by Jason A. Michael
(Jason A. Michael is a senior staff writer for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Between The Lines and Pride Source Media Group. He has been writing for BTL since 1999. He is also an Essence bestselling author. The following piece appeared in the April 20, 2023, issue of the newspaper, and it appears here with permission. He may be reached at email@example.com.)
It is with humility, pride and a bit of awe that I celebrate my 24th year with Between The Lines and Pride Source. The traditional theme for a 24th anniversary is opal, for those of you who keep up with these things and would like to send gifts. If you’d rather wait until my silver anniversary to honor me, that’s fine, too. For now, just keep reading. That’s the best gift you could give.
This column is a new endeavor. I’m told you, dear readers, enjoy it when I intertwine current happenings with historical events in my life, the queer community at large and my nearly quarter-of-a-century history with the paper. This is not my first rodeo. I’ve done columns before. Longtime readers may remember Full-Time Homo, my first, or the scintillating celebrity gossip roundup Tales from the Camp.
This one is special to me for several reasons. In 1999, when I first started, sage and raconteur Charles Alexander was already writing his popular Parting Glances column. Back in those days, we were all panicking over the possibility of what Armageddon Y2K might bring. At the turn of the new millennium, Charles took the opportunity to reflect on Detroit’s queer history as well as his own. His column intertwined the two marvelously. So much so that he kept the Parting Glances name long after Y2K came and went. He continued to write his column until shortly before his death last December, some 700-plus columns in all.
While I could never do what he did — wouldn’t even dare to try — the name of this column, Second Glances, is an homage to Charles. Despite our 36-year age difference, Charles meant more to me than I could say here or in a hundred columns. He was a tremendous blessing to me. My frequent dinner companion who made daily calls to check in on me. My confidante, supporter and inspiration. I could go on, but I can just hear him in my head saying, “Wrap it up, Mary.” So, I digress.
Like the artwork he created that I have hanging up all over my house, this column is not only a tribute to Charles, but a way of keeping him alive in my heart. I’ll take the tips I learned from his superb commentaries. I’ll consider his thoughts and what I think he’d think about a column. I’ll take a page out of his book and try to keep my writing interesting and informative, as well as a tad bit cheeky and off-color. Charles would have it no other way.
The title Second Glances is also appropriate for other reasons. In both my life and career, there’s a lot to look back on. And I’m prepared to bare it all: the good, the bad, the ugly. When I started with BTL as a cub reporter, I knew nothing. I was as green as Kermit the Frog. I did have the benefit of a great education in journalism from Wayne State University, studying under such gifted instructors as Jack Lessenberry and Ruth Seymour. I was still taking classes, however, and didn’t even have my degree.
Suddenly I found myself in the thick of it. I covered the retrial of Jonathan Schmitz, aka the Jenny Jones murder. I reported on the death of closeted community activist Harold McCormick and was the first to report that his killer took his life on the 15th anniversary of his first slaying, for which he’d already served time and been released.
I’ve also, through the years, been blessed to be able to interview some of my favorite celebrity icons, including Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge, Boy George, all the Motown divas, and many, many more. Only a year in, I got the chance to interview the late Yolanda King, daughter of civil rights hero Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was coming to town to speak at an HRC dinner. She and I hit it off, and she arranged for me to meet her mother, a civil rights hero in her own right, the late Coretta Scott King, when I was in Atlanta covering Creating Change.
Through the years, former BTL and Pride Source publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz have been very good to me. And for the past two, publisher Benjamin Jenkins and the whole editorial team have been patient and supportive. When I started, I never could have imagined I’d hang around the Pride Source newsroom for so long. But I love the community I report on, and I consider that reporting, including through photos I have taken, my biggest contribution to queer Michigan.
Now this column will stand as a contribution of its own, my most personal effort to reach readers and, hopefully, generate some laughs and even touch a few hearts. I’ll be sharing my stories, but yours as well. I will revisit the best and worst of times in my life and the life of our community.
I’ve been given few parameters for this column. So how it develops is as much up to you as it is to me. Let me know if you enjoy what you read, or even if you don’t. The best writing matters not at all if no one is reading. I certainly enjoyed reading Charles’ column. I hope you’ll enjoy reading mine.