Celebrating Juneteenth: Miles Thomas – Black Boy Joy 

By: Kirstin Cheers

 Miles Thomas always knew there was something special about him. A creative, he admires the genius of Kanye West and Chance The Rapper, but not just for their lyrics and production, but their involvement in multiple venues.  

After transferring back home to Memphis from Belmont, Miles knew he had some work to do here in his hometown and soon created Corner Store Market, an online boutique cultural hipster hub where he sells his designs on t-shirts for the everyday urban hipster. Now, with his designs reaching influencers such as PJ Morton and Kenneth Whalum, III, Miles is in his bag and his joy illuminates throughout his brand.  

 When you think of the phrase “Black joy,” what does that mean to you? How do you look for moments of joy in your daily life?  

Black Joy to me is finding joy in your identity and who you were divinely created to be. It’s being happy about the skin that everyone else sees everyday, a skin that has been led to believe it ain’t beautiful at all. Finding the beauty in who we are uniquely made to be and not hiding it from the world, that’s black joy.  

Thinking about the community around you, how do they give you joy or help you pursue your own?  

The community around me, especially in the city, has shown me the beauty in being authentic. Not forcing or trying to fit a circle into a square hole, but letting others conform to whoever you are. Being ok with where you come from, how you talk, the little things that make you whoever you are. Being able to tell the difference in everyone from the city, there’s beauty in that, because it forces you to have to be ok with who you are. We can sense fake, and you’ll be isolated more with fake way more than you will ever be with authenticity, especially in Memphis.  

 Think about the thing, people, or Memphis-related place that brings you the most joy or allows you to be who you are. How does that thing, person, or place do that for you?  

I think it’s the FedexForum specifically the Grizzlies games that you can really see people be whoever they are. That’s when you see the city, and I mean you really see the city come out. It brings me peace despite all the stress that goes into watching a Grizzlies game. You can be whoever you are, it’s no force to be cool, or to be fit in. You’re sitting there rooting for the team that represents you. However you wanna dress at the game, however you want to talk, act, it’s cool, because we are all there for one common goal, rooting on the team who represents us. That to me brings me peace because it shows a lot about us as a city, it doesn’t really matter who it is, we might have idsues within each other, or we might be going through whatever within the city, but when it’s time to root for and encourage someone who’s representative of us, we will be there.  

 How does Memphis (think the city, the community, the places here that you find the most peace) allow you to express yourself?  

 Honestly, it’s crazy to look back and see how much Memphis has influenced my art. When I design a tee shirt, I think about Memphis first, and how the style of the hustlers who live in Whitehaven or the style of the suburban kid in Germantown, how those can coexist at the same time, how they could both be touched by my expression. Some of the ways I express myself, only people who are from Memphis would understand the little details and that’s cool. I never would have made some of the t shirts I have without seeing the authenticity of Memphis showing me that whoever I am or however I am feeling, that’s what has to go into the world.  

 For the younger Black generations, what is your greatest piece of advice for living unapologetically or pursuing passions or joy? 

Life is long. The more you apologize for whoever you are, the more you let people tell you what your passion and individual joy should be, the more you let people shape that, the longer life feels and the longer life gets. You have to find your own joy and your own passions, that’s accomplished through trial and error, it’s not dependent on someone else’s expectations. Expectations kill relationships, so those relationships will naturally die in due time. However you can’t sacrifice yourself in order to save relationships. Removing those expectations will help you find joy and passion in a way that’s unimaginable.  

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