Life continues to offer hills and valleys, Elizabeth Montgomery said last week. Her new job as the social media editor of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes the city’s development, has so far been a very pleasant hill.
A recent shift to Republic of Arizona was more of a valley.
“I moved here in 2018 to be a social media specialist at Republic, “she said.” After six months, they transferred me to community relations where I was supposed to produce events for the newspaper, in which I had no experience. I wanted to write.”
His responsibilities included managing the newspaper’s popular Arizona Storytellers series. She is proud of the diversity she brought to this project, which has regularly sold out every performance. The Faces of Arizona series, which features residents of various communities, is another project launched by Montgomery.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Montgomery used to go with her father, a broadcast reporter who worked for CNN. “I was going to work with him to get away from home,” she recalls. “My life at home was not the best. But I was kissed by people in the newsroom. I was like, ‘Oh, I wanna be one of those people, I wanna do this.’ I started writing journals and I was such a nerd. I was talking to people my father knew at the Atlanta Journal Constitution about how to get a job in journalism.
But then his life turned south again. “My mother kicked me out. I got home and all my things were in bags outside the garage. I was 18 and it was time to go.
Montgomery lived in his car for three years. She had only started talking about her homelessness in recent years, more than a decade after her mother fired her. When she found out that Gannett was paying her tens of thousands of dollars less than less experienced people, she decided she had been silent about her life for too long. She went public with her complaint against Gannett.
“It was scary and something you’re not supposed to do, talk about your employer that way while you’re working for them. But I had asked for a raise and it was refused.
Montgomery wanted, she said, for people to see that being underpaid and discriminated against was real.
“I knew other black women who felt underrated and underpaid, and I saw them leave without work, just to go somewhere to feel valued. We shouldn’t have to do this to feel valued and to be paid fairly.
When she posted her bank statement on Facebook, it was because she wanted people to see that she had $ 34 in her name. Friends called her to tell her that showing her poverty was a bad idea. “I couldn’t fight in silence,” she explained. “I wanted people to know that all was not great and why it was happening to me and others. The last time I felt this bad was when I was homeless.
She doesn’t know where the courage to publicly criticize her employer comes from. “I’m still figuring this out. It’s weird because when I’m brave I don’t think about being brave, I think about how I’m going to tell people. I am here on this earth to do something and I cannot remain silent and say nothing. I did this for so long when I was homeless. I didn’t ask for help, I kind of made my way silently and I’m done doing it.
Although its time at the Republic was stressful, Montgomery knows the stories she told there helped others. When she wrote that she was a homeless student, she heard from people who lived on the streets themselves. Her email inbox filled up after posting an award-winning essay about her seedy relationship with her mother.
“People keep telling me how brave it all was,” she said of her time at the local daily. “But it didn’t sound like bravery. Sometimes I just thought, “I’m crazy for saying these things.” But in the end, I was glad I did.