Reclaiming our Black Businesses: Essence Magazine is Back to Black
Essence is back to being 100 percent Black owned again, and I am here for it! I have worked in corporate America for over 10 years and in the non-profit sector for a little over 3. The one trend I notice with many of the companies that largely catered to a Black audiences was that they were owned and/or run by White people. It is something that continued to annoy me because all of the people making decisions about what we consumed via these various media outlets didn’t look like us. Those who ran non-profit organizations catering to black youth didn’t look like us or have any experience growing up in lower income neighborhoods. I remember when the news broke that Essence Magazine was bought by Time Inc. I was devastated. Growing up, Essence magazine was the epitome of Black excellence and strong Black womanhood. It made it even better that it was Black owned. The material felt even more authentic because I knew the people behind the scenes really understood what it meant to be Black in America. It is understood that maintaining the bottom line the priority, but when they were bought by Time Inc., I felt betrayed.
Fast forward to yesterday when the news broke that the founder of Shea Moisture, Richelieu Dennis, acquired Essence from Time Inc. I was HYPE! I had to put my disdain for the Shea Moisture empire to the side (I stopped fucking with them after the white washed commercials they came out with) and applaud this Black man for reclaiming a nationally recognized stable of Blackness. Essence Ventures LLC is an independent Black owned company. They announced the acquisition in a press release. In my opinion, it’s about damn time that Essence went back to Black.
This needs to be a new trend in Black ownership. Aside from building our own businesses, we need to start taking back those companies that were created for us and by us. When the news broke that Oprah sold 70 percent of her OWN network to Discovery Communications, I felt crushed yet again. We do the work, build these companies that celebrate Blackness (despite others thinking our stories don’t matter), prove that Black programming can be a huge success, then sell it to other non-black owned companies once we have raised the value of our businesses. What is that? How is this ok? Why can’t we keep our businesses within our communities? There needs to be a collective whose goal is to buy back our businesses from those who have no real connection to the Black community or understand our struggles and triumphs.
I am hoping that this is a pattern that will continue for our Black owned businesses. It is important to have people who look like us not only owning these companies, but being on the executive boards and in leadership positions. Those positions matter even more than the actual ownership because they steer the direction of content and marketing efforts for the company. We have already seen the many epic fails from companies that are Black owned, but have all white people in leadership roles or companies that attempt to market to Black people, but have no clue about the audience they are talking to and end up being obnoxiously offensive. We must hire our own to run our businesses.
Also, please make sure to double check who owns some of the “black owned” businesses you support. You may be surprised, as I was, that there are companies out there who market only to Black people, but are not Black owned. They do all they can to make sure their identities are hidden. They understand that buying Black is big at the moment and that our buying power is HUGE, so they are trying to capitalize off of it in a deceitful way. All I’m saying is do your research my people and stay informed. Let’s not give our coins to those who could care less about our communities, but want all of our money that they will circulate only within THEIR communities.