Tag Archives: Essence

How Can Essence Move Forward?

by Guest Contributor Chris Rabb

Essence CoverToday I learned that Michael Bullerdick, the latest managing editor of Essence Magazine–a highly influential publication whose first issue published in 1970–inadvertently outted himself on social media recently by expressing extreme right-wing beliefs that counter the history and long-standing values of the organization where he was hired last summer.

What’s notable about this story is that Mr. Bullerdick is a white man. While he is not the first white employee to make headlines–as Ellianna Placas did when she became the first white fashion director–he is the first white person and first man to be the managing editor of this publication geared to Black female readers.

According to Richard Prince at Journalisms, Bullerdick was asked to leave after his posting habits on Facebook came to light:

In one screen shot, an April 10 posting is headlined, “No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?” touting a video by James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who worked with right-wing trickster Andrew Breitbart. The same day, Bullerdick shared a photo illustration of Al Sharpton headlined, “MSNBC Race Pimp.” Bullerdick also recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website townhall.com, from which Bullerdick posted “the Frequent Bomber Program,” an article about 1960s radical Bill Ayers. Bullerdick wrote, “Obama’s mentor and friend.”

The mismatch in values not surprising to me–even though I know very little about Bullerdick, personally. What I do know, however, is that Essence was acquired in 2005 by Time, Inc.–the largest magazine publisher in the U.S.–a corporate conglomerate that well understood the cumulative spending power of Black women.

In 2000, the Black owners of Essence sold 49% of this iconic company to Time. Why just 49%, you ask? Because by retaining 51% ownership of the company, they could technically say that Essence was still Black-owned (insert air quotes here).

The owners no doubt predicted that many Black readers and non-readers alike would condemn this choice as nothing less than “selling out” at the expense of an institution that, in the field of media and journalism, has provided an important outlet for Black women to express themselves in ways that corporate media was loathe to do both before 1970–and arguably even today–in many mainstream circles, despite a few notable exceptions. Continue reading

Quoted: Don Lemon on Fear, Coming Out and Acceptance

Don Lemon

Once I was finished writing [Transparent, my new] book, my first thought was Are Black women going to support me? Will they stop watching me on TV? Will they call me a fag?

Truthfully, that would hurt me more than anything else. [...]

I’m not going to lie- sharing my story hasn’t been an easy decision. Americans in general have a very limited definition of masculinity, but there’s a definite stigma in the Black community that being gay is the worst thing possible. In telling you that I’m gay, I pray that you will not judge or condemn me. If you ever thought I was a role model before, I hope you will continue to believe that because I strive to be one. If you thought I was a great journalist before, I hope you will still think the same of me. And for the record, let me say that not all gay men are feminine. There’s nothing about me that wants to be a woman. It’s stereotypes, assumptions, and religious ostracism that keeps Black gay men like me from telling the truth about who we really are.

— Don Lemon, “To My Beautiful Black Sisters…” (link goes to video), Essence Magazine, July 2011

Quoted: Dani McClain on Fierce Single Black Women and Activism

I didn't work this hard just to get married cover

That panic is rooted in the sense that too many professional women (of any race) not getting married means too many people pushing back on sex-based pay disparities in the workplace. It means too many people questioning the logic of tying health care benefits, property rights, hospital visitation rights, etc. to marriage. To me, these articles and “news” programs are being published and broadcast in an effort to stem this coming tide. And those of us black women who feel offended and mischaracterized by the media onslaught should take this as our cue to claim our rights and our rightful place as trailblazers in the 21st century reconfiguration of family and adulthood.

Rather than take the bait and feel terrible about ourselves when some media outlet tells us we’re both cause and victim of an “epidemic” or “crisis” in the black community, let’s assert that we are grown-ass human beings, and thus deserving of the same social, economic, civil and political rights that married people can access.

A vocal segment of the LGBTQ activist community has been making this argument for a while now. People like Kenyon Farrow, Jasmyne Cannick and Yasmin Nair have long been arguing that rather than making marriage the be all end all, we should be supporting each other in creating custom-made families that work for us. They’ve pointed out the folly of fighting to mimic and reproduce the patriarchal, nuclear families that continue to be held up as the only legitimate model in this country. These writers argue – and straight, unmarried black women would be smart to join the chorus — that rather than focusing on getting more people married, we should be de-linking human rights from marriage and creating space for a broader acceptance of the cobbled together, nontraditional families that many of us came up in. I know I’m not the only one who was raised by a thoroughly capable single parent and the family members she kept close to make sure I was surrounded by love and good care at all times. My family has never been illegitimate.

So where have we been while this segment of the LGBT community has been crafting the arguments we need to be firing off to Essence every time they let Steve Harvey ruminate on how much we should hate ourselves? While segments of the gay community are planning for a time when non-sexual domestic partner benefits are available nationwide, why aren’t those of us who still don’t quite get how marriage would enrich our lives spiritually, romantically or materially supporting that fight? Even if we do think we might want to marry some day, why not join forces now with people like Farrow and Cannick as they argue for the kind of movement that would benefit us just as much as it would benefit them?

–From Unmarried black women: “We’re here, we’re fierce, get used to it.”, full post available at Feministing

Social Capital and Denying the Pain of Black Women

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Neo-soul singer and actress Jill Scott is taking some undeserved heat (IMHO) for her opinion piece on interracial marriage that appears in the current issue of Essence. Now, let me state for the record. I have NO PROBLEM with interracial relationships. We would all do better to evaluate people based on our shared values and interests rather than skin color. Back in my single days, I was an equal opportunity dater. Despite arguments to the contrary, I’m not so sure Jill Scott is opposed to interracial dating either.

In this month’s Essence, Scott writes an opinion piece attempting to explain the outrage expressed by some Essence readers when Reggie Bush appeared on the magazine’s cover. At the time, some black women were offended that Bush, who is dating a white woman (Kim Kardashian), would be lauded on the cover of a magazine for black women. While I don’t agree with this sentiment, I understand where it is coming from. And so does Scott. She writes about “wincing” when a new friend–an accomplished black man–revealed that he is married to a white woman:
Was I jealous? Did the reality of his relationship somehow diminish his soul’s credibility? The answer is not simple. One could easily dispel the wince as racist or separatist, but that’s not how I was brought up. I was reared in a Jehovah’s Witness household. I was taught that every man should be judged by his deeds and not his color, and I firmly stand where my grandmother left me. African people worldwide are known to be welcoming and open-minded. We share our culture sometimes to our own peril and most of us love the very notion of love. My position is that for women of color, this very common “wince” has solely to do with the African story in America.
When our people were enslaved, “Massa” placed his Caucasian woman on a pedestal. She was spoiled, revered and angelic, while the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated. She was nothing and neither was our Black man. As slavery died for the greater good of America, and the movement for equality sputtered to life, the White woman was on the cover of every American magazine. She was the dazzling jewel on every movie screen, the glory of every commercial and television show. She was unequivocally the standard of beauty for this country, firmly unattainable to anyone not of her race. We daughters of the dust were seen as ugly, nappy mammies, good for day work and unwanted children, while our men were thought to be thieving, sex-hungry animals with limited brain capacity. Read more…

Yes, the days of slavery are long past, but this view of black women as less desirable, less beautiful, less feminine and less valuable than white women persists. It is illustrated by the women who are featured on mainstream magazine covers…and those who are not (Vanity Fair anyone?). It is confirmed by the missing and exploited women that are covered 24/7 on cable news…and those who are not. It is underscored by statistics that reveal who is likely to marry…and who is not.

Black men are not immune to the message that black women are “less than.” Black women know this. We know this because we live it.

Quoted: Queen Latifah on Sexual Abuse

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

For a short period of time when she was a child, Latifah was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a teenager charged with her care. “He violated me,” she says of the abuser. “I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm’s distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue.” Eventually, she opened up to her parents, who separated when she was young. “When I was 22, my brother died, and I knew I couldn’t carry his death and that secret,” she says. “I had to get it off my chest. My mother felt terrible. She was kind of a country girl, so she wasn’t up on how slick people could be. When I told my dad, he said nothing.” Latifah says now that it was scary when her father didn’t respond. “He’s a man of action,” she says.

But Latifah doesn’t blame her parents for what occurred. In fact, she credits them with doing their best to protect her while she was growing up. She points out that one in four girls is sexually abused in some way. “That’s 25 percent of all girls. This is a real problem,” she says. Not unlike many victims of abuse, she wondered if she had played a role in what happened. Her talks with a therapist helped her find the unequivocal answer. “He said, ‘Imagine yourself as an adult and think about what a child can do to you. Can they beat you? Can they defeat you? No. Now, imagine yourself as that child.’ That really helped put things in perspective. I was a kid, and I had no power or control over the situation. I really wish I had the strength and knowledge to say something sooner, because I always wondered, Did he do that to someone else? But I accept that the time for action has come and gone.

—From “I’m the One That They Call Queen,Essence, July 2009 Issue