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Q&A with DarkSky Advocate Michael Lewis from Virginia, USA

DarkSky Delegate Michael Lewis of Virginia works on Urban Night Sky Place designations and highlights the importance of Black representation in conservation.

IDA Advocate Michael Lewis looking through a telescope.
Michael looking through a telescope.

Each month DarkSky International features a DarkSky Advocate from the worldwide network of volunteers who are working to protect the night. This month we’re highlighting the work of DarkSky Delegate Michael Lewis in Petersburg, Virginia, USA.

Michael Lewis is a dedicated advocate for dark skies and astronomy education. He met the founder of International Dark Sky Week, Ms. Jennifer Barlow, at an astronomy event years ago and it sparked his passion for protecting the night sky. Michael is also a member of the Richmond Astronomical Society and the AAVSO Variable Star Observers. He is actively working on Urban Night Sky Place designations to help more people in cities understand the value of a dark night sky. Get to know Michael and his work with the Q&A below.

Michael with a park manager working on an Urban Night Sky Place.

Q. What got you interested in protecting dark skies?
A. A presentation given by Ms. Barlow on Dark Sky Week at a Richmond Astronomical Society meeting several years ago.

Q. What does Black History Month mean to you?
A. It is a time when people can celebrate the culture of Black people and the achievements of Black people. I believe too many people do not know very much about either Black culture or the achievements of Black people. So just thinking or saying “we do not do anything” seems okay in American society.

Q. What is your biggest challenge as a person of color working in dark sky conservation?
A. Getting to the reason behind why public places close to the public from Sunset to Sunrise. I want to ask, is it a fear of what people of color might do in a park after dark?

Q. What do you want to tell people about being Black and advocating for dark skies?
A. That Black people often live in places that have and are affected by light pollution in negative ways.

Q. Where would you like to see DarkSky International go from here?
A. To reach out to Astronomy groups who have virtual monthly meetings and participate in their meetings.

Q. What is your favorite part about the night sky?
A. I am a fan of seeing the Moon, but looking for variable stars is now my favorite part of the night sky.

Q. Most memorable experience being in the dark?
A. Watching full moons in Winter where clouds with ice crystals give the Moon a ring around it.

Q. What is your greatest success in dark sky conservation?
A. Seeing Iridium flares for the first time.

Q. Do you have any favorite songs/poems about the night?
A. The Night Flight from Houston (Remastered) — Laurie Anderson

Q. What do you wish more people knew about dark skies?
A. You need to see the night sky from a safe and very dark place to realize what you are missing if you live anywhere there is a lot of light pollution.

Learn more about the DarkSky Advocate Network here