Once You Go Black: Essence Magazine Under Black Ownership Again
by G. Brown
It was easy to overlook on social media between all the memes, hate convo’s and threads about food. But there it was…Essence Magazine is in the Black again so to speak…
It is with great joy that we announced that Essence is under new ownership and is now an independent African-American-owned company. Thank you for being in our corner over the last 47 years. We know that we work for you and nothing makes us happier. ❤️ https://t.co/q2BGN0pxNF pic.twitter.com/CbLQlpK9Qz
— ESSENCE (@Essence) January 4, 2018
A recent sale by Time Inc. has paved the way for one of the few remaining pillars of Black Media to once again be owned and operated by Black owners. According to Atlanta Black Star, “The 48-year-old publication dedicated to the interests of Black women was acquired by independent Essence Ventures LLC, according to a Wednesday, Jan. 3 release.” The article goes on to quote from a statement from Essence saying, “This acquisition of Essence represents the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multigenerational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms,”
On Twitter, the news spread fast and received a warm welcome…
Is time for Essence to return to my coffee table my wife and I will enjoy it once again.
— My Info (@DorerksimmsMy) January 4, 2018
Now let’s Financially Support Essence so that it becomes the most successful and incredibly profitable! Renewing subscription!
— Marlene Green (@MarleneGreen) January 4, 2018
— Tendai Sibongile (@TendaiOfficial) January 4, 2018
Essence returning to Black ownership is cause to celebrate and reflect. It’s is a historical treasure following in the footsteps of publications like Freedom’s Journal in 1927, Frederick Douglass’ “North Star” newspaper and the forerunner to internet news sites like The Root, The Grio, Black Voices and TRN.
A Newsweek article from nearly thirty years ago quoted the then head of Revlon who predicted the fall of Black entrepreneurs saying, “In the next few years, black-owned businesses will disappear. They’ll all be sold to the white companies.” Irving Bottner ended his dismal prediction with, “We are accused of taking business away from the black companies, but black consumers buy quality products – too often their black brothers didn’t do them any good.”
Bottner may have been a qualified businessman, but he was no Nostradamus. Sure, Black owned businesses have faced some difficult times with the demise of small-scale, service oriented businesses like beauty salons and barber shops. Around the time that Bottner made his comment, those personal-service businesses saw a sharp decline of almost 50% in the Black community. But as older generations of Blacks put away their straightening combs and barber shears, new generations of entrepreneurs emerged. According the Nap.edu, “the new generation of Black business owners emerged—younger, better educated, and with more managerial and supervisory experience. And these new owners relied, to a great extent, on public-sector markets.”Black businesses branched out for the first time in industries like public-works, architectural and engineering services and computers.
Since it first issue in 1970, Essence was a voice in the Black community. Like Ebony and Jet, it was often the only platform where Blacks could learn news and information that directly impacted them and often theonly places where they could be heard. Some could see this as a step backwards, but given all the racial tension and politically motivated division of the last 12 months the time has come for the Black community to have national publications it knows and trust again.
Bottner was wrong, Blacks can do their brothers and sisters good. We can trust them not to engage in “fake news”, white-splaining, and spin. We can trust them to give us that one true perspective by Blacks, for Blacks. We can listen to mainstream media and network news, but we also should have Black owned media that will break down national and global topics and how they directly relate to the Black community.