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O’ My! Roach video gets 1.5 million votes

By Brian Bethel



Editors Note: This story was originally printed in the Wednesday, June 30, 2010 Edition of the Abilene Reporter NewsRoz Evans jokes that her fingers are still cramped from clicking in support of Dr. Tony Roach’s bid to become a television star.The Abilene minister is vying online for a chance to compete on “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star.” The prize: being one of 10 hopefuls competing for a chance to have his or her own talk show on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s new network, in 2011.For Evans, and for others who have vaulted Roach’s campaign from tens of thousands of votes to more than 1.5 million, the idea is serious business.The groundswell has come through a combination of viral marketing, networking among those who know the minister, and the willingness of faithful like Evans to spend their time literally clicking Roach’s video up the contest’s ladder.{{more}}A bit more than a week ago, the minister’s video submission sported only about 20,000 votes. But then came “Wi-Fi parties,” open voting at college computer labs, and plenty of phone calls, e-mails, and other communication.Roach’s story was featured in a Christian Chronicle blog entry, and congregations throughout the country, influenced at various times by the teachings that would form the core of the proposed “A New Approach with Dr. Roach,” joined in.Now, Roach and his supporters have a comprehensive plan, culminating with a final, grand push for votes on today. Online voting at the contest’s website runs through Saturday.“You’ve got hundreds of people working in Abilene,” said Courtney Jackson, one of several helping Roach coordinate the effort, noting that new votes were coming in “24-7.”Roach’s success is more than a “one-night wonder,” Jackson said. The depth of support comes from people, she said, like Evans and herself, who have been positively influenced by Roach’s message of “old self-love” versus “new self-love” — basically that one’s old patterns and pains must be overcome for positive growth, change and self-understanding.Evans, who came to Abilene 20 years ago, said she owes the Abilene minister an immense debt.“I had gone through some traumatic things in my life,” she said. “He opened my eyes and answered some questions.”The victim of sexual abuse while stationed overseas, Evans said she arrived in Abilene nursing bitterness and hurt.Roach’s essential message — that not dealing with such past hurts, patterns and obstacles makes it impossible to grow and move beyond old pains — struck a deep chord within her, she said.Now happily married, she said she believes it was nothing less than divine providence that brought her to Abilene to hear the minister’s message. Now, she shares her former pain and her current progress with other women to offer them help and healing.“Everyone has a story,” she said. “This has helped me open up and let mine out.”Jackson said such stories are typical of those who have helped click Roach ever-closer to the competition’s top, and to her explain why people have joined the effort en masse.“It is life-changing, and it’s something we’ve all experienced firsthand,” she said.Roach himself telegraphs a seemingly genuine modesty when asked about the groundswell, saying that he’s both “overwhelmed” — and in some ways, even daunted — by the show of support.And he is quick to dismiss the bid as being a personality contest or something based in ego. Speaking about the bid Tuesday, he said he wants people to keep an eye on what he sees as the mission of the effort — “helping people like their best life, with dignity and worth for every individual.” He does acknowledge the opportunity as one with wide-ranging implications, not just for himself but for Abilene.But the attempt is “not a religious or race initiative, or a political or capital gain initiative, nor even a popularity or self initiative,” he said.“It is a dignity and worth initiative for all human beings, not only in theory but also in fact,” he said.Roach has a great deal of competition to get through to be selected, even if he garners enough votes to win a top spot online.At least one of five finalists from video submissions will be selected to participate in a reality television show, in which contestants will compete for a chance to have their own program on Oprah’s network.But some of the remaining nine contestants will — most likely — be drawn from open casting calls in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. Additional contestants could come from remaining video submissions, though not necessarily those that received the most support.According to the competition’s website, Roach is competing against 9,380 online entries in his bid to make the television show a reality. That doesn’t count open casting calls. According to the competition’s website, “thousands” attended those events.Roach said he does feel he has a shot, despite the odds.The minister wrote the material that he hopes to turn into his television program “generic enough” that it doesn’t carry the trappings of any particular denomination or religious group. But he hopes that the program, which espouses 15 core values such as excellence and self-worth, will be exactly what Oprah and others are looking for.“It can be used in the mainstream across the board,” he said, noting that the material can be adopted by adults and children with equal ease.Clicking the Night AwayNumerically, the effect of Roach’s countrywide public vote drives is telling. Though there are some entries with many more individual viewers than Roach’s video, which as of Tuesday had just more than 30,000, the number of counted votes put him in 13th place as of 6 p.m.From its marathon public click-fests to its use of social networking, Roach’s approach is an interesting example of how to leverage connections and springboard a message into public consciousness beyond simple word-of-mouth, said Scott Kilmer, director of new media at Abilene Christian University.Roach’s efforts have been promoted to the college’s alumni network through Facebook, Kilmer said, something the college would do in most cases for those with such connections. Roach got his doctorate from the university.But beyond that, the contest itself, with its online video submissions and voting, is practically designed to encourage use of items such as Twitter, YouTube and other newfangled methods of garnering rapid attention and shows of support.Messages that resonate with people tend to rise to the top in the realm of new media, Kilmer said, but there is also peril inherent in such widespread dissemination.“You’re going to get people’s honest reactions,” he said. “If they are supportive of your content, they’re going to tell you. If they don’t agree, they’re going to tell that to you, as well.”That can be a positive or a negative, he said, depending on one’s personality.“If you can’t take that kind of constructive criticism, then it can be kind of a negative for you,” he said. “And you have to be prepared to compete as far as video quality. There has to be a certain amount of production behind you.”But proper use of such online tools provide a place to serve as a sort of “rally point.” And that’s why Kilmer said he thinks that locals, especially, have taken to supporting Roach and his message.“Social media networks help identify people in our own town that we can then support on a national scale,” he said.The “dramatic increase” in votes, even though many come from single voters, show that there are people locally, regionally and even nationally “looking for this type of message,” he said.Global GroundswellRoach, 61, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and dropped out of 10th grade because he couldn’t read.Plagued by a feeling of worthlessness that led him into self-destructive behaviors ranging from gang activity to alcohol and drugs, he discovered the message that would later define much of his work during his later graduate school work.Looking back at the changes in himself that allowed him to go from dropout to holder of a doctorate, he took his own self-examination and turned it into theories that he has shared with churches, individuals and readers of his published works. Most of his current supporters are familiar with the message under the mantle “God’s Love Bank.”Taking time out Tuesday to discuss the latest progress, Roach flicked through his iPhone’s contact list and offered up person after person, from public servants to fellow ministers to plain folks, all willing to apparently drop what they were doing to discuss what his message has meant to them.Dr. O.J. Shabazz, 54, minister of the Harlem Church of Christ in New York City, said he knew Roach by “reputation” for 30 years, but encountered the “God’s Love Bank” teachings in the mid-1990s.His current congregation is the second church to benefit from Roach’s teachings, he said, and has willingly lent its support to Roach online.“Dr. Roach is tremendously underexposed in terms of what ‘God’s Love Bank’ can do for the lives of people,” Shabazz said, quick to defend his fellow evangelist and his message against any patina of self-servedness.To Shabazz, Roach’s teachings are based on sound biblical principles, ones that had been “instrumental” in the help and healing of many in his own congregation.“Attitudes changed, spirits opened,” he said, including himself in that number. That’s why his congregation, like several others throughout the country, has willingly lent its own mouse clicks to Roach’s effort and will continue to participate all through the final push.Anthony Foster, a self-described entrepreneur with several side roads into green energy, who lives in Hamilton Parish on the island of Bermuda, echoed many in Roach’s series of spontaneous calls.He said that after being introduced to the material, he was able to come to terms with old feelings of worthlessness and change his life for the better.He said he wasn’t surprised so many had decided to lend their clicks to Roach in hope of garnering the attention of Oprah’s producers.“I’d definitely like to see him have the opportunity,” he said when asked if Roach was deserving of his own television program.“I think he could help whole communities,” he added.Closer to home, retired Chief Master Sgt. Terry Savoie met Roach about nine years ago in San Angelo at a workshop. So taken was he with the minister’s message that he moved here a year and a half ago to be part of the work of Minda Street Church of Christ, where Roach preaches.Like many others, Savoie said that a depressed sense of self-worth led him to “overcompensate and always try to control the situation around me,” something that created distance between himself and his family.Roach’s teachings helped him remove that mantle and become a “new man,” he said, echoing the Christian teachings that form the core message.Savoie has been among those deeply involved with the Wi-Fi parties and other efforts.“This is one of the most important things I’ve ever been involved in my whole life,” he said of his daily efforts to promote Roach. “And I’ve been involved in some pretty important things.”

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