The provision and protection of Black press is needed now more than ever.
As the 1999 PBS documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords points out, African American newspapers acted as stewards of truth in times rife with abusive lies, ignorances and prejudices against Black people. Since the 1800s Black-focused journalism creates space for the stories that are largely ignored and misrepresented.
That’s why Jabari Young’s new job is so important.
Earlier this year, he appointed as lead editor for ForbesBLK (bee-el-kay), a new arm of Forbes that focuses on Black audiences and its interests. The outlet describes it as a global community of Black entrepreneurs, professionals, leaders and creators driving systematic change in business, culture and society.
As the banner of Blackness for the iconic media company, being its leader is a tall task. But Young remains grounded.
“A the end of the day, I’m a journalist,” Young tells ESSENCE. “People could put all the fancy titles on if they want. I’m a journalist and I love chasing stories. And when I go back to keep myself centered and talk to mentors of mine just to kind of see what they see and show them things I’m doing and what they think of it, just to get a better vision on it, they always just remind me, ‘Listen, you are your reporter.’ And so you take that skill set and you go and you do what you’re supposed to do with it. And that is you tell stories and you shed light on things that people usually don’t see or people usually don’t hear.”
Before joining ForbesBLK, Young was a senior reporter covering sports business at CNBC. Ironically, it was his mentor, Stephen A. Smith, who urged him to say yes to the role at CNBC because there was a need for a uniquely Black perspective at the outlet.
“Stephen motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and really take on these particularly high levels in my career,” Young shared. “I’m forever grateful.”
With that, it was a full circle moment when the legendary sports analyst congratulated Young on his new role. “When he texted me to send his well wishes, I almost pulled over and cried because somebody I’ve looked up to for such a long time is proud of what I’m doing, and that makes me want to take this the next level even more.”
Ayisha Mendez, ForbesBLK’s new community manager has been installed to do exactly that. Mendez handles the strategy and execution of strategies to help foster community with its members. She’s also supported the development of initiatives like its interview series #ForbesTalks and the first-ever ForbesBLK List, akin to Forbes’ rankings of various monetary accomplishments. Mendez also works closely with the faction’s newly formed advisory council, which includes stars like Grant Hill and Isaiah Thomas among others.
“When I think about all the hard work that we’ve done to really pull together and launch this community, I sit and think about all of the incredible work a lot of these business owners are doing on their own,” she tells ESSENCE. “And how Forbes, historically, for a long time, hasn’t always been known to be able to provide access and ability to highlight these Black stories. And how being a part of something as important and visionary as Forbes can immensely impact Black-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and others who just aspire to affect positive change onto the world can have. This fuels me because I know that at the end of the day, the work we’re putting in is really going to make a difference. All work is worth it.”
Mendez also points out that ForbesBLK comes at a critical time when Black journalists are being undercut, undervalued or laid off from outlets.
“There’s been such a disconnection in Black journalism and incredible writers aren’t being given the chance to showcase their skills,” she tells ESSENCE. That’ why the ForbesBLK Contributor Network is something I’m immensely proud of. We’re not only fostering a space for our members to connect with one another, but we’re also creating financial opportunities and a pipeline to potentially become a full time employee at Forbes.
She explains that BLK members are able to apply to become a paid contributor for Forbes through their reworked portal.
“We want to create a place where it’s easy for people to share their stories, have their voices heard, and be financially empowered in the process.”