A few weeks ago, I was working on a feature story, reporting on the accomplishments of students at Archbishop Carroll High School who have reached tremendous heights as part of the Jim Vance Media Program. As I shared in the article, this year marks the first graduating class of students who have learned everything from video production and putting together public service announcement clips to the development of stories for both print and web outlets.
At first, it was a bit sobering to realize that the youth with whom I was speaking were young enough to be my grandchildren.
For them, life is just beginning while for me, I will soon reach the age where I’m considered a senior citizen.
Where did the years go? It seems like it was just yesterday when I took my first steps on the campus of the University of Michigan or could stay up all night and still function effectively the next day – even with just an hour or two of sleep. Back then, it was nothing to jump in my Toyota Celica on a Friday afternoon and drive from Detroit to Atlanta, or to D.C., arriving just in time to make it to the club.
Anyway, joining me at Archbishop Carroll were two other veterans of the media who work with me at The Informer: Roy Lewis, a highly-respected photographer from Natchez, Mississippi, whose portfolio has few rivals and who’s still making his mark at the “tender age” of 82; and Hamil Harris, 62, an award-winning reporter formerly with The Washington Post whose gift of gab and interviewing skills are tough to match.
As for me, also 62, my God-given gift, recognized by my parents and teachers when I was quite young, has long been my ability to tell a good story and then transform it into the printed word.
Yes, I serve as the senior editor for The Washington Informer but I also contribute features and news reports almost weekly. It’s not that I necessarily want to write. In truth, I write because I cannot “not” write. It’s part of my DNA.
What amazed me most was how our trio worked together, almost seamlessly – often saying very little to one another yet knowing what the other two were doing and why. Sometimes it would only take a nod of the head, a change in the evening’s program, a few words shared in an impromptu fashion or an unexpected scene that propelled us into action.
We were like a fine-tuned machine – primed and ready for the task at hand. And it felt good! It felt natural.
Our industry has changed and evolved in ways that none of us could have predicted when we began our careers back in the good old days – for Roy in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement – for Hamil and me, at a time when Black Power and affirmative action allowed us to enter doors once forbidden to Black men.
It was a true gathering of old men but old only in the chronological sense.
Our spirits and our innate abilities continue to inform the way we capture the news. And while we may not be experts on the latest social media applications or have less than an enviable number of followers on Twitter and Facebook, I realized something really important as the evening came to a close.
There’s still no substitution for experience – for having failed and then learned how to overcome failure.
It’s one thing to read about 9/11, the murder of Trayvon Martin or the Million Man March. But it’s another to have been there, to have walked with scores of other Black men, women and children, recording their thoughts or capturing their expressions so that future generations might also experience what we have – albeit vicariously.
Three brothers joined forces one Saturday night on a routine assignment. But the ordinary became extraordinary.
We were allowed the rare opportunity to bond as three proud Black men who have each weathered storms and seen rainbows evolve out of darkened skies. Even more, it was an evening which reminded us how much we love doing what we do.
Doing it for the Black Press is the icing on the cake.