In the late 1930s, the great writer, anthropologist, folklorist and contrarian—the eternally fresher-than-you Zora Neale Hurston—offered a single sentence that is so striking in its simplicity yet so powerful in its prophetic truth, one can imagine her writing it and then tossing her pencil down like she was a rapper and it was a mic.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
—from Their Eyes Were Watching God
You will likely agree that this year, like the last few, has given rise to painful questions that seem to have no sensible answers. Who can make sense of how sweet-faced, Tamir Rice, only 12, was gunned down in 2014 by a Cleveland police officer? Is it even possible to comprehend the 2010 death of Aiyana Jones, 7, fatally shot in her sleep by a Detroit cop? My own sons are 9, 11 and 14; for so many of us, what feels like open season on Black people is profoundly personal.
There are years that ask questions …
Why in this First World, hypermodern human era—literally a time of animal cloning and yearlong space expeditions—must we declare that #BlackLivesMatter? Why must we demand that you #SayHerName? America, dear, these are not rhetorical questions.
. . . and there are years that answer.
While we continue to struggle with the why, we can find answers to another question: Where does hope lie? The answer, perhaps, comes in the form of a movement: Black resistance plus Black consciousness plus people of all stripes banding together on the right side of history and humanity. Hope springs forth from these collective hearts; from posts on Twitter and Facebook; from the streets; and, sometimes, even secretly from the wallets of the wealthy.
EBONY magazine, like the African-Americans about whom we report, has in recent years faced its own set of serious questions. How does an independent, Black-owned publishing company survive in a sea of mainstream, multiple-title publishers, particularly at a time when the entire print industry is facing severe challenges? After nearly 70 years of documenting Black life, we had to look at the magazine in the mirror and open Pandora’s box to ask the tough questions: Who are we today? Like, who are we right now?
As we attempt to find answers and continue to serve you, we are proudly embarking on a new, visionary strategic direction. On that note, I’m so honored to introduce myself to you: I am Kierna Mayo, and I am the new EBONY Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of Digital Content. Before this unexpected opportunity somehow settled in my lap, I was the editorial leader of the award-winning EBONY.com for nearly four years. But I have also spent over 20 years in print writing, editing and directing shoots for magazines, and even co-created a national publication from scratch. (Hey, Honey!)
My own panoramic view of contemporary Black America convinces me that EBONY is as needed today as it ever was: We still have stories to tell, critical information to discover and grand aspirations to affirm. As the magazine begins to actively weave together our print and digital content, you will feel us stretching our boundaries, all in an effort to better meet you where you are. The new EBONY will feature stunningly photographed, unexpected cover stars (Hello, Tina Knowles Lawson!), more revealing interviews (Hello, Tina Knowles Lawson!) and will focus on unique, exciting themes. This month, the #SexyForever Issue, confronts age and other stereotypes to expand the notion of just who can be hot. Future issues will show you our renewed focus on quality journalism, top-notch reporting and an informed Black perspective, and all of this will be reflected online, too.
“In conclusion,” as my sixth-grade baby would say, our changes have only just begun yet there’s already a heap of fun summer stuff in this issue that will have you toting EBONY to the office and the beach. Feast on spectacular swimwear for voluptuous bodies; flip through a cool retrospective on Blacks and tennis; mix up a summer cocktail designed to get you in a seductive mood; and take in an interesting perspective on the Baltimore uprisings. Moving forward, though, I don’t plan to use this space to solely rehash the table of contents. I’d rather share what’s genuinely on my mind and start a path for us to have a deeper conversation. In that spirit, please let me know what you love, and more important, be honest about what you think we could do better.
With great love & respect,