Remembering Mpozi

Dateline: Mon 09 Jul 2007

The following was published July 3 on indyrats, www.indyrats.com

The author is Nick Hedrick, a prolific young journalist and a student at South Montgomery High School. Nick gave me permission to re-print his thoughts here:

"One year ago today, Star photographer Mpozi Tolbert began having trouble breathing while working in the newsroom. He then collapsed and was later pronounced dead at Wishard Memorial Hospital. He was just 34 years old.

"I met Mpozi during a tour of the newsroom 28 days before he died. The following is an edited version of a piece I wrote several months ago for IndyRats. I'm leaving out the part that explains what I just wrote above about the circumstances of his death

"As I walked out of "The Indianapolis Star" building following a tour of the newsroom last June, I tried to decide how I would remember the experience.

"It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. The newsroom was relatively quiet - there was no editor shouting, "Great Ceasar's ghost!", or reporters scurrying around the room. The producers of the 1994 movie "The Paper" would have been disappointed.

"I then remembered meeting Mpozi Tolbert, a photographer who was selecting pictures for the next day's editions as we passed the photo desk. He was a remarkably tall man whose dreadlocks went down to his waist. More than his physical appearance, though, made him a remarkable person. Immediately after seeing my mom and I approach the desk, he stood up and shook our hands.

"As ten-codes and other police-talk cackled on the scanners beside us and the phones rang, he told us about the protective gear photographers must sometimes use while covering dangerous assignments.

"Mpozi and his humor and politeness was what made a trip to 307 N. Pennsylvania St. worthwhile. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity.

"The day following his death, the skies over West Central Indiana were dark and gloomy. It seemed as if Mother Nature was mourning the loss of a great man. Then sprinkles began to pepper the area. Perhaps Mother Nature was crying.

"The Star was a better newspaper, Indianapolis was a better city with Mpozi behind the camera's lens. His pictures were truly worth a thousand words. They put readers on the scene of the story - whether it was at a Long John Silver's with a car protruding from it's drive-thru or at a local festival.

"It's hard to think of a newspaper, and especially a society, without such a person.

"He will never be forgotten."

Quick comment: Mpozi's talent was not limited to his work for the newspaper. He was deeply involved in the city's hip hop music scene and he had a Fountain Square studio where his more creative photographic work was developed and displayed. Last fall, the Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art at 340 N. Senate showcased his photography. The images seen there are still available for sale through his family. For more information, contact the museum's executive director Kathy Nagler. The phone is 317-634-6622.

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