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The long time Essence Editor talks about leaving Essence, her plans for helping young African American Children and her plans for the future.
“Family, celebrate with me,” were the words of Susan L. Taylor, editorial director for Essence magazine, only days after the December 28, New York Times article broke the news about her departure from Essence. Ms. Taylor wanted to assure the loyal readers of Essence and the community who has demonstrated immeasurable love for her over the 37 years she spent as fashion and beauty editor, editor-in-chief and editorial director, that her transition from the magazine “to do a larger work and follow my deepest passion,” was cause to celebrate. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays, while taking a much needed break in South Africa and preparing for her mid-January departure, I was privileged to share time with Susan Taylor and her wonderful husband, writer Khephra Burns. The following are answers to circulating questions from across the country:
Perkins: Ms. Taylor, the New York Times referred to you as the driving force behind Essence, how would you respond to that reference?
Taylor: Essence is solid and has a talented young leadership team that’s capable of taking the company to the next level. My thirty-seven years at Essence has been a magnificent journey with people I so love and respect. It’s been a great blessing to work with some of the most extraordinary and committed individuals on the planet, and I feel that I’ve done what I came to Essence to do. Together we built a brand that is one of the most respected throughout the Black world and a hallmark of excellence and commitment to the community.
Perkins: What’s next for you and when can we expect to see you?
Taylor: My first task will be working with the National Cares Mentoring Movement’s national partners—including Essence, which will continue to be a media partner—in launching Cares recruitment efforts, which are in various stages of development in more than 30 cities throughout the nation. And for much of the year I will be on tour for my new book out in February, All About Love (Urban Books). I love book tours because they take me into the heart of the Black community, and that’s where I am needed most right now—getting our ministers, business owners, union workers, professionals, college students and retirees involved in recruiting Black mentors. More and more, committed Whites are mentoring our children—and millions of our kids are waiting for us to show up. “What they see is what they’ll be,” the brothers in one of our Leadership Council organizations, the National 100 Black Men of America, always say. People can log on to essencecares.com input their zip code and a list of local mentoring organizations will appear. Sign up. Get involved. This is the most noble work we blessed Black people can commit to now. Mentoring works miracles and costs nothing. What’s needed is all hands on deck!
Perkins: How and why did you decide that mentoring would be your next work?
Taylor: The truth we middle-class African Americans must face is that millions of our young are in peril, and the state of emergency is only worsening on our watch. In some cities fewer than 20 percent of our children are graduating from high school; 58 percent of Black fourth graders are functionally illiterate; failing schools are the pipeline to a for-profit prison system sucking the life out of our communities; murder is the number one cause of death among our boys. These chilling statistics pushed me to create Essence Cares and its parent, the National Cares Mentoring Movement. To succeed in securing our children, we must institutionalize a massive mentoring effort, which cannot be done in a traditional corporate setting. I just know that making this my life’s work and working more closely with the many national and grass roots community leaders who’ve come on board, Black folks will build a mentoring movement that will succeed in doing what political will and public policy have not done: give the millions of Black youngsters in peril a chance to develop the extraordinary in themselves. For me, it’s now or never.
Perkins: What about the Susan L. Taylor image, the beautiful brown face and well kept braids that the readers look for with each monthly publication, as we look for Oprah’s face on the cover of O Magazine?
Taylor: Look for me in our communities coast-to-coast, in person, wherever our children are struggling and caring people like you, Dr. Eve Allen, the brothers from A Village Nation, the committed folks at World Literacy Council, and all of the partnering organizations of LA Cares 4 Kids are coming together to put a safety net beneath them. There is no more important work we can do at this critical juncture.
The community is invited to join Ms. Taylor at the first book-signing in Los Angeles for her new release, All About Love, on Saturday January 19, at 3:30 pm at EsoWon book store in Leimert Park. The event is being sponsored by L A Cares 4 Kids, which is being launched on the same day at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Free children’s books will be given to young people and teenagers attending the Eso Won event. The books are being donated by the Los Angeles Chapter of the 100 Black Men and City Councilmember Bernard Parks.
For more details contact on these events call 818-571-1097 or visit www.lacares4kids.org.