Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Susan L. Taylor Leaving Essence

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Icon for Black Women to Focus on Mentoring Effort

Susan L. Taylor, the driving force behind Essence magazine since she became its editor in chief in 1981, is leaving the magazine to build her Essence Cares mentoring movement, "a call to action for every able Black adult to take under wing a vulnerable young person."


Those who attempt to contact Taylor by e-mail are told:

"I am taking a break in South Africa and will have little access to email. When I come back to the States in mid-January, I will be leaving Essence to do what at this juncture in my life has become a larger work for me —building the National Cares Mentoring Movement, which I founded as Essence Cares and today is my deepest passion.

"With mentoring I see light shining at the end of a long dark tunnel. There is a chance that if I devote more time and space in my life to learning and working with the growing number of community leaders throughout the nation who are organizing local Cares mentoring efforts, such a movement will succeed in doing what political will and public policy have not done: give our children in peril a chance to develop the extraordinary in themselves."

Taylor, a grandmother who turns 62 on Jan. 23, is editorial director of Essence, the nation's largest magazine for black women. It has a circulation of 1,066,245, and Taylor writes the inspirational "In the Spirit" column each month. She has been editorial director for six years, and before that was editor-in-chief for 19 years.

The mentoring program is a partnership with the National Urban League, 100 Black Men of America, the Links, Inc., and the YWCA. "She lives it and breathes it," and feels she needs to work at it full time, Taylor's friend Terrie M. Williams, told Journal-isms. Williams is a public relations practitioner, mental health advocate and author of "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting," to be published in January.

"She has put probably 10 young people with very, very distressed lives through college. You wouldn't know this, because she doesn't talk about it," Williams said.

In recent years, Taylor has been in the news for her efforts to bring relief to Hurricane Katrina victims and for the mentoring program.

Three weeks after Katrina barreled ashore in August 2005, current Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray, Taylor and Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks were on a plane to Houston, toting a $250,000 donation from the Time-Warner Foundation, the charitable arm of Essence's parent company, Newhouse News Service wrote at the time.

"The women met with New Orleans evacuees, some of whom were likely grooving to Kanye West and Destiny's Child just two months before in the Superdome during the 2005 Essence Music Fest," the story said.

After the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans last July, Taylor wrote that the event "was a grand success, contributed more than $120 million to the city and raised the hope and spirits of our people throughout the region. While there, Tommy Dortch and I, our spouses Carole Dortch and Khephra Burns, Marcia and Michael Eric Dyson and PR guru Terrie Williams met privately with Mayor Ray Nagin about the deplorable and shameful conditions that the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region are still suffering under, the obstacles the mayor has faced in trying to marshal resources for the recovery and the actions we all can and must take on August 29, the second anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"There must be a national outcry, a day of outrage, a day of protest, [prayer] and possibility that the media cannot ignore; a day during which we demand that our national decision makers redirect our tax dollars away from war and war profiteering to create a regional Marshall Plan that restores New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," she wrote.

The Katrina experience might have been the impetus for Essence Cares, another friend said. As one who came through the Black Power movement of the late 1960s, Taylor came to realize that the key to realizing its potential was reclaiming troubled children. "She just wants to get to the heart of that," this friend said. "It's a gift for us," the friend said of Taylor's move.

At an appearance at Florida A&M University in February, Taylor said she wanted to register 2.5 million students in Essence Cares.

Taylor showed a public service announcement for the mentoring program that featured such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Diddy, Danny Glover, Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte, Driadonna Roland wrote on Black College Wire.

Taylor was the founder of her own company, Nequai Cosmetics, before becoming Essence's fashion and beauty editor for the magazine in 1970, the year it was founded. In 1981, she became its editor-in-chief. In 1986, she was named vice president of Essence Communications Inc., the magazine's parent company.

She is the author of "In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor," "Lessons in Living" and with her husband, "Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives."

"I'm also excited to share with you that I will be on tour for my new book out in February, All About Love (Urban Books). The volume contains my and Essence readers' favorite In the Spirit columns, which I've polished and expanded," she says in her e-mail message.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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