HELLO AMERICA!—There always comes a time when you feel that someone in your life deserves to be thanked in a big way for all of the support given to you through good, challenging as well as bad times. This is meant to do just that — my thanks and deep respect is going to my sister, IDA LEWIS, writer, professor, publisher, and “Deep Ditch and Narrow Pit,” author. Ironically, during her time in the seventh grade, she attended an all-Black primary school, Phyllis Wheatley, in Morton, Pennsylvania.
Located about 10 miles from Philadelphia, she won the distinguish title of editor for the class literary magazine. Unbeknownst to her, this recognition affected me in a major way. The idea that my sister would be recognized for this kind of responsibility was quite over-whelming; I was determined to match her in any way, artistically possible. So, I was named one of the writers for the publication. The project soon became the talk of the school. Students and even teachers kept an eye on daily development of columns, stories, artwork as well as those assigned to the printing of the project.
It was challenging, but definitely exciting! Ida not only ended up creating an unbelievable colorful cover for the publication, but wrote a compelling story about her dreams of the future. When reading the first draft of it, I was so seriously affected by what she wrote. I was determined to describe my hopes and dreams of the future following the World War II. The teacher, Rosa L. Watson, was so impressed with Ida’s work she was treated as if she had been crowned “royal.”
I believe it is rather important that I acknowledge this simply to stress it is definitely true many young people are seriously affected by the accomplishments of their sisters, brothers and young friends who are suddenly recognized as special in some artistic or even scientific way. From that time on, I was aware of every step academically she made. To me, she was extremely special, and I found it was necessary for me to work damn hard to keep up with her. She was in control of everything in her daily life, setting a schedule to complete, not only home responsibilities, but any school project which might affect her grade. As a result, she graduated first in the class and I won a second place. It only made me determined to give my all, no matter how tough it was to keep up; as the older brother, image was exceedingly important. Following graduation from the highly rated Swarthmore High School, we both set off to our respective colleges.
She was set to attend Boston University and I was on a trail to Richmond, Indiana to attend a Quaker college, Earlham. While there she wrote a thrilling book “Deep Ditch and the Narrow Pit” and I was named as the first person of color to be elected as the Freshman Class President. Years later when arriving in Hollywood, attending USC and UCLA and Ida took on columnist responsibilities for the Amsterdam News, Paris Match and several other weekly and monthly publications, I was named West Coast Correspondent for TV-Radio-Movie Guide as well as penning entertaining columns for local publications, interviewing some of the most iconic stars of the industry.
Suddenly, Ida announces she was publishing the first Black News Week magazine, offices commanding a full floor in one of New York’s hottest business district. Her publication was called ENCORE and it was the center of talk on both coasts. Maintaining her usual, professional cool, Ida hired a large staff that included such iconic literary talents as Nikki Giovani, James Baldwin and numerous other talented writers and editors. I was signed as the first Black director at the NBC station in Burbank. Tom Brokaw was lead news man, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Laugh-In, was going strong. Ida’s “Encore” was going strong, not only nationally, but on the international scene as well.
After a few years I decided to leave NBC and accepted a position as Editor-in-Chief for PLAYER’S INT’L responsibility for four major entertainment publications, one using my name in the same way Rona Barrett was being promoted. It was definitely an exciting time. Ida later was offered an exciting position as Editor-in-Chief for Essence magazine; she was this soon to be popular publication’s first editor opening doors for many gifted writers, reporters and artists who possibly would have never been publicly recognized.
I take my hat off and give my utter respect to a woman who not only dreamed and talked; she prepared herself, made moves to the mountain top and made sure others might realize their dream as well. Ida Lewis, I salute you for being my idol, not allowing me to simply dream but get up each day and make something happen.