't know how you're going to solve that. Banks are closing like crazy. They got more money than God these days, and yet they're closing their branches, super fast. It seems like to me. I can't find that –
[00:36:44] CJ: They’re closing, but they're also going online. And so, that's why you need broadband.
[00:36:47] KM: Yeah. How are you going to deal with that broadband?
[00:36:49] CJ: Well, that's why we have to get broadband, high-speed internet, broadband, and cellular to every place across the state, because then that opens up those doors of opportunity.
[00:36:59] KM: Mental health, substance abuse. This is something I am really passionate about. As I told you before we even went on, I love alcoholics. I've had like every husband and boyfriend I've ever had. My son’s laughing out there. I do.
[00:37:14] CJ: Are they just attracted to you?
[00:37:17] KM: Well, I'm fun, and they're fun and I just love them. But they're very hard to live with. So, eventually, it all culminates into, you've got to grow up and you got to figure it out. That becomes a substance abuse problem. You have to say, the TV and all the football games are promoting, if you drink beer, you're going to have the best time of your life. I mean, it's everywhere these days. So, how do you – somebody that's ready to stop drinking and needs a little bit of help or substance abuse, there's no – unless you get busted doing something and the judge sends you to a rehab house, you can't afford to go.
[00:38:01] CJ: Because we don't have the services. And to me, that challenge, and we're number one in meth use, the use of meth. So, one of the things that we have to, again, understand that we do have a problem, and part of the problem is that the services that are needed for folks who are struggling with addiction are not available to them.
[00:38:23] KM: At all.
[00:38:24] CJ: Now, those services can come, they can come through the church, they can come through nonprofits, they can also come through our healthcare providers, and you need a combination of that, to actually serve the poor.
[00:38:36] KM: But they can't right now.
[00:38:37] CJ: They don't exist right now.
[00:38:38] KM: So, my husband tried to quit drinking for years and years and years. He gets mad, always using him. But anyway, both of my husbands, my ex-husband and my current husband, both drank and wanted to quit drinking and struggled and finally had to go away, and they could not find a place to go. Luckily, they had a family that could help pay for –
[00:38:57] CJ: Here in Arkansas?
[00:38:59] GM: No. They had to go to Tennessee.
[00:39:00] KM: Both of them went away to another state. But if they had not had the –
[00:39:07] CJ: It would not –
[00:39:09] KM: They’d still be struggling.
[00:39:11] CJ: And that story is told over and over in communities. That's with devastating communities. So, if we want to lift up communities and bring them back together, we have to address that problem, which means we have to put providers closer to people. Because right now, your husband and ex-husband, they have to go find it, and they happen to have the resources to be able to do that.
[00:39:32] KM: But the money was the big deal. I mean, you can find stuff –
[00:39:34] CJ: Most folks don't have that.
[00:39:36] KM: Don’t have money.
[00:39:37] CJ: They don't have it.
[00:39:37] KM: Now, Obamacare will pay for it. It's the first – what's it called? Not Obamacare. Always called that, but it’s –
[00:39:44] CJ: Affordable Care Act.
[00:39:45] KM: It will pay for it if you are a low enough income.
[00:39:51] CJ: So, it's called the cliff effect.
[00:39:54] KM: Is that what it's called?
[00:39:54] CJ: It's called the cliff effect, where if you make just a little bit more in terms of what you bring in, and then you lose all of your benefits and your support. As opposed to a latter, which says that as you make more income as you work more, then we can reduce the benefits and services that you get, as opposed to eliminating them. So, it incentivizes you to actually do it yourself. But if I'm going to fall off a cliff, then no, I'm not. I have people that worked for me. When I ran one of the organizations I ran, that I was ready to give a raise to, and they had to turn the race down, because if they got the raise they would lose all of their benefits.
[00:40:36] KM: I have to.
[00:40:37] CJ: See.
[00:40:39] KM: I absolutely have had the same thing.
[00:40:40] CJ: Same thing. That is not right. And I spoke with Chris Hart, who runs Central Moloney in Pine Bluff. He and I talked about that a lot and his workforce, and how he's struggling with his workforce because he wants to pay them well.
[00:40:52] KM: But he can't.
[00:40:54] CJ: But he can't. They worked, he said every day 20% of his workforce does not show up for work. Why? Because they, themselves, put themselves on a reduced work schedule. Because if they worked all five days, they make too much money, and they lose all their benefits. All of them. So, we talked about this idea of the cliff effect.
[00:41:13] KM: How do you change that?
[00:41:14] CJ: Well, it’s policy. Policy can easily change the cliff effect to a ladder.
[00:41:18] KM: So, is that an Arkansas policy or is it federal policy?
[00:41:22] CJ: It’s both. We can we can change it at the state level. You're going to need federal changes. However, we can implement state policy that make change.
[00:41:33] KM: So, let's talk about your campaign. You have no money.
[00:41:36] CJ: Well, no, that's not true. We don't have Sarah Sanders’s money.
[00:41:38] KM: Oh, my gosh. She has over $6 million. You have under $1 million. So, what's your strategy here?
[00:41:47] CJ: Well, this is always about having the money to run our race, not her race. This is always about doing the work to meet Arkansas where they are, period. Because at the end of the day, when you – and I've always said this, when you engage in Arkansas, and you looked them in the eye, and you respectfully ask them for their support and tell them why it matters. They'll give you a chance. I'm seeing it in South Arkansas. I'm seeing it in North Central Arkansas. I'm seeing it all over. So, we're putting in the work to engage people directly and it's making a difference. At the end of the day, it's about the votes, not the money.
Arkansas 50th voter turnout 50th. In 2020, we have 3 million people in our state. 1 million Arkansans could have voted, but didn't. That's more than everyone who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Were a non-voting state. So, how do you change that? You're not going to change that through the same traditional methods. You change that by meeting people where they are. You know what we do now? When I stopped at a gas station, I go in, I talk to the intendant, and I say, “Are you interested to vote?” A lot of times they say, “I'm not.” So, you know what I do, I pull out a voter registration form, and we get them registered right there.
[00:43:04] KM: Wow, that's proactive.
[00:43:05] CJ: Why not? Because no one's ever asked them. And then I say, “I'd love to have your vote.” And they say, “Yes.”
[00:43:16] KM: But they got to take off work to do it. Because you can only vote eight hours a day or one day or something crazy like that.
[00:43:20] CJ: We need the early voting now.
[00:43:22] KM: When does early voting start?
[00:43:24] CJ: Early voting starts October 24th.
[00:43:26] KM: You have to do it downtown only?
[00:43:27] CJ: There are different voting locations, depending on what county you live in. There are often multiple early voting locations.
[00:43:32] KM: Oh, that's good.
[00:43:34] CJ: Yeah. So, we're making sure that people know about that. Again, people don't usually talk to a gas station attendant and barbers and the like. And these are the folks who aren't showing up to vote, but they could if we ask them.
[00:43:47] KM: You're doing that by your campaign called, Walk a Mile –
[00:43:50] CJ: Walk a Mile in Your Shoes.
[00:43:52] KM: How many miles do you walk a day?
[00:43:55] CJ: It depends on the day. Some days three, some days one, and what – here's the deal. We set out a goal to walk them out in every county, and by the end of our walk, we would have taken a million steps, and that's one step for every person who could have voted with it. Guess what? We've already crossed two and a half million steps. Because some places we're walking more. Now, that’s just Chris Jones walking two and a half million steps. That’s all of us collecting. We had 120 people in Springfield walk with us. We had 40 people walk in Jonesboro in 105-degree weather, and one of them was a 91-year-old woman.
[00:44:38] KM: She remembers when you couldn't vote, when women couldn't vote.
[00:44:40] CJ: That’s why she's walking. But on these walks, the reason is Walk a Mile in Your Shoes, it goes back to what we talked about. There's a narrative we hear and there's the life people live. Walking them out of someone's shoes, you get to understand the life they live. They tell stories about their neighborhood. They tell stories about the businesses that we're there, that we're not there anymore. They tell stories about the opportunities that exist in their communities. The other beautiful thing is, they get to know each other. So now, they're meeting new neighbors together.
[00:45:14] KM: So, you’re telling people to bring a friend when they go to vote?
[00:45:17] CJ: Bring 22 friends. 22 for 22.
[00:45:23] KM: The bumblebee story. You tell it all the time.
[00:45:27] GM: The bumblebee story, I'm not familiar with. I noticed the pin earlier.
[00:45:30] KM: Tell him, Chris.
[00:45:33] GM: Yeah. Tell me the bumblebee story.
[00:45:34] CJ: So, the bumblebee looks weird.
[00:45:37] KM: He looks cute.
[00:45:39] J: It's cute and weird. It's a really big body, and really small wings. So, as scientists look at it and they say, “Well, this doesn't make sense.” The wings are too small to carry and shoulder its body. So, about 90 years ago, scientists at the University of
[inaudible 00:45:53], and you can look it up, they said, “We're going to figure this thing out.” And they ran the calculations, and they determined that it was aerodynamically impossible for the bumblebee to fly.
[00:46:05] GM: And yet?
[00:46:06] CJ: Somebody forgot to tell the bumblebee, because the bumblebee flies, anyway.
[00:46:12] KM: Did they figure out how it works?
[00:46:14] CJ: No. About 60 years later, they figured out something that the bumblebee knew all along. When it flaps its wings, and I equate that to our campaign, when we work really hard, when you show up everywhere, when you talk to everyone. When it flaps its wings, there's something underneath the bumblebee that's created. It's a vortex. They didn't factor in the vortex. They didn't factor in that people are ready for change.
[00:46:39] KM: You need to add to your story ‘uplifting’. He's uplifting.
[00:46:43] GM: The bee is uplifted.
[00:46:44] KM: Like you, you’re uplifting.
[00:46:45] CJ: Uplifting, I like that.
[00:46:48] KM: So, community instead of chaos?
[00:46:50] CJ: Yes.
[00:46:52] KM: That's why people should vote?
[00:46:52] CJ: It was one of the reasons because we need community. We don't need chaos. And people are yearning for community.
[00:47:02] KM: I think they are. I think everybody's –
[00:47:03] CJ: That’s why folks show up, 40 or 50 people showed up at Harrison. We did a walk in Mena, Arkansas. Now, Mena is definitely known as a sundown town.
[00:47:14] KM: It is?
[00:47:15] CJ: Yes. And for those who don't know what sundown town, they had signs in the edge of the town that said, if you're black, if you're Jewish, if you're Hispanic, and they didn't use those terms, you do not get caught with a sundown. So, what do we do? Because the narrative, the story it has told, is often different from the life that's lived. So, we did a Walk a Mile in Your Shoes in Mena at sundown. We had about 30 some odd folks with us, as the sun went down, and we talked about the significance and importance of a black man coming to Mena and walking at sundown. And we talked about the fact that the life they live is one that wants community and doesn't want that division. You don't want that narrative. And so, all across the state, we run across where people are yearning for community, and we need it now more than ever. That's how we solve those problems.
[00:48:12] KM: So, let's just speak frankly, if you're elected, you'll be the first black man in the mansion. What does your think about that? She's scared to be the first black family in the mansion. I mean, is that safe?
[00:48:21] CJ: Why would it not be safe?
[00:48:25] KM: You don’t seem to be afraid, because you’re going to Mena, you’re going to Harrison, going into the mansion. You just believe that –
[00:48:30] CJ: Look, I am a seventh generation Arkansan. My family's been here for over 200 years. There is no soil in Arkansas, that I don't feel comfortable stepping on, period.
[00:48:40] KM: So, all right. How do you give to your campaign? How do people learn more about you? Where did they go?
[00:48:45] CJ: They go to chrisforgovernor.com. All of our policies are out there and up and available for folks to pick apart and ask questions about and learn. You can donate from the website right there. You can follow me on social media, @JonesForAR, on any platform
[00:49:05] KM: @JonesForAR, chrisforgovernor.com. So, you're leading in social media. Actually, you may not be leading in money, but you are leading in Google searches. You are leading in social media, but I'm sorry, Chris, but those are young people and they don't go vote. Historically, they do not go vote.
[00:49:24] CJ: Right. But guess what? There was a time when historically we didn't have a black man as president. There was a time historically when women couldn't vote. There was a time historically – so it's impossible until it happens.
[00:49:37] KM: You feel good about it?
[00:49:40] CJ: So, here's what I feel good about. This is where my faith comes in. I've run the numbers, I've done the math, I see the pathway and there is a pathway. My job, as quoted in Scripture, is to plant and water. Some plants, some water, only God raises and increase. That's what the Scripture say. My job is to wake up every day and plant a seed, or water seed, or do both. And I wake up and I work as hard as I can to do that. And then I go to sleep peacefully, because it's all on God from there.
So, it's God that will touch folks’ hearts, and say, “You know what? I may be a Trump voter. I may be a hard Republican. I may have never voted for Democrat in my life. But I'm going to do something different today.” That's God changing people's hearts. And why are they doing it? Because they're ready for something different. They're ready for community. It'll be folks that say, “I've been a Democrat all my life, and I feel beaten down, and I felt ignored, and I can't say it. But now, I'm going to stand up proudly and say it, because we're standing up for community and bringing people together.”
[00:50:50] KM: Love it. I think that's a good place to end. Chris Jones for governor. I have you a gift.
[00:50:56] CJ: Oh, a gift.
[00:50:58] KM: Let me see what son, Gray, packed up for you.
[00:51:01] CJ: Oh, a flag.
[00:51:02] KM: An Arkansas and a US flag. Let me you get a base.
[00:51:06] CJ: I love it. You see, I have a pin that has an Arkansas and a US flag on it.
[00:51:09] KM: Well, you better. You're running for governor. And there’s your base.
[00:51:12] CJ: We have a base, too?
[00:51:12] GM: That’s for your desk. Every politician needs a desk.
[00:51:17] KM: Did you bring him a whoopee cushion?
[00:51:18] GM: I sure did. It should be in that bag.
[00:51:20] KM: We have you a whoopee cushion. That's so funny.
[00:51:22] CJ: That my daughters love.
[00:51:24] KM: That's exactly why I told Gray to put it in there, because it says, “No Putin” and it has a picture of Putin's face.
[00:51:30] CJ: They're going to love it.
[00:51:29] KM: They will love it.
[00:51:31] CJ: Thank you so much. You’re the best.
[00:51:34] KM: Thanks. You’re the best too. All right, closing, thank you again, Chris, coming on. In closing to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. Whatever it is, we'll help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:51:56] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. If you’d like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed with exciting, upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast, wherever you like to listen. Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you, live the American dream.