On Friday, Beyoncé’s mom headed over to City Hall to announce her support for Mayor Sylvester Turner’s new jobs initiative for people struggling to find work, especially those with a criminal record. Beyoncé’s background singers, called The Mamas, even came to sing the National Anthem before welcoming Turner to the podium.
“We spent all night working on that,” Turner said when he got up there. “I told them I would step in if they needed to lift it up just a little bit higher.”
Tina Knowles-Lawson’s appearance and The Mamas’s performance at City Hall was anything but random. The mayor’s job-creation initiative, called Turnaround Houston, is one of three official charities Beyoncé is supporting on The Formation World Tour. Launched back in March, Turnaround Houston hooks up the unemployed or those recently released from prison with services such as job training, résumé writing, counseling and even tattoo removal, among others.
“The key word here is opportunity,” Knowles-Lawson said. “We all know that anything can happen when you are given an opportunity, a second chance.”
Mayor Turner brought three men to the podium to share how Turnaround Houston helped them get past the stigma of a criminal record. One of them was Geoffrey Schardien, who, earlier this year, was released from a five-year prison sentence for drug charges. “I was terrified, to be honest,” he said. “You kind of get stuck in a bubble in prison. The world continues to move, but you're in a bubble. So there was a lot of anxiety when I got out.” Within a month, though, Turnaround Houston connected him with Career Gear Houston, a nonprofit that not only helped Schardien put together a résumé and prepare for an interview with LA Fitness but, once he got the job, also gave him a week’s worth of professional clothes.
“The reality is, but for the grace of God, we could all be in their shoes,” Turner said. “Bear in mind, if we simply turn one life around, it’s been worth it. When you turn two, that’s a multiplier. And when you turn three or more, I mean…what’s the name of [Beyoncé’s] song? ‘Transformation’?”
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It was a good try, Mayor, several members of the crowd said, laughing. (The correct name of the song is “Formation,” which, following Beyoncé’s performance of it at the Super Bowl, angered police unions across the nation, who said the song was anti-police; the press conference crowd laughed some more after Turner joked that he helped write it.)
The Beyoncé connections didn’t end with her mother and backup singers. Turner also called to the podium Pastor Rudy Rasmus, who was Beyoncé’s pastor in Houston. Rasmus announced his new partnership with Turner and Turnaround Houston, along with his own new job-help initiative, called Eco Life, which will connect people with resources on a mobile platform. “One thing we know for a fact is employment is the answer to impoverished predicaments,” Rasmus said.
Rasmus said he thought back to when Beyoncé was still a young girl, singing in the choir. “She would say, I’m not going to forget you, and I’m not going to forget this church.”
If you missed Beyoncé’s show this weekend, no worries: She just set another Houston tour date on September 22.