Friday, December 28, 2007
From The New York Times…
Essence Editor Is Leaving Magazine
By TIM ARANGO
Susan L. Taylor, the longtime editor and driving force behind Essence, the magazine aimed at black women, is leaving the publication after 37 years to devote more time to an organization she founded to help troubled children.
Ms. Taylor, 61, joined Essence in 1970, the year it was first published, as a freelance fashion and beauty editor after founding her own company, Nequai Cosmetics. She became editor in chief in 1981, a post she held until 2000, when she was promoted to publications director.
She has most recently been the magazine’s editorial director and author of its In the Spirit column, which dispenses inspirational words about things like finance and prayer.
Although Essence, which is owned by the Time Inc. division of Time Warner, did not make an official announcement, Ms. Taylor chose to send out word of the change via e-mail.
“I am taking a break in South Africa and will have little access to e-mail,” she wrote in an automated out-of-office message this month. “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.”
Essence Cares encourages black adults to serve as mentors for at-risk young people. According to the program’s Web site, “Essence Cares is a call to action for every able black adult to take under wing a vulnerable young person, which costs nothing.”
While Ms. Taylor rose to the top of the magazine world — in 1999 she became the first black woman to receive the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America, one of the industry’s top honors — she used her position to highlight civic causes. As an advocate for children and improving education, she once calling failing schools “the pipelines to prison.”
This year she appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to promote the National Cares Mentoring Movement, which she founded in 2006 with the goal of signing up more than one million people to become mentors. The organization is a coalition of advocacy groups, including the National Urban League, 100 Black Men in America and the Y.W.C.A.
“It’s a burning desire to use whatever resources she has to help our young people,” said Terrie Williams, a longtime friend of Ms. Taylor’s and a former communications executive at Essence who runs a public relations firm in New York. “She lives and breathes it.”
Ms. Williams said that Ms. Taylor “takes young people with her to most of the events she goes to. She’s put kids through college. She’s made calls to get kids in distressed situations in to college. She really is an icon in the black community.”
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Ms. Taylor used Essence as a platform to keep the plight of New Orleans, where the magazine had long held an annual music festival, in the nation’s consciousness. She was appointed by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a panel that advised the governor on rebuilding efforts.
In July, an article in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans described her as a “traveling saleswoman for New Orleans and other hurricane-battered regions of the state.”
Ms. Taylor’s fourth book, “All About Love,” a collection of her columns, will be published in February.
Essence, a monthly publication, has a circulation of about 1 million. On Dec. 18, Michelle Ebanks, the president of Essence, sent a memo to the magazine’s staff, saying of Ms. Taylor, “it is not often that you have the chance to work with a living legend, and we are all lucky to have had this extraordinary privilege.”