By Annie Rhoades
L. Kasimu Harris (MA 08) is a man of many talents and trades, but one thing that has remained constant throughout his career is his love of all things creative.
Currently freelance writing for numerous publications including Southern Living magazine, The Times-Picayune as well as a full-time stint as fashion and style writer for The Oxford American, Harris can also boast jazz trumpeter, photographer and semi-professional baseball player to his resume of accomplishments.
A New Orleans native, Harris attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) throughout high school. He began playing jazz trumpet when he was 13 years old and originally planned to pursue a professional music career.
“When I was first looking at different colleges I heard about Middle Tennessee State University from my former piano teacher and at the time I wanted to pursue a career in music production in the music business,” said Harris. “MTSU had that program, and it was one of the best in the nation.”
After receiving his BBA from MTSU in 2004, Harris briefly worked for a year as an assistant manager for Walgreens.
However, Harris could not deny his passion for journalism, which began at an early age.
An avid newspaper reader since the second grade, Harris didn’t begin to truly hone his writing skills until his freshman year of college where he was a senior staff reporter for the school’s newspaper.
Harris learned of Ole Miss’ journalism program at a job fair in 2004 and promptly enrolled in 2005 to pursue a master’s degree.
“I had never seen the campus before and when I went on my first visit I just fell in love with it,” said Harris. “The journalism department was located in Farley Hall, which looked like it was about to fall down at the time, but there was something about the journalism department I just really liked.”
Harris credits Ole Miss professors Curtis Wilkie, Overby fellow and associate professor of journalism; Samir Husni, director of the magazine innovation center; David Wharton, assistant professor of southern studies, as well as former professor D. Michael Cheers as serving pivotal roles in his career development.
While studying at Ole Miss, Harris had the opportunity to travel abroad to South Africa and Italy, both of which he said were invaluable learning experiences he will never forget.
Harris made his first trip to South Africa with Cheers and Wilkie, then to Italy the following year with Husni.
“South Africa was like a race and reconciliation course, and we stayed there two weeks,” said Harris. “It was just extremely beneficial to learn how to report out of your comfort zone abroad and just to be immersed with so many people for such a long time.”
After graduating from Ole Miss in 2008, Harris began a fellowship program at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and later attended a journalism conference in Chicago where he received numerous job interviews.
After a brief stint with a New York Times regional newspaper back in Louisiana, Harris found himself teaching media courses at Martin Behrman Middle School and Algiers Technology Academy in New Orleans.
His career took an unexpected turn in 2011 when Harris began talking with founder and then editor of The Oxford American, Marc Smirnoff about writing for his publication.
“It was funny how that came about,” said Harris. “Marc and I both worked at Square Books in Oxford, so immediately we had that Ole Miss connection. I started talking to him because he had on a seersucker jacket just like one I had. The relationship just grew from there.”
Harris possessed a keen interest in style and fashion from the time he was a small child that matured as he got older and eventually became a platform for his writing career.
“I went to visit Marc in Arkansas and he was asking what type of things I was interested in writing,” said Harris. “I told him travel, music and food writing but all of those things are so saturated. He looked at me, and I probably had on some kind of bowtie or something, and he asked if I had thought about writing about fashion. My answer was, ‘No, never.’”
Once the idea was planted Harris soon found himself trying to find a way to write about style and fashion from a unique point of view that allowed him to incorporate his love of photography.
“I knew I wanted to do it differently, having the skill set of being able to write as well as do photography,” said Harris. “I didn’t see anyone doing that then and I didn’t formally study fashion so I’m not going to talk about fabrics. Ultimately the style stories I write are either profiles or just coming of age stories through the lens of fashion.”
Harris sees a bright future ahead for his photography and writing.
“Just this year, one of my photographs will be in the opening credits for the final season of HBO’s Treme,” said Harris. “I also recently did a photo shoot for jazz musician Delfeayo Marsalis for an upcoming album. I try to stay busy with projects like that.”
Harris is also hoping to write a story about his mother’s life as well as the culmination of his thesis project, coming of age stories of a man in New Orleans that incorporate the devastation many went through during Hurricane Katrina.
“Since we’re coming up on the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, that’s definitely something I would like to dust off in the next year and a half,” said Harris.
While Harris has many new projects on the horizon, he fondly looks back on the time he spent at Ole Miss. An avid Rebel football fan and sports enthusiast, Harris attended nearly every sporting event as a graduate student.
“I’m in the New Orleans alumni club, so we always have big watch parties,” said Harris. “I haven’t been back to campus for a football game since I graduated but I hope to get back for one this year. The Grove is just an awesome experience.”