Happiest of Fridays to you!
As many of you know, I love Twitter. And fortunately for me, it has introduced me to a number of amazing millennials in the last year in a half that continue to inspire, motivate and encourage me to be great. Coincidentally, my soundtrack for preparing today’s Millennial on a Mission spotlight was Donny Hathaway’s ‘Young Gifted & Black’, which is incredibly fitting for a young man that describes himself as the ‘Journo of Culture Trends of Millennials.’ Not only does he keep his finger on the pulse of all things related to culture, entertainment, media, and technology, but he does it such a captivating and compelling way that adequately speaks to our generation and shows off his journalistic savvy.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tre’vell Anderson.
Although originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Tre’vell is from a little bit of everywhere. “My mom’s in the Army and we have lived everywhere,” he says. “Multiple parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgina, Alabama, Texas, Kansas and even Germany.” He is a proud alumnus of the headquarters of Black male excellence, Morehouse College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Sociology. After graduating from Morehouse in 2013, Tre’vell took his talents west to Stanford University where he received his MA in journalism this past June. At the end of this month, he will start his journalism career as a reporter for the L.A. Times in their Metpro Training Program.
CC: What differences did you see in attending an HBCU in undergrad, to attending a PWI in grad school?
TA: Morehouse was the best decision I have made to date. Going to a school that not only puts people who look like me at the forefront, but also challenges me socially is every college student’s dream – they just don’t know it. Sure, the academics, the actual work, will be whatever it’s going to be, but to learn inside and outside of the classroom about your people, your history, your identity is truly what college, especially during those adult-defining years, is all about. Morehouse taught me who I am in a way that nowhere else could have. Though I spent most of my four years there pushing back against the establishment, administration, etc., Morehouse made me.
(A short documentary Tre’vell produced about Black student experiences at Morehouse versus PWIs while at Stanford.)
Going to PWI for grad school was… different, to say the least. Fried Chicken Wednesdays in the cafeteria were replaced with kale and couscous, I would go weeks without seeing another Black person on campus (except the other person in my program and campus maintenance staff) and I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong and that somehow the admissions folk overlooked the apostrophe in my name and thought I was something other that what I am. I quickly got over all of this when confronted with the fact that I was here and for a reason. So, I started speaking up, and actualizing that person that I had become at Morehouse. I would vocalize my issues with many of the racist/prejudiced microaggressions that would occur — both inside the classroom by professors and in social settings with classmates. I began covering the topics and communities that I wanted to, despite the disapproval or push-back by professors. I knew that God had called me to Stanford.
In sum, Stanford was my test – the test that we all get at one point in life that either supports the idea of the man or woman we think we are or turns that concept inside out. Stanford showed me that the man Morehouse made me into was a man that I was comfortable with and a man that would make sure he not only had a seat at the table, but made his voice, perspective and lived experience known
CC: At what moment did you know that journalism was your career calling? Growing up, who were some of your favorite journalists and how did they inspire you to pursue this career field?
TA: I didn’t know that journalism was my calling until sophomore/junior year at Morehouse. I knew that I had a knack for writing and keeping it 100 around my junior/senior year in high school. After taking a “convergence media” class, which was required for any student to be on the newspaper, yearbook or broadcast staff, I was selected by the newspaper advisor to be the editor of the opinion section for my senior year.
Once I got to Morehouse, I got involved with the Opinion section of our school paper, The Maroon Tiger, as a contributing writer. The student leadership of the paper saw something in me, leading to appointments as the Opinions Editor my sophomore year, Campus News editor junior year and Managing Editor senior year.
Growing up there really wasn’t any journalist that I identified with. (News wasn’t my thing, ironically.) Everybody says Oprah but other than her, I can’t think of anyone else. I will say that the story of one guy, Gerald M. Boyd, had a major impact on me starting a career in journalism . One of my friends had left his biography, My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times, in my room. His story of triumph inspired me while his story of defeat angered me (he was the second in command – the highest ranked Black person ever – during the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal). I knew at this moment that my seemingly random decision to be a journalist was the right one.
Presently, journalists like Janet Mock, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Melissa Harris-Perry, Don Lemon and Wendy Williams (don’t laugh, lol) are possibly my role models, with each of them trailblazing in their own right. I can only hope that when I hang my pen up, I can continue to bring people the news they want.
CC: Day in and day out, the millennial generation is constantly under the microscope of the media’s watchful eye. Even in the midst of all of their shade, do you think that there’s hope for the millennial voice to be heard, and for the narrative to change? How do you think millennials could leverage their various influences and incite change?
TA: There is hope for the millennial voice to be heard. The narrative will change. The revolution will be televised and tweeted and blogged and designed and printed.
The problem is that we have been reared in a society that tell us that it’s okay to be an individual, just not at work; that it’s okay to have an opinion, just only at the right time; that we want you to be creative, but just don’t step on anybody’s toes or ruffle any feathers; that this is what we have done for the past 100 years and you better jump on the train or get run over. We’ve been told all of this for so long that we have begun to believe it. We turn into recreations of their robot mold. We begin to believe that one person can’t effect positive change. We forget that we ourselves can be our own trains. We forget that we not only have voices, but we are voices in this world.
The only way we will change the narrative is by bringing all of ourselves to work, realizing the personal is not only political but it is professional too. We have to stop just wanting a seat at the table and start wanting to own the table, even if that means making your own table. We have to realize our power and walk in our power every chance that we get. We have to get to the point where we can verbalize the power, the perspective that we have. No one can sell us better than us and we have to get better at doing that.
And the media needs to stop speaking for and about us and let us do the speaking. This all may sound a little rebellious, but hell, as a black gay man, I was born to stand out. We need more people in our generation who don’t mind standing out.
To Tre’vell, being a Millennial on a Mission means to realize that you are the key, the missing puzzle piece. “It’s to make your own space when the spaces that have been created for you just don’t fit,” he says. “It’s to know that the world can be a better place and work to make it so.’ Daily, he strives to live and achieve his dreams by remaining authentic to who he is and his lived experience. If he could impart any advice on his millennial peers, it would be a ‘remixed’ memorable quote from the 6th president of Morehouse College, Benjamin E. Mays: “Whatever you do, do you so well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born could do you any better. And the only way to do you to the best of your ability is to know you.”