her a cover story on Pharrell Williams at a time when she had just started to re-emerge after a period of isolation. It was a selfish gesture in part, I missed her writing and wanted to read more of it. A year or two later, we were talking about something, I don’t recall the context, but she said to me, almost in passing if it hadn’t been so pointed, “You saved my life with that assignment.”
Those of us who are or have worked as freelance writers know that it's a hustle day in day out, and an incredibly detached existence. Sometimes that one good story assignment, one byline in black and white, is just the small bit of encouragement needed to keep writing, to keep going. Or to just pay the bills and keep the lights on.
More recently, when I was an editor at The Huffington Post, Erica and I developed two collaborative features for the vertical launch of HuffPost BlackVoices. I loved how she was always game to brainstorm and never short on ideas that were sophisticated, zeitgeist-y and often completely genius. At one point, I suggested she move back to New York -- I would help her find a job. No, she said, she had come to love Miami and wanted to stay there.
I may never know what happened to Erica, and truthfully, I'm not sure that I need to, because I know that she carried a burden that many of us as writers, as Black folks, as women, face. She just needed to get the branding right, she said. What I wished for her, though, and maybe for myself too, is that she could have realized that what and who she was in reality, was so much more meaningful than any kind of magic branding formula.