A MOVEMENT FOR THE INVISIBLE, THE INVINCIBLE AND THE BEAUTIFUL (EST. 2013)
Essence Magazine’s very first cover model and trailblazer, Barbara Cheeseborough, died of colon cancer on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Pomona, Calif. She was 67.
Cheeseborough’s claim to fame wasn’t only her glamorous ESSENCE cover in May of 1970, she also graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Italia and maintained a busy career working for Vogue, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and designer labels Givenchy, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein and Mark Vaughn. More here: #HistoryMatters
There’s an old poster of John H. Johnson, the founder of Ebony & Jet Magazines, that hangs in my room.
It once hung in a historically Black elementary school, posted there to remind students that black excellence knows no bounds.
Johnson knew how essential Black media was. Here are his thoughts on the matter and the work he was doing through magazines like Ebony:
"We wanted to give Blacks a new sense of somebodiness, a new sense of self-respect…We believed then - and we believe now - that Blacks needed positive images to fulfill their potentialities."
Johnson published a handful of pivotal titles for people of African descent in the US: Tan, Negro Digest, Hue, Ebony, Jet.
These days I want to be him when I grow up. To co-create a distinctive media brand for young Black women and to publish profitable national consumer magazine for Black millennial women and black teenage girls.
I don’t want to sing anymore requiems for dead Black girl mags (Rest in Power Suede & Honey).
I want media for and by Black girls to thrive.
I think a business/financial eco-system that’s Black Girl friendly is key.
That said, as an aspiring Black Girl publisher I dream of and want to work towards:
Having venture capital and angel investors willing to invest in Black women’s media is important.
In some cases, the current financial eco-system responds to Black girl publishers less than positively.
Deanna Sutton, founder & Editorial Director of Clutch Magazine gave Autostraddle her take on Bustle. Clutch is a magazine for black millennial women. Bustle is a website for young women that enterpreneur Bryan Goldberg was able to raise $6.5 million to found.
Naturally, it’s exciting when anyone can get venture capital funding for a web site. It gives you hope. But there’s something about Bryan Goldberg’s story that really dashed my hopes, rather than uplifted them. He made it seem as though sites like my own, Clutch, and others like The Hairpin, Autostraddle, XO Jane, Jezebel, The Frisky and many, many others didn’t exist (and to be frank, those are his real competitors, notVogue), but he also made it seem as if women were not pursuing venture capital funding.
Clutch is a site that receives more than 800k unique visitors a month, yet in my own efforts to raise funding I am told my numbers need to be higher, my audience larger and that investors are not interested in “content.” Yet, in Bryan’s case they were interested, and interested in a site that hadn’t even been established yet and a content site at that. You want to be happy for him, yet his site lacks the diversity of other women sites. You want to be excited for another site that reflects women’s views and hires women writers, but it’s telling that a man could get VC funding for a woman’s website before a woman, let alone a woman of color, with an established brand. It is a sad truism of our society that there is inherent unfairness in the system, that it isn’t simply about working hard and proving your worth, but again, it is about who you know and how well connected you are.
And as someone who has on some level kind of abhorred the world of big business; I think this vision is atleast somewhat dependent on reaching out to Black women who work in finance and/or (investment) banking. I have no problem w/ sisters who work in finance, just the nature of the financial services industry itself.
Ensuring that we have media that gives us a “new sense of somebodiness” in the future, means having our own financial institutions and networks so that we are less beholden to those who aren’t vested in seeing our images imbued with the dignity that they deserve.