controlling our narrative: why it matters that essence is black-owned again

January 4, 2018
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This week, Essence magazine ended its affiliation with TIME Inc. after it was sold to SheaMoisture founder and chair Richelieu Dennis. The game-changing move comes after TIME’s acquisition by the Meredith Corp. in November 2017 and SheaMoisture’s accusation by Unilever and it marks the return of Essence as a black-owned publication for the first time in two decades.

Keeping details of the sale sparse in an interview with the New York Times, Dennis told reporters that the sale was done “to serve and empower women of color.”

“This will give Essence a platform and a voice to serve its consumers, which are women of color. They have allowed us to invest into the business so that we can bring in the infrastructure and resources.”

While Essence was still under the banner of TIME it went through several editorial changes that frustrated the readership, including the hiring of white fashion director, Elliana Placas, and managing editor Michael Bullerdick who later resigned after posting racist comments on Facebook.

Being Black-owned won’t solve all of Essences’ problems, though. While the move is certainly a welcome one and the promise of centering and celebrating Black women through the publication is stronger than ever, it’s important to remember that ownership won’t do the work we need Black-centered media to do and it’s still important to hold the editorial team accountable.

Accountable for what exactly? For telling stories that center our perspectives and to reflect our experiences authentically. And the only people capable of doing that are editors who share our perspectives as Black women and Black people without a filter of whiteness (and the racism that tends to come with it).