Tra’Renee Chambers can recall a cable guy visiting her childhood home. His purview was the usual cable guy stuff, but he somehow wound up spilling a lifetime of tribulations to the teenage Chambers.
“He was sitting there, extremely vulnerable, talking about his failing marriage,” she says, “and I thought to myself, ‘Why is this man telling me all of this stuff?’”
In retrospect, that memory elucidates one of Chambers’ standout broadcasting gifts. In addition to a quick-thinking, affable manner and commitment to community engagement that helped her become a staple on Portland TV and radio, it’s both a natural and nurtured openness that defines the licensed clinical social worker’s new KATU talk show, Situations & Conversations With Tra’Renee. Chambers’ guests often come on to unpack challenging lived experiences, like racial insensitivity within their own families, discrimination against children of color, and sex education roadblocks. And just as often, both guest and host are so present, so involved in the interview that commercial breaks sneak up from nowhere.
“I felt this need to do something within my gifts that would benefit our community,” says Chambers, who’s rebooted Situations & Conversations from its first iteration as a public affairs radio show in the early 2000s.
After departing the KATU lifestyle program Afternoon Live last year, Chambers sought to refocus her broadcasting on social justice issues and is now the first Black woman to host and produce a TV show in the greater Portland area. That’s a milestone Chambers says she didn’t realize until after she’d passed it, as she’s long tried to serve as a resource for Black Portlanders in one of America’s whitest major cities.
“You hear a lot of people [in Portland] talking about people of color, but you don’t necessarily hear a lot of people of color talking about themselves!” she says. “That bothers me, because who’s going to represent you if not you?”
Currently midway through Season 1 of Situations & Conversations, Chambers also helms the long-running Tra’Renee Show on JAM’N 107.5 FM as well as an Instagram Live show called She Said…He Said, which covers movies and television. Continuing our Essential Seven series, we asked Chambers to name seven dream Situations & Conversations guests and what she’d ask them.
1. Michelle Obama
How in the world did she manage to maintain her sense of self and integrity being the first Black first lady? You know, all the pressures and hate coming toward you. How did you manage to stay so graceful and sane?
2. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell
Was he clear about the role he was stepping into? And does he feel like this is a job one person can actually manage? Lovell’s interview is supposed to be our Situations & Conversations finale. He’s agreed to come on and address kids’ concerns about police in the community.
3. Queen Latifah
Her coming up as a woman in hip-hop in the ’80s and ’90s, I would love to know how she maneuvered that world when a woman’s place was definitely not celebrated in hip-hop. And then catapulting and evolving into all the things she is: singer, actress, talk show host, producer. Talk about someone I’d want to model my career after!
4. Justin Timberlake
I’ve had the biggest crush on him for forever. But he still has explaining to do about Janet Jackson. He recently apologized and all that, but that’s so late. I would ask him straight out, what took you so long? Why didn’t you speak up?
5. George W. Bush
I want to know how he felt when Kanye West said that he doesn’t care about Black folks. What would you say to Kanye now? I am so curious.
6. Tom Hanks
I want to ask him about parenting. You know Chet Hanks? I’m just curious!
7. Larry David
I want to understand how he’s basically turned an everyday person into a whole sitcom, twice. Not only that, but how do you have any friends? Everybody really needs a friend like Larry David, but I don’t know if you want a friend like Larry David.
SEE IT: Situations & Conversations With Tra’Renee airs on KATU at 4:30 pm Sundays.