By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO
Michelle Miller recently discussed her journey to a stronger idea of self and the motivation behind her memoir, “Belonging: A Daughter’s Search for Identity Through Love and Loss.”
Among friends, fans, Howard professors and classmates, Miller bore her soul at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest Washington, D.C.
The South Central native was born to a Black father and a Latina mother whose family opposed her dating a Black man. To complicate the love affair, her father was the late Dr. Ross Miller, chief of surgery at Dominguez Valley Hospital in Compton, Calif. He was married when he became involved in an extramarital affair with Miller’s mother, a hospital worker.
“I’m my mother’s secret, born to an extramarital affair,” Miller shared.
Her maternal grandparents were first-generation Mexican-Americans chasing the American dream, which Miller maintains, reflected Whiteness.
“Racism has impacted me all my life,” she said. “Born into the trauma of the unrest of 1967. I came out of the union of a father who adored me and a mother who, to this day, has not acknowledged my existence.”
In their one meeting that lasted less than an hour, Miller learned that her father was the love of her mother’s life, but her grandparents disagreed. Ultimately, Miller’s mom was presented with the “it’s either him or us” ultimatum by her family. Her mother chose her family, which meant abandoning Miller.
The fulfillment of a happy marriage and children– even being a national correspondent for CBS News– did not remove the emotional turmoil fueled by feelings of being unwanted and abandoned.
“There are still things and places that I don’t feel like I belong, and yet I feel accomplished. I still feel loved. I don’t know what that says about me. But like I said—it is a journey, and I’m still on it. I’m a kid who didn’t feel as though she belonged in a space or place at a given time, and I was seeking to belong,” said Miller. “I was seeking to fill a void and to find my place—and that’s what belonging means to me.”
Although a gifted storyteller, Miller never felt moved to gift her story of “longing and her struggle to belong” with the world. She believed her story was no different than any other person trying to come to terms with a parent’s abandonment.
“I never felt compelled to tell my story. There were a lot of people out there like me. Why would anyone want to hear my story,” Miller said. “More importantly– I didn’t know how to tell it.”
But in a serendipitous turn of events, Miller, in 2020, while recording a segment on the social injustice impacting Black and Brown people nationwide, turned the camera on herself and shared with a nation of television viewers the narrative of her childhood wounds. Thirty-seven minutes after the episode aired, she received an email from HarperCollins that read, “Wow. That’s a book. Can we publish it?”
Choosing against looking a “gift horse in the mouth,” Miller agreed.
Unbeknownst to Miller, authoring Belonging was cathartic.
The Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist has always been conscious of the scars she carried because of her mother’s denial. However, she was unconscious of how deep the wounds cut.
Marc Morial, Miller’s husband of 23 years, shared that when they began dating, she told him the one thing he could not do was “abandon” her. Hearing that was eye-opening for Miller. Morial was happy that writing the book gave his wife an opportunity to soothe some of the emotional trauma.
Miller said the book tour “is the most amazing experience.”
“When your friends come out and throw you events. It is so incredible. I feel it (the love). I really feel it. If I didn’t know it before, I better know it now,” said Miller.
As the discussion ended, Miller shared that she remains a little angry because her mom, married with a family, still will not acknowledge her. Still, she maintains that she is “nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I just think it’s so significant to one: let people know that they matter; they are recognized, and that they are a part of your space, place and family.”
Reginald Williams, the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized” writes on Black men and Holistic Health concerns. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit amvonlinestore.com for more information.