Micah Lewis, 24, is founder of Vibestreet Photography and Rental Studios, a rental space near Five Points South that opened this year and hosts a broad range of photo shoots, videography, art shows, meetings, and even served as a site for a local reality show. He recently spoke to The Birmingham Times about the multipurpose location for creatives in the Magic City.
Birmingham Times: What do you like most about Birmingham?
Lewis: I love that Birmingham is a happy medium between small towns and big cities. We have a large university here, but also a lot of small businesses and restaurants that aren’t available in other cities. Places like Atlanta can be overwhelming for extended amounts of time with the huge population and constant traffic. Also, my roots are here, and there’s nothing better than giving back to a community that gave me so much.
If you had someone visit from out of town, what’s the one place you have to take them?
Aside from places like Vulcan [Park and Museum] and the Civil Rights Institute, it’s important to see other places in the city that truly capture the essence of Birmingham. First, we’d stop by Bayles, a black-owned restaurant in Woodlawn that opened recently and has the best waffles I’ve tasted in a long time. Next, we’d head to Third Avenue North, where there’s an assortment of amazing businesses. Starting at Don’s Hair Care Center, I’d make sure they get a fresh fade from one of the best barbers in Birmingham, Donnie. Then we’d get them some air-purifying plants from the Botanical Gardens, a cup of coffee from Revelator Coffee, and end the visit with the McWane Center.
What’s your favorite movie?
My top three of all time would be “Training Day,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” and “She’s Out of Your League.” I’m a fan of movies that have issues that aren’t too big. Our real lives can be very stressful so I’m not into movies or shows where someone has to save the world from ending. In movies like these, people are put in situations where they’re probably supposed to lose, but they find a way through despite their flaws.
Who’s your favorite musical artist?
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a number-one favorite artist but, but right now my favorites are YBN Cordae, Sam Cooke, and the great Nipsey Hussle. Cordae is a newer artist, but it’s so refreshing to hear someone actually rapping in a time of hip-hop that is so heavily diluted with people focusing on money instead of the art itself. I believe you can be considered a great artist when you have one truly perfect song, and Sam Cooke has at least three, which is amazing. Aside from his extensive discography and constant growth within his music, Nipsey Hussle gave knowledge and resources to his community in abundance, which is something I think about daily.
What’s a food dish that you can never get tired of?
The super double burger from Pop’s Neighborhood Grill on the Southside is amazing. There’s just something about that restaurant, where you can literally taste the love. With places like that open here in Birmingham, I rarely go to the chain fast food restaurants.
What are you most passionate about professionally? Personally?
Professionally, I care about growing Vibestreet organically and keeping our focus on being a resource to the young people coming up behind us. In the past, I’ve been so focused on changing people’s perception of Vibestreet, I ended up reaching for things that were not in the best interest of the brand, [such as paying people they didn’t know personally to promote the brand.] In those cases, people did the bare minimum or only what they were contractually obligated to do. Customers can tell it’s just someone being paid and not that they personally believe in Vibestreet but looked good on social media. Now, due to those hard lessons I understand that our victory is not in comparison to others but knowing that we did our best and still remained ourselves in that. Personally, I strive to be a better man every day and gain more patience and understanding of the world around me.
Who is someone you admire, and why?
My cousin, Ronald Jackson, is someone I draw strength from regularly. His childhood situations were more than any one person should have to endure, but he’s one of the most kind and pleasant people walking the earth. I’ve had issues with forgiveness and patience, but it seems he’s been endowed with those traits his entire life. I regularly think to myself, “If Ronnie could make it through all that, I can keep going as well.”
What are three pet peeves?
Being late, unprepared/uninformed, or stagnant would be my biggest pet peeves. I like to get where I’m going at least 10 minutes early, just in case an issue arises. Additionally, I know I value my time, so I wouldn’t want to waste anyone else’s. Being on time goes hand in hand with being prepared and informed. For events we curate for Vibestreet, as a team we organize everything three months in advance so we can be thorough and precise with our finished products. And finally, without growth there is no life itself.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a flawed man who took his vision farther than he was equipped to. The very heritage of black Americans is being dealt an unfair hand and still coming away with a victory. I’d like to continue that legacy and leave more resources behind, therefore passing the baton on to the next generation so maybe they can simply live better lives instead of having to fight for one. I know we’re far from the goal of full civil equality, but if we were the last generation to have to go to war and die for it, that’d be great.
What do you want to do before you die?
I want to ensure that I convey a message that happiness is more accessible than what we are taught. Life is not worth living only because you have an expensive sports car and a mansion. The greatest luxury in this life is time spent with people who matter to you. A cousin of mine was murdered recently [June 2019] here in Birmingham, and I would give everything I have for him to have made it home safely that night. We’re often in heaven but get too preoccupied looking out the window at something else. Many of our young people are systematically being led astray by being told that they need material things—often depreciating liabilities—to be successful, when instead they need to be taught the importance of financial stability and building a foundation that can help them for the rest of their lives.
What publications or websites do you regularly read?
Aside from reading The Birmingham Times regularly, I’m not as much of a reader as I’d like to be. I usually get my breaking news from Twitter, and I watch a lot of interviews from people that inspire me. I actually listen to the same interviews a lot so I can fully digest messages from people.
What is your personal motto?
From the late great Nipsey Hussle: “The marathon continues.” We’ve been working on Vibestreet for four years now, and I still feel like we’ve barely begun. Earlier on I was concerned with the sprint and trying to be the biggest thing in the world by tomorrow, but that isn’t possible. The slow growth, hard lessons, and struggles along the way are what make the journey worth it.
Compiled by Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times.