Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reflecting on Ebony Magazine's Cosby vs. Cliff Cover Controversy


My original comment after Ebony Magazine revealed the cover of their November 2015 issue on the Facebook page:

"Wow, what a way to announce that Bill Cosby's image has been shattered, both literally and figuratively. This perception of a broken family portrait definitely grabbed my attention. Anxious to read the story..."
I'm a week late, but I needed time to digest such a blunt announcement. The Cosby vs. Cliff debacle slapped me right in the face and triggered my I-must-write-about-this reflex.

This cover portrays more than a section of shattered glass can show. Consider how much we value the memories behind a family portrait; how we seek to freeze happiness; how over time, those happy memories fade. The ideal image of a Black family has faded. And, based on this cover, Bill Cosby's rape allegations are to blame. 

I didn't want this to be an impulsive response, although it caused an emotional uproar that I couldn't immediately put in check. I've dreamed of writing for Ebony Magazine or just being associated with the publication in some fashion for as long as I can remember. With over 6 decades of publishing history, no one can question Ebony Magazine's credibility. However, many readers have threatened to end their subscriptions, boycotting the magazine for being courageous enough to start the conversation we've been avoiding for far too long. 

The Cosby Show was and still is our model for how a Black family should look, behave, and succeed. Because it's impossible for most people to separate televised ideas from real-life occurrences, that made-up structure will forever represent our perception of perfection. But so many questions remain unanswered, such as: Is Ebony Magazine wrong for intentionally aiming to spark controversy with this family issue(s) cover?

And others become pressing inquiries, like a complicated riddle, too: 

Who's responsible for preserving the positive Black image, if our own African-American publications shame us for what happens in our reality, outside of our public personas? What do Bill Cosby's off-screen discretions have to do with the cast as a whole? Is the entire Huxtable clan automatically subject to assassination by association? How many of us are unable to differentiate what's portrayed on television from everyday circumstances? Are we na├»ve enough to view fictional storylines as bold-faced truth? Does confidence in our ability to decipher hidden messages measure that low? Is this a shot at our intelligence? Will disputing character attacks make us seem even more combative and power hungry, as we fight to keep our familial secrets hidden? Finally, are we judging this issue by its cover because we're afraid of what we may be forced to accept on the inside, after reading the actual story? 

Editor-In-Chief Kierna Mayo had this to say in a recent interview:

"I'm saddened that so many people are angered by this as opposed to challenged by it. We in no way, shape or form meant to offend. We meant to provoke. We’re tying to be conversation starters. This is quite deliberate. And it’s the reason that we weren’t leading in our language whatsoever. You can come to the image from where you are with what you have and come away from it with whatever you do. But I can guarantee you that if you engage the magazine and you read Goldie Taylor’s reporting, you will really be impressed and, I think, challenged to think about things in a new way."

I choose to be challenged by this topic, which is why I will be purchasing the issue as soon as it's available on my local newsstand. I personally understand the need for controversial journalism that makes us all uncomfortable. That's what good stories/good magazines are supposed to do. If you were inclined to react in any way, then this issue, whether fully browsed or unread, is already effective, inspiring us to examine the still frame of a Black family and decide if it's worth repairing, especially if the mirrored reflection is totally unrecognizable.

-LRW

#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#DearBlackGirl



#DearBlackGirl:

You are not invisible. Even though the world has pushed you to the side, repeatedly ignoring your existence, you matter… and it isn’t just because you’re Black. You matter because you’re human. The color of your skin is only a small portion of your identity. You are beauty defined outside of the dictionary's subjective meaning. So don’t ever wish to be someone else. You were created for a specific purpose; one that extends beyond the outer layer of your appearance. Inside, you possess qualities that can never be duplicated. You are one-of-a-kind. Yet, somehow the world has persuaded you to think that you will always be considered last. Still, you rise…

Dear Black Girl, 

You must never surrender to defeat. Remain persistent. Prove that they were wrong about you; about us. You are not the leftover remnant of a slave's failed attempt at survival. Your ancestors were unjustly held down so that you could someday fly. Proceed boldly in your quest to leave a legacy worth remembering. Bear children who will acknowledge your struggles and respect your ability to overcome them all. Pay homage to the black girls who succeeded before you: 

  • Great Grandmothers
  • Grandmothers
  • Mothers
  • Aunts
  • Sisters
  • Daughters 

Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifices. 

You are a tenacious being with an unlimited amount of strength embedded within you. Keep your head high and when tears well up from the wrath of your pain, just smile. Your courage will inspire another black girl to do the same. Besides, if you give up now, who will fight to preserve our history? 

Dear Black Girl,

Don't lose hope. When images that are not like you bombard the spotlight, cherish the blessing of anonymity. Only those who seek acceptance desire to be seen. You are more than a trending topic. People will forever judge you and weigh your assets on  a materialistic scale. At times, it will be hard to ignore their opinions, but the temporary concern will soon fade. 

I believe in you. Although you have not totally disregarded the scars from your childhood, the woman you have become speaks volumes about your character. Grow, understanding that your past has no right to claim any of the valuables directly connected to your future. Forgive those who have done you wrong. Learn to love them. Then, learn to love yourself. You've been neglected long enough. So, press forward and don't turn around to reach back for any of the burdens that you were once afraid to let go. LIVE YOUR DREAM, Black Girl, and be proud about it. 

Sincerely,

LRW 

#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®