Raynard Jackson; Black Women No Longer Have Their Essence… ( Essence Magazine ) : ThyBlackMan.com

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Raynard Jackson; Black Women No Longer Have Their Essence… ( Essence Magazine )

May 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Business, News, Opinion, Sista Talk, Weekly Columns

(ThyBlackMan.com) Essence Magazine used to be the preeminent magazine for Black women in the U.S.  They, like many Black publications, have lost their relevance; and in the process become an embarrassment to the very group they claim to target.

Essence was founded in 1968 by Ed Lewis, Clarence Smith, Cecil Hollingworth, Jonathan Blount, and Denise Clark.  Their initial circulation began at around 50,000 per month and now is estimated to be over 1 million per month.  It is a monthly publication focusing on Black women between the ages of 18 and 49.  Essence was bought out by Time Inc. in 2005, thus no longer being a Black owned publication (similar to B.E.T.).

The impetus behind the founding of Essence was to show a side of Black women that was never portrayed in the mainstream media.  Images of Black  women were controlled by white media outlets that had little to no knowledge of the Black community.  Most of these images were very stereotypical and lacking substance.

There were unique issues relevant to Black women that other publications were totally ignorant of.  Black women could not wear the same makeup that white women could—there are differences in skin type.  Black women have unique issues when it comes to styling their hair—there were no mainstream publications that dealt with these differences.

So, initially, Essence met a very real need and provided a venue for Black women to share common experiences with each other (remember, this was pre-internet days when you didn’t have all the instant communication we have today).

Essence portrayed Black women in the most positive of lights.  They made Black women feel proud to be Black and female!  That was then, this is now.

Now, Essence is just another Hollywood rag (focused on Black women), sprinkled with a few substantive, positive stories; but, that is no longer their focus!

I looked at the cover picture for the past year and each cover featured an entertainer.  Isn’t this the same stereotyping that we have accused white media of—showing Blacks as only entertainers?  There is nothing wrong with having entertainers on the cover, but is that all there is to offer Black women?

I can guarantee that most Black women have never heard of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Alicia Jillian Hardy, or Katie Washington.

When I went on Essence Music Festival’s website and looked at the speakers listed under “Empowerment” I was stunned and quite embarrassed!

The Essence Music Festival is the nation’s largest annual gathering of Black musical talent in the U.S.  It is a 3 day event filled with cultural celebrations, empowerment panels, and nightly entertainment by some of the biggest names in music.  It is held in New Orleans, LA every July.  The event attracts more than 200,000 people.

One of the speakers listed under “Empowerment” is “NeNe” Leakes.  She is one of the main characters of the reality TV show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta“.  The show is about the private lives of women who are dating or is married to successful men in the Atlanta area.

Leakes is a foul mouth, angry, nasty person on the show and from media accounts in real life also.  She is also the founder of Twisted Hearts Foundation (which focuses on domestic violence against women).  They were forced to close down last year after being suspected of money laundering.  Leakes is also a former stripper.

One of the other speakers listed under “Empowerment” is Shaunie O’Neal, former wife of N.B.A. great Shaquille O’Neal.  She is the executive producer of “Basketball Wives.”  The women’s only claim to fame is that they either dated or were married to a pro basketball player.  They have nor had no identity outside the athletes they were involved with.

Both shows portray women in the worst light imaginable—using high profile men to get fame and fortune.  These women then try to exploit their former relationships to get their own TV show.  They are paid to tell the most intimate details of their former relationships.

Essence, could you please tell me how these two women fit into your mission of uplifting the Black woman?  What can they teach women about “empowerment?”  Is this really the image of Black women Essence wants to promote?  There are many women who could fit into your mission statement. 

By the way, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in America (1921).  Alicia Jillian Hardy is the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D from M.I.T. in mechanical engineering (2007).  Katie Washington, a 21 year old, became the first Black female valedictorian in the history of  Notre Dame University (2010).  She gave a wonderful speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaouUZrn2vI).

One would think that Ms. Hardy and Washington deserved to be on the cover for their achievements; and most assuredly know a little something about empowerment!  Oh, I forgot, they are not entertainers, so they don’t qualify. 

In times past, Black women used to look forward to reading Essence Magazine for upliftment.  That was then, this is now.  Black women no longer have the Essence of their mother and grandmother.

In Essence, there is no essence!

Staff Writer; Raynard Jackson

Mr. Jackson is also founder of a political and industrial consultant firm which is based in Washington, DC; Raynard Jackson & Associates.


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Comments

11 Responses to “Raynard Jackson; Black Women No Longer Have Their Essence… ( Essence Magazine )”
  1. giosincere says:

    My mom subscribed to essence and I loved it as a young woman growing up but it lost my respect way long ago.

  2. Baldheaded Foo says:

    It would be nice to hear of something POSITIVE” happening to black folks at least occasionally. Every news story and statistical study is always a negative one. In theory, we should have the highest suicide rate in the country.

  3. Dean Lynes says:

    I listened to the Tom Joyner Morning Show today, Friday, July 15 and was informed that the new Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine is a white man. I had already decided not to renew my subscription. Now I would like to urge other women of color to boycott Essence. There is no need for loyalty to a company and a magazine that is no longer ours and no longer reflects who we really are. Not to knock those sisters in the entertainment industry. But we get enough coverage of that. We need real stories about real people who are succeeding despite the odds to encourage our young women to believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to. I can see the way Essence is going and will go. “Yes, massa, thank you massa for the oppo’tunity to see pictures of me on a big shiny magazine cover.” Wake up sisters. Boycott Essence and pray that someone else publishes the true magazine for todays black woman. And then pray that we support it.

  4. i did not get into Essence ‘before’ during this time you recall, simply because far often than not, it was used as THE STANDARD for Women of African Ancestry in The Americas to fit into and if not, well as your article demonstrates, they were belittled.

    Essence Magazine is just one media outlet on a planet with over 6 billion Humans. As A FOR-PROFIT Reflection Of A Particular Cultural Lifestyle Publication, i cannot find any difference in the celebrity used now as before.

    i have found that the thinking of ‘black’ as some monolith is usually theories put forth by those whose only problem with oppression is that he or she is not the oppressor.

    (now i will look at how much space you used on Women you classify as unworthy)

    “One of the speakers listed under “Empowerment” is “NeNe” Leakes. She is one of the main characters of the reality TV show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta“. The show is about the private lives of women who are dating or is married to successful men in the Atlanta area.
    Leakes is a foul mouth, angry, nasty person on the show and from media accounts in real life also. She is also the founder of Twisted Hearts Foundation (which focuses on domestic violence against women).

    They were forced to close down last year after being suspected of money laundering. Leakes is also a former stripper.
    One of the other speakers listed under “Empowerment” is Shaunie O’Neal, former wife of N.B.A. great Shaquille O’Neal. She is the executive producer of “Basketball Wives.” The women’s only claim to fame is that they either dated or were married to a pro basketball player. They have nor had no identity outside the athletes they were involved with.

    Both shows portray women in the worst light imaginable—using high profile men to get fame and fortune. These women then try to exploit their former relationships to get their own TV show. They are paid to tell the most intimate details of their former relationships.”

    (and those you deem worthy)

    By the way, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in America (1921). Alicia Jillian Hardy is the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D from M.I.T. in mechanical engineering (2007). Katie Washington, a 21 year old, became the first Black female valedictorian in the history of Notre Dame University (2010). She gave a wonderful speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaouUZrn2vI).

    iREJOICE in The Knowing that as An Indigenous Diasporan, My sense of self is not reliant upon my proving The ESSENCE of My Humanity to you or anyone else.

    cindy A. quashie
    @BrokePimpStyles

    p.s. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, the Individual to have taken his place was One Ms. Josephine Baker, A STRIPPER!

  5. F. Jordan says:

    Dear Mr. Jackson,

    I applaud your candid article on “Black Women No Longer Have Their Essence,” circulated via email. I have never been a keen reader of Essence Magazine for precisely some of the reasons you outlined in your article. I believe we are living in trying times and our young ladies need to be surrounded by other women who can make a palpable difference in their lives; by mentors who can inspire them to aspire to achieve their greatest potential not only as strong-thoughtful black women, but also as professionals in their careers and their roles as future wives and mothers.

    Unfortunately these are not the women our young ladies are exposed to in this consumerist and entertainment driven society. Surely it would be inspiring to hear from the media—especially black media network—more about the achievements of young women like Alicia Jillian Hardy and Katie Washington, who perhaps can relate to some of the day-to-day life experiences of our young black and hispanic women, and are excellent and encouraging examples to learn from; who can, without a doubt, say to our young black women yes! You can achieve what you set out to do, and No! Despite what media portrays, the entertainment industry is not the only way to achieve worthy goals.

    Thanks again for sharing your insightful thoughts which I will make sure to share with others who aim to serve as mentors and change agents to make a difference in the lives of our young people as a whole.

    Sincerely,
    F. Jordan

  6. Sheila Agnew says:

    Having been an avid Essence magazine reader from it’s inception, I could not agree more that I have lost interest in the content of the magazine. Essence was the major source for black women to display beauty, education and motivation during a period of time when we virtually had no where else to turn when looking for information by and about us. The stories and articles were so dynamic some of my non-black co-workers would wait eagerly for me to place my used copies in the ladies lounge so they could review the positive content. This will be my first time at the Essence Music Festival, primarily because of a sponsor invite. However, being a advocate of women’s issues and having produced women’s programming, I am always careful to select speakers that have reputations for inspiring and motivating black women to serve as positive role models in their homes, workplace, businesses and communities. http://mobetterbysheila.blogspot.com

  7. Harryo says:

    Essence started going downhill right after the Brothers sold out to Time/Warner. It’s rumored that part of the deal with Time Warner was that Susan Taylor had to go and she soon left after the sale was completed. I used to go to the Essence Music Festival every year; haven’t been since Katrina and don’t plan to go back

  8. Lei says:

    I’m with Chocl8t. This is why I stopped my subscription to Essence several years ago and no longer purchase their magazine at newsstands, either.

    I will say that I think much of the younger generation is the blame for this. Essence wouldn’t be there if people would stop going to them as their source. They’re not a Black publication!!

    I helped launch a Black publication for women that got tons of visits from people, but little support (users preferred tweeting/facebooking their latest “ain’t that a shame” stories about Black folks, instead of helping to spread the word about the site…meanwhile, they visited, and did not comment, even when we damn near begged them to). Finally, we shut the site down and as we tend to do, people cried out like babies, writing to me demanding to know what happened and tweeting to find out how to get into my site/publication.

    The fact is, Black people prefer to go to White publications for a reflection of themselves: Essence, The Root, Grioo…they are ALL WHITE PUBLICATIONS. And these shameful people have the audacity to feign upset and offense when these publications disrespect them!

    Go to a Black publication and actively support Black publications working for your people! (As mine was.)

    We are the ONLY PEOPLE I can think of on the face of this earth who have ZERO SENSE of loyalty to each other, or to our collective goals as a race! Fools!

  9. AntBee says:

    Any entity that advertise NENE LEAKES or SHAUNI O’NEAL as “EMPOWERMENT” anything is a sham!

    Empower whom?

    Essence, please give us a break!

    Although I give all women their respect, these two are in no position of empowerment, not do they offer anything other than sheer entertainment (for some) who like that type of “entertainment”

    Both should have turned down any request by Essence or anyone else
    to be listed as such.

    By contrast, we have so many accomplished, black women whom I am sure would inspire others, and uplift us as a people if only some would look beneath the flim-flam, and although I do not see Essence or any magazine staying in the position they were in 30 years ago, most intelligent, Black women, or any women for that matter, knows when there is substance and when there is not!

  10. Chocl8t says:

    Speak the truth and shame the devil.

    This is the very reason I no longer subscribe to Essence.

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