In the wake of the announcement-the sale of Essence to Time Inc., the publishing arm of media giant Time Warner-the kudos have contended with condemnation and the concerns of the community. Some see the purchase as a model for Black businesses-that Black folks who believed in Essence decades ago and invested hard cash are finally getting paid. Some argue that it’s another setback for Black media and that Black entrepreneurs should have had a chance to bid against Time Inc. Some believe the sale will lead to Essence’s surrendering its soul and that representations of Black women should remain solely in our hands as the keepers of the culture.
But I want you to know that before I personally could believe that the Time Inc. arrangement was for the best, I had to be assured that its ownership of Essence would not compromise the magazine’s commitment to Black women; that Essence would continue as an independent voice for issues of importance to Black people; and that this new relationship would be a win not just for Time Inc., Essence and the shareholders, but for our community as well. And I am firmly convinced that the pairing of Essence Communications with Time Warner, the largest media company in the world, will enable Essence to benefit Black people more than we could have if we had remained a relatively small, privately owned entity.
There are serious vulnerabilities in Black America beyond the matter of who owns Essence. Joining the Essence family’s vision, passion and commitment to social justice with Time Warner’s resources, we can address critical issues such as underserved schools in our community, which are the pipeline to prison. With Time Inc.’s dedication to education, we can help transform low-performing schools into schools that offer Black children the rich educational experience suburban White kids take for granted. Time Inc. chairman and CEO Ann Moore said it well: “It’s possible to start a social revolution!”
Does our relationship with Time Inc. ensure Essence’s survival? No, you do. We have seen the demise of the Black magazines Emerge, Heart & Soul, Honey, Savoy and BET Weekend. Today there’s not a single Black newspaper in the nation that isn’t struggling. Only your support as conscious, vocal consumers will keep Black media alive.
Essence has never really belonged to anyone but you. Keep writing to us. Respond to us, monitor and pressure us. Keep this magazine yours. Support advertisers who support us and other Black media. Subscribing to our national and regional publications keeps them alive.
I assure you that during my tenure at Essence, we will continue to stand for Black women, for the nurturance and education of our children, and for Black empowerment. We will remain a strong instrument of advocacy from this new place inside the corporate world. Watch us. Hold us accountable. We have important work to do together.
Susan L. Taylor