The Bronx native, Miles Marshall Lewis ’93, came back to visit his Alma Mater to expose students and to give them a different perspective of Black Journalism. Currently, Lewis is a resident of France. He is the Arts & Culture Editor for Ebony Magazine, author of two books, and the founder and editor of his literary journal, Bronx Biannual.
Lewis was brought to Morehouse to speak to the Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies and Psychology Department. He spoke to the students about his life as a journalist and an author as well. Check out his webpages and follow him on Twitter @furthermucker, furthermucker.com, and/or facebook.com/furthermucker.
Donnell: What brought you into this arena of being a black journalist?
Miles: Well—I’ve been black all my life! In turns of being a journalist, it was just something I grew into. Writing was always very important to me. I grew up on comic books and always notice the names of people who wrote the comic books. There are two big comic cons that happen, one in San Diego and the other in New York, twice a year. When I was a kid, no one was devoted to bigger pop culture super hero movies; it was strictly about comic books. I always had a fertile imagination and I grew up on science fiction novels. By the age of 12, I tried to read all of the collected works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because I read in a comic book that Batman did it. I was the only child until I was 8, so I spent a lot of time reading. It blossomed, like even now I write fiction as well. There are a number of short stories that I had anthologized in different books. I just consider myself a writer, sure a journalist. I interview different celebrities, but I do my share of fiction writing as well. You exercise different muscles for each one, but I honestly just call myself a writer.
Donnell: There’s a large population of students who are illiterate, or they just don’t like to read or write as much as they should. What is something that you could personally tell them to encourage them?
Miles: Get in where you fit in! There’s a writer for everyone. If you don’t like to read and someone gives you James Joyce’s Ulysses, you’re really going to hate to read. Whereas if you get something like Toure’s Soul City, it might appeal to you because there are Hip-Hop references and magical realism that you can deal with. Even for women, if you consider yourself a feminist and don’t really like to read, you’ll be surprised certain works by Alice Walker. Find the writer that’s for you, there are so many books, it’s impossible that you wouldn’t find someone that fits your sensibility. In terms of writing, keep a journal. Not everything has to be spell checked and stuff like that; you don’t have to be Toni Morrison out the box. You don’t ever have to be Toni Morrison, I mean—I’ll never be. It’s all about finding your own lane and finding your own voice, and speaking in that voice.
Donnell: What are some techniques that you may use to gather your thoughts before writing?
Miles: As far as gathering your thoughts, outlining is a good idea. When I write an article, chances are there are a certain amount of things that I make sure that I want to say, so I’ll write those things down, and it somewhat takes on it’s own life. Once you have the things that you know you want said, then you kind of figure out the order that makes the most sense. Then you start building paragraphs out of things you want most to say, and then it becomes it’s own thing. It’s somewhat like a puzzle as well. I can switch different piece around, and see what makes the picture of what you looking for.
Donnell: When you were speaking, you spoke on how you were inspired by James Baldwin, and the Renaissance Era. Was he your biggest inspiration, or were there any other people that inspired your career choice as a journalist?
I’ve read everything that James Baldwin has ever written. There’s a big collected anthology called The Price of the Ticket, which has all of his essays. I’ve read all of his plays and fiction works as well. I went through a few years of that, and reading everything that Toni Morrison wrote. Alice Walker, I read up to a certain point! But I do love Alice Walker. Maya Angelou, and all the memoirs she wrote back-to-back. My son’s middle name is Morrison, because Toni Morrison is my all-time favorite living writer. Definitely August Wilson, a playwright who passed away. I had the honor of interviewing him in probably his last major interview that got anthologized in a book called, “The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers.”
Since high school, I was a part of a Black Alliance club that would take us to Broadway plays in New York. I saw “Fences” on Broadway when I was 17. After “Fences” he haves at least 10 plays and one takes place in every decade of the 20th Century, and reflects on what Black life was about in that decade. So, of those 10 plays, I’ve seen about seven of them probably eight of them. The last one was “Radio Golf,” I was in Paris and I didn’t get to see that one, and he had passed away. He’s definitely an influence! His dialogue is amazing, especially for, true, African-American dialogue. It just sounds like you listening to your grandparents, or your older aunts and uncles speaking.
Donnell: One thing I have issues with is finding critiques on Black literature. We have all of these academic critiques on Plato, Aristotle, and etc.; however, we lack these same benefits and spaces for academic dialogue amongst Black students and Black authors. What are some things that you can recommend to students/writers to expound, or make the area of critiquing Black literature better for readers?
Miles: That’s very true! Those critiques don’t exist anymore. It’s kind of hard to answer, because what you’re saying is very true. In terms of academic critiquing, as in Plato, there is a dearth of that, and I’m not really sure what the answer is. In terms of creating a bigger space for that, or even creating a better space for our own ideas. That’s what we definitely need, a place to be able to think freely, our own space. Somewhere to have our own thoughts and our own dialogues, I believe that dissecting Black literature, and later critiquing it can come from these spaces.
Associate Campus News Editor