I Used to Love Her: My Renewed Affinity for EBONY Magazine

“I met this girl, when I was 10 years old
And what I loved most, she had so much soul 
She was old school, when I was just a shorty…” 
--Common, “I Used To Love H.E.R.” lyrics

By Brother Jesse Muhammad 

I read my first edition of EBONY back in the 80s when I was in elementary school because my grandmother was, and still is, an avid subscriber. The only thing she had more copies of than EBONY issues around her house were pictures of the white Jesus, JFK and Dr. King.

Reading and collecting EBONY was like a religion. The hallway leading to the bathroom was lined with bookshelves filled with some of the early editions.

I would spend hours flipping through them and admiring the accomplishments of our people from cover to cover. As a little budding artist at the time, my favorite section was the comic strips. They conveyed a serious message in a humorous way about what Black people were experiencing in America. I would secretly trace those comic strips in class when I was supposed to be doing my school work. (Sorry Mrs. Christopher)

Amy DuBois Barnett
My late aunt Flossie owned a beauty salon in the 3rd Ward ‘hood of Houston and the magazines of choice for the waiting room were always Johnson Publications. No White magazines in sight. EBONY was the latest gossip in her beauty shop. As I cleaned the floors and changed the water cooler, I would hear them talking about the cover layout, the story contents and how much they loved seeing the greatness of Black people on display.

We were loyal readers. It was a love affair that the Black community had with this magazine that gave us that “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” warm and fuzzy feeling.

Then something happened. The times evolved but EBONY was not. By the time I got to high school in the mid-90s, it became a magazine that my friends and I would only skim through at the local grocery store based upon who was on the cover.

By the time I got to college, it became only something I glanced at when I visited my grandmother’s house. Its companion, JET, was only used as a coaster and to see the top music songs. Oh yeah, my homeboys at PVAMU stayed abreast on the Beauty of the Week and created murals in their dorm rooms. Other than that, we considered both of the landmark publications EBONY and JET as boring, non-youth attracting and outdated magazines for old folks. (Please don’t tell my grandmother I said that)

I made up my mind that I probably would never read another edition of either one. Maybe I was wrong for taking that attitude because I was brought into the knowledge of the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses, especially in the media. Johnson Publishing was said to be plummeting in circulations and sales, but I kept my $3.99.
Kierna Mayo

Then it happened. First, former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers became the CEO. Then I read a press release that Amy DuBois Barnett was being brought in as the new editor-in-chief. Barnett said she had the task of attracting a newer and younger generation of readers and sounded like she was up for the challenge. That got my attention and I decided to buy the September 2010 featuring President Barack Obama. I enjoyed Barnett’s interview with him, her “Personal Space” editorial, and a few of the other articles.

The next thing I know I was back consistently reading it. I started looking forward to reading the editor’s column every month just like Earl Graves’ words of wisdom in Black Enterprise. Each month it was something new and refreshing. A top-to-bottom redesign included a new logo, pages of shorter yet impactful articles on multiple topics, refreshing images and the use of cutting edge technology.

The evolution of EBONY won me back. I was back in love.

And if that wasn’t enough, the new digital wing of the magazine, headed by Kierna Mayo, relaunched the website in January. It was love at first site. (http://www.ebony.com) It’s epic! Not only am I back reading the magazine but I’m on their website every day. Congrats to this powerful team of Black women for putting EBONY on a new course and building upon the legacy of the Johnson Family.

(Brother Jesse Muhammad is a staff writer for The Final Call newspaper, an award-winning blogger and motivational speaker. Follow his boring tweets @BrotherJesse)

Screenshot of the new EBONY.com

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