I came across this piece on the Afrosphere at Aunt Jemima’s Revenge. This is for you Black Women to discuss… what’s your take on Essence Magazine?
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Posted by Professor Tracey
I stopped subscribing to Essence magazine when long-time editor-in-chief, Susan L. Taylor left in 2000. I stopped buying Essence from the newsstand on a occasional basis when Time Inc. purchased the magazine and began filling issues with more advertisements than stories, particularly advertisements that had little to due with improving, enhancing, or enriching the lives of African American women. The slow death of Essence Magazine had begun then, the essential magazine for African American women from 18 to 80 was beginning it’s transformation into a high gloss version of Vogue magazine in blackface.
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I haven’t personally bought a copy of Essence since 2001, only poaching a copy from a random culturally sensitive doctor or dentist’s office or flipping through my mom’s copies when I was visiting her during Christmas. She has since let her subscription lapse shortly after President Barack Obama got elected. My sister was never a fan of the magazine, but she too, had enjoyed random issues from time to time. Just like many other black women, Essence Magazine was a regular staple and standard in my life, my hard-earned travels to become a grown-ass black woman.
In the last ten years, Essence has become a shadow of it’s former self. Slow to report on cutting edge issues in the African American community, way to fast to become a lightweight Hollywood promotional tool, clueless and tentative on issues where black women needed a fearless advocate. Current editor, Angela Burt-Murray continues to fail to impress, remember her tone-deaf words of wisdom during CNN’s Black in America series? What About Our Daughters offers a blistering take-down of Burt-Murray’s seriously stupid response to the latest controversy over Essence recently hiring it’s first non-African American fashion editor.
Just a thought, but it would have made more sense if Burt-Murray had called out the long tradition of black women journalists long struggle to be hired at white women’s magazines instead of calling out her loyal black female readership. Think about her choice for a long while. Which group was easier to attack? Others have lots to say on this issue, here, here, here, here, and here. For me, I’ll let one my black female heroes speak on this issue in the Words For Warfare post above.
My only questions are why isn’t one of most cutting edge black fashion directors in the nation being asked to work at Essence during it’s 40th anniversary year? Isn’t time to be celebrating instead of creating controversy? Why did it take so damn long for Essence to find a fashion editor in the first place? Something is stinking up the joint big time here. How can a magazine that is primarily about fashion, struggle so hard to find a fashion editor? And what happens the first time Ms. Placas screws up with something that is perceived as a racial slight or faux pas?
What I really can’t stand is all the pointless anger and inaction that the slow, sad, death of Essence Magazine has generated. Keep it simple folks. Don’t get angry, get even. Stop buying Essence, period. I did it, you can do it too. There is no rule that says black women need to keep buying it. If you don’t like the direction of the magazine, put it down! Keep it moving. Start reading Clutch Magazine or many of the numerous blogs written by black women for black women.
How about starting a new magazine? Put it online, get some money or ads for a print edition, put it on stolen copy paper from work written in crayon, I don’t care, just do something other than whine about how Essence sold out black women. That’s what white women would do! And we already knew that Essence had sold out to big time publications when Time, Inc. bought it, so lets stop acting brand new here. Let’s be the bad ass black women Essence magazine used to tell us we could be in the era of Susan L. Taylor.