The new issue of Essence magazine, delivered during Black History Month, might as well be renamed "Wigs and Weaves." The overwhelming number of images show black women wearing hair that isn't naturally theirs or doesn't seem to be.
The good news is that Essence says not to judge the magazine by March's "Black Women in Hollywood Awards" issue.
Essence replied to an observation from Journal-isms about the March issue that concluded, "in leafing through it, one theme comes through: A black woman isn't considered beautiful unless she is wearing a wig or a weave, or looks like it. Her own natural hair doesn't get it." It noted the "stark difference between the look of the women . . . in this issue of Essence and the variety . . . on the streets of Washington, D.C. . . . The diversity among the women in the 'On the Streets' feature seems to be exception, not the rule.
"Granted, much of this is due to the advertising Essence runs, but together with the editorial matter, they combine to articulate a point of view."
Essence spokeswoman Dana Baxter replied, "Making such a broad generalization based on just one issue of the magazine obscures the brand and its inclusiveness over the past 40 years. At the core of Essence’s mission is highlighting Black women’s inner and outer beauty, as well as celebrating her in all of her diversity, which we do every month in ESSENCE and everyday on essence.com."
Essence became the nation's largest-circulation magazine targeting African Americans at the end of 2010 as Ebony, the perennial leader, dropped further in circulation.
Both as a black-owned product and later as part of Time Inc., Essence, founded in 1970, has long helped to shape the tastes of impressionable black women. But it strove to celebrate black women "in all of her diversity," as Baxter's statement said. In an issue from exactly a decade ago, the March 2001 edition is introduced by Publication Director Susan L. Taylor, in her trademark braids, and Editor-in-Chief Monique Greenwood, in her natural twists. The rest of the magazine featured hairstyles from straight to curly.
In the current March's "Black Women in Hollywood" issue, there is no Whoopi Goldberg, with her dreadlocks, nor Halle Berry, with her relatively short 'do.
Instead, the images seem guaranteed to bolster the $247.7 million American market for ethnic personal care products — which comprise the majority of the Essence advertisers.
Danielle Belton, who writes "The Black Snob" blog, has worn many kinds of hairstyles and this observation for Journal-isms: "No matter how many people shout 'It's just hair,' hair issues run pretty deep with black people. Mostly because you can economically change your hair. Other features black people battle with, like having wide noses or dark skin, can't be fixed in two-to-four hours at the salon for under $100. Or with a $40 wig from a Korean-run black hair care shop. Because hair is a something you can actually 'do' something about if you don't like it, you're going to get a wide range of reactions to things like this with one side wanting to point out the problems in it and the other [wanting] to laugh it off.
". . . I have my own hair issues which most people are surprised by considering I have a lot of hair and it's long. But I have some of the same issues. I was raised that my natural hair texture wasn't as nice as it would have been if it were straight. People have ALWAYS made a big deal about my hair to the point where I thought I would be ugly without it and that all my beauty was tied to it. I've had guys date me simply because of my hair (which is weird in itself). I have a love/hate relationship with it, largely because I love having long hair, but I hate putting all the work into it that my hair takes to maintain. It would honestly be so much easier to cut it and wear it short, but at the end of the day I like having long hair.
"The wigs and weaves … I suppose that's just 'fantasy' hair. But it's an unobtainable fantasy. The 'highest' compliment anyone thought they were giving me was that my hair was so thick that it 'looked' like a high quality wig. When the hair you grew is getting compared to a wig, which is fake, and it's a compliment something has gone terribly, terribly wrong."
"When was the last time anyone in the White House press corps asked the President a question about the poor?" a blogger for the Congressional Black Caucus asked on Wednesday. "At an unscheduled press conference set up by the White House to get out in front of criticism of his budget, Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan quotes CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver’s press release of yesterday and asks President Obama about cuts important to the Congressional Black Caucus. President Obama spent most of his answer focused on his proposed cuts on Pell Grants but did address other concerns."
Ryan began by asking, "Mr. President, I want to focus in on the least of these.
"You started your career of service as a community organizer. And now we are hearing from people like — organizations like the CBC saying rebuilding our economy on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans is something that is simply not acceptable, like the cuts to community service block grants, Pell Grants, heating oil assistance and freezing salaries of federal workers.
"Now, Roderick Harrison of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Study says it's not good to make these type of cuts at a time of recession, instead of doing it at a time of recovery."
Obama replied that in the case of Pell Grants and heating oil assistance, he had actually increased the amount of money available but now must cut back.
"Now, we're in a budget crunch. The take-up rate on the Pell Grant program has skyrocketed. The costs have gone up significantly. If we continue on this pace, sooner or later what's going to happen is we're just going to have to chop off eligibility. We're just going to have to say that's it, we can't — we can't do this anymore; it's too expensive," he said.
"So instead what we did was how do we trim — how do we take a scalpel to the Pell Grant program; make sure that we keep the increase for each Pell Grant, make sure that the young people who are being served by the Pell Grant program are still being served, but, for example, on the summer school thing, let's eliminate that.
"That will save us some money, but the core functions of the program are sustained.
"That's how we're approaching all of these cuts."
But that wasn't the answer that most struck Ryan, she told Journal-isms. It was when the president mentioned the 10 letters he reads every day from the public. "Sometimes I'm also just frustrated by the number of people out there who are struggling and, you know, you want to help every single one individually," Obama said.
"And I —you know, you almost feel like you want to be a case worker and just start picking up the phone and advocating for each of these people who are working hard, trying to do right by their families. Oftentimes through no fault of their own they've had a tough time, particularly over these last couple of years. So, yeah, it — it's frustrating."
Said Ryan, "You got to find out how he feels and where his head and heart was, and we saw a little bit of that."
- Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista blog: Latest political poll shows Latinos see two Obamas: the Man and the President
"On the same day that Jay Carney stepped up to the podium for his first official briefing as the successor to Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary, the man who lost out to Carney for the coveted post officially announced he's bolting the administration on Friday," Ed Henry reported Wednesday for CNN.
"Bill Burton, who was the principal deputy press secretary to Gibbs, revealed in an e-mail that he is leaving President Obama's staff at the end of the week to start a new political and strategic consulting firm with Sean Sweeney, an ex-adviser to two former White House chiefs of staff, Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse.
" 'I will never forget the hardworking and decent people I worked with here — and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of it,' Burton wrote in the e-mail to colleagues and members of the White House press corps.'
"Burton, whose wife Laura is expecting the couple's first child this spring, said he had an epiphany this weekend as he prepared their Washington home for the new baby's arrival."
Burton was the highest ranking person of color in the White House press office. As for describing his racial identity, he told Journal-isms by e-mail last month, "I'm biracial because I'm african american and polish american." He added, "But I basically only have to refer to myself as one of those things in response to emails from you!"
"The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war," Martin Chulov and Helen Pidd wrote Tuesday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.
"Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.
" 'Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,' he said. 'They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.'
"The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state relied heavily on lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme."
Janabi made the statements "in a series of meetings with the Guardian in Germany where he has been granted asylum," the newspaper said.
"In the only other at length interview Janabi has given he denied all knowledge of his supposed role in helping the US build a case for invading Saddam's Iraq."
- Ed Pilkington, Helen Pidd and Martin Chulov, the Guardian: Colin Powell demands answers over Curveball's WMD lies
"From 2002 to 2007, the number of black-owned businesses increased by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18.0 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners. Over the same period, receipts generated by black-owned businesses increased 55.1 percent to $137.5 billion," the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday.
“Black-owned businesses continued to be one of the fastest growing segments of our economy, showing rapid growth in both the number of businesses and total sales during this time period,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg.
"These new data come from the Survey of Business Owners: Black-Owned Businesses: 2007. The survey provides detailed information every five years for black-owned businesses, including the number of firms, sales and receipts, number of paid employees and annual payroll."
The bureau did not say how many were media companies.
"The photographer was a seasoned operator in South Asia," [PDF] began an article by Judith Matloff in the May/June 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. "So when she set forth on an assignment in India, she knew how to guard against gropers: dress modestly in jeans secured with a thick belt and take along a male companion. All those preparations failed, however, when an unruly crowd surged and swept away her colleague. She was pushed into a ditch, where several men set upon her, tearing at her clothes and baying for sex.
"They ripped the buttons off her shirt and set to work on her trousers. 'My first thought was my cameras,' recalls the photographer, who asked to remain anonymous. 'Then it was, "Oh my God, I’m going to be raped." 'With her face pressed into the soil, she couldn’t shout for help, and no one would have heard her anyway above the mob’s taunts. Suddenly a Good Samaritan in the crowd pulled the photographer by the camera straps several yards to the feet of some policemen who had been watching the scene without intervening. They sneered at her exposed chest, but escorted her to safety.
"Alone in her hotel room that night, the photographer recalls, she cried, thinking, 'What a bloody way to make a living.' She didn’t inform her editors, however. 'I put myself out there equal to the boys. I didn’t want to be seen in any way as weaker.'
"Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys — sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous."
President Obama on Wednesday telephoned Lara Logan, the CBS chief foreign affairs correspondent who was sexually assaulted in Cairo on Feb. 11 while covering Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the Hollywood Reporter reported. Details of the conversation were not released.
- Alex Alvarez, Mediaite: ABC News Correspondent Miguel Marquez Beaten In Bahrain
- Jon Friedman, Marketwatch.com: Kelli Arena: Why media blew it in Egypt
- Foster Kamer, esquire.com: Lara Logan Assaulted in Egypt: Notes from the Night Before
- Tae Jin Kim, Korea Daily: Watching Egypt, Dreaming of Reform in North Korea
- Howard Kurtz, Daily Beast: Lara Logan's Egypt Nightmare
- Mark Memmott, NPR: Why Have Many Comments About The Attack On Lara Logan Been Removed?
- Julie Millican, Media Matters: Logan's Sexual Assault Brings Wave Of Blaming The Victim And Other Ugliness
"UPTOWN Magazine has announced the creation and launch of UPTOWN Professional, a quarterly career-focused magazine and website www.uptownpromag.com for the global urban professional," the magazine announced on Tuesday. "In addition to career aspirations, UPTOWN Professional will also cover related business lifestyle topics.
". . . The first issue, poly-bagged with UPTOWN Magazine, will be available on newsstands and in bookstores in March as well as distributed through major corporate employee affinity and network groups.
"The inaugural issue features a detailed look at the top 100 African American, Latino and Asian business executives in the US. Thought leaders profiled include Eugene Kelly/Colgate-Palmolive, Greg Hinton/U.S. Cellular, Thomas Harvey/AT&T, Rodney Adkins/IBM, Ingrid Saunders Jones/Coca Cola, Van Sapp/ PepsiCo, Kenya Jackson/Target, James Bell/Boeing, Don Thompson/McDonald's, Rohini [Anand]/Sodexo, Jimmie Paschall/Marriott, Moheet Nagrath/Procter & Gamble and Linda Jimenez/[WellPoint] among others. The full list is available at www.uptownpromag.com."
"An overflow crowd came to see a sneak preview Thursday night of CNN's upcoming documentary on Ernest Withers, "Pictures Don't Lie,' " John Branston wrote Friday for the Memphis Flyer.
"The upstairs viewing room at the National Civil Rights Museum was full so latecomers watched the 30-minute segment in the downstairs auditorium. The total crowd was well over 100 people. The documentary will debut on Sunday, February 20th, on CNN. It is narrated by Soledad O'Brien."
"The piece, called Pictures Don't Lie, was screened in Nashville Tuesday and does not specifically prove or disprove Withers' connection."
In Nashville, WTVF-TV reported, "Withers' son, Billy Withers, was on hand at the screening and asked viewers to keep an open mind when watching the piece.
" 'I just want to say to these who saw this piece — and you know this is the second time I've seen it and it still sort of shakes me — but to remember the time and era that these men were in and under,' said Billy Withers."
Ernest Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, was widely honored in life as one of the foremost photographic chroniclers of the civil rights movement.
In September, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that numerous reports showed Withers also to have been an informant for the FBI. Earl Caldwell, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education who was reporting from the Lorraine Motel the night in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, is interviewed for the report.
The White House and Washington public television station WETA are collaborating to produce "The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House," a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown Records, the White House announced on Wednesday,
"The event will include legends from Motown’s golden age and performances by artists from today, all in tribute to Motown's 50-year legacy. Performers include Smokey Robinson, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks with Greg Phillinganes as the night’s music director," the announcement said. The celebration takes place Feb. 24 for broadcast on public television stations on March 1 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. WETA is producing in association with Bounce Event Marketing, a division of Anschulz Entertainment Group, and the National Black Programming Consortium,
Kate Kelly, a spokeswoman for WETA, said that while Robinson is the only Motown veteran scheduled to perform, others will be in the audience. In addition, Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. is to participate in a daytime event for students.
"The First Lady will welcome more than 100 students from California, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. to take part in an interactive student workshop event: 'The Sound of Young America: The History of Motown.'
"Beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room, The GRAMMY Museum’s Executive Director Bob Santelli will lead the students in a discussion about the history of Motown’s long-lasting legacy, ranging from its beginnings in the city of Detroit to its effect on the music industry. Featured performers from the evening event will share their experiences as well as answer student questions about the music and entertainment world. 'The Sound of Young America' will stream live on www.whitehouse.gov, www.pbs.org/whitehouse, www.grammymuseum.org and www.blackpublicmedia.org," the announcement said.