Provocative Black Media
Family, may I have your attention? It is time we have a family meeting on our issue, especially EBONY Mag’s November “The Family Issue(s)” magazine cover. It seems magazine covers have been sparking several conversations on social media lately, but I bring our attention to this cover specifically because it addresses Black America at it’s core.
CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed EBONY Editor-and-Chief Keirna Mayo about the November cover photo and how people have been reacting to it. To hear more about the cover photo and EBONY’s reasoning behind it, I would like to direct you to click the video above; however, that is not my main reasoning behind bringing up this topic.
While Kierna and Don spoke, the idea of having clear, direct conversations in Black America was brought up and it was a thought that has stuck with me days after the interview. Don said, “I often do things that are provocative because the whole point is to get people to talk about it… not that you’re making a judgement. You’re saying ‘here, take a look at this. What do you think of it?'” I feel this element of non-judgmental conversations in our community is one that has been lacking for some time now, especially in the realm of news. For us to effectively educate one another and progress we have to be willing to be open to uncomfortable dialogue.
In the media world things are often censored or cloaked in euphemisms, so the moment someone steps away from the status-quo or reveals a different side to a story, it is instantly attacked. Using the EBONY example, as mentioned in the interview, the magazine is usually seen as a cornerstone in black media to showcase those doing wonderful things in the Black Community; because of this, many people did not know how to initially handle seeing them shed light on the Cosby dilemma and possibly “tainting” the image of one of Black America’s favorite television families. Some people were even downright angry, but that is good. Why is it good, because where there is strong emotion in any direction, there is discussion.
Throughout Black Media we need to stop showing people what we think they want to see of us or hide the truths of our community. No one and no one people are perfect but if we walk around like everyone is, we will never grow. We need winners just as much as we need failures. We need OUR networks to show what is really going on with our people. We need to stop fighting each other and embrace each other. We need to learn the system so we can overcome the system. Pardon me for sounding preachy, but this is something I cannot help but feel moved to speak upon.
As an aspiring African-American female journalist, I am often challenged with the idea of not becoming a “sellout.” It has been a term and concept I have been met with since I declared my journalistic career path in high school. “I hope you report on the real things happening to our people and not try to cover it up.” And indeed I intend to do so because there is so much I would like to teach others through my realm, but at the same time, if you expect people of color in the media to “keep it real” you must be ready to be open-minded when it is presented to you. Also, another fundamental part of this equation is to READ. Back to the EBONY situation, people took off after seeing the visual cover but never took the time to try to read the article. And I will admit, I am often moved by imagery faster than words, but it is so important to do both to give an accurate argument.
Now, I can go on forever and ever about this topic but what I hope you take away from this piece is we need to be more open and honest in our conversation about what is happening in our community; good times and bad. And when we do, do not see it as one trying to destroy something. Just like a child questions everything when they developing their sense of self and understanding, we too must continue to pose questions in order to continue to grow and not remain complacent in what we may think is the only truth because we never attempted to see the other side.