Newswire : Essence Magazine, once again, Black-owned after purchase by Sundial Brands Founder Richelieu Dennis

 

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
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Richelieu Dennis

In a deal that reestablishes Essence magazine as a totally, Black and independently-owned entity, Sundial Brands founder Richelieu Dennis recently announced the purchase of Essence Communications from Time Inc.
The Essence Communications deal also comes a week after Dennis was knighted in his native Liberia by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who admitted him into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneer with the Grade of Knight Commander. Sirleaf reportedly described Dennis as an “Awesome Hero.”
“Talk about surreal,” Dennis said in an interview with NNPA Newswire. “I can’t even bring myself to say [knighthood]. It’s been a phenomenal week.”
Dennis said that the purchase of Essence Communications comes with a deep-seated passion and commitment to making sure that, “we are doing everything we can to leverage the power of the business to impact our community in a positive way and to demonstrate that we can run highly-profitable organizations.”
Dennis continued: “We can also leverage the impact and the resources that those businesses generate to drive economic empowerment and social justice in our communities for ourselves and by ourselves.”
Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group, said that it was good news to hear that ownership of Essence magazine has returned to the Black community.
“I hope it’s a trend,” said Leavell. “We do need strong Black ownership in our industry, even as I’m expecting that our Black newspapers will prosper in 2018.”
Leavell also said that she hopes that Black entrepreneurs will see the work and products of the Black Press and “seek to restore some light.” Leavell added: “We need more and more publications that depict us in a positive way and that’s certainly what ‘Essence’ has done in the past and I hope they will continue.”
While financial terms of the Essence Communications purchase weren’t disclosed, Dennis said he’s not only retaining Essence President Michelle Ebanks, who will continue to run the company, but Ebanks will also join the organization’s board of directors and lead an all-Black executive team at Essence, who will have equity stakes in the business.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude,” Ebanks told the NNPA Newswire. “The ‘Essence’ brand…has always had a special place in the hearts and minds of Black women and entrepreneurs and leaders like [Dennis] recognized ‘Essence’ and its importance and wants to restore it. This has allowed a dream to come true and we couldn’t be happier.”
Ebanks said that it was an extraordinary and special privilege to be part of an organization that would be responsible for elevating Black women in the industry.
Dennis said the deal to purchase Essence came together rather quickly after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about Time Inc.’s intention to sell the company.
“The stars aligned. We started to think about the implications of what this would mean if ‘Essence’ were truly bought back into the community and the impact it could have on the audience and on the industry to be able to create our content and to monetize our own content,” said Dennis. “There was never a waiver in the commitment on what ‘Essence’ means to our community.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, congratulated Richelieu Dennis for purchasing Essence magazine and for returning this iconic publication to 100 percent Black ownership.
“This is a very timely and an important milestone for the Black Press in America and throughout the world,” said Chavis. “Essence magazine, under the able leadership of Michelle Ebanks, is a valued treasure of Black America and the NNPA acknowledges, with supportive gratitude, Richelieu Dennis for this significant Black-owned business transaction.

Newswire : Friends, medical community weigh-In on Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Parkinson’s diagnosis

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

 

 

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                                                                   Rev. Jesse Jackson
Last week, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., 76, revealed that he has Parkinson’s Disease.
Rev. Jackson said that this all came about after family and friends noticed a change in him about three years ago, and he could no longer ignore symptoms of the chronic neurological disorder that causes movement difficulties.
Rarely do we hear about high profile members in the African American community being affected by Parkinson’s. But make no mistake, Parkinson’s disease is not a White man’s disease. Anyone can get it. One of the most high-profile African-Americans with Parkinson’s was heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali who was diagnosed in 1984 at the age of 42.
Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis caught many by surprise, but those who know him said they’re confident that he’ll overcome the life-threatening challenge before him.
“He’s in the rumble of his life, but he’s rumbled some big foes before,” said Vincent Hughes, a Democratic state senator from Pennsylvania who campaigned for Jackson in 1984 and again in 1988. Hughes said that Jackson’s campaigns were birthed in the Black empowerment movement that followed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. “I’m one of those African Americans, who took office and was a part of that issue of ‘protest to power’ and Rev. Jackson was, in many respects, our leader and he still is.”
More than anyone else, Jackson opened the door for the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). Chavis was one of Jackson’s contemporaries during the Civil Rights Movement. “Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., is a living, global civil rights icon. As a colleague in the Civil Rights Movement dating back to the 1960s and under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have personally witnessed the selfless sacrifice and dedication of Rev. Jackson.”
Chavis continued: “For all who have cried out for freedom justice and equality, the news of his Parkinson’s disease should only serve to re-dedicate a movement now for healthcare equality for all, not only as a civil right, but as a human right.”
In his statement about the disease, Jackson recalled his foray into activism, being arrested on July 17, 1960 with seven other college students who advocated for the right to use a public library in his hometown of Greenville, S.C. He said that he remembers the arrest as if it happened yesterday and it was a day that forever changed his life.
“From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access,” said Jackson, whose multiracial National Rainbow Coalition grew out of his work in the 1984 presidential campaign.
He said he resisted interrupting his work to visit a doctor, but his daily physical struggles intensified and he could no longer ignore his symptoms. “After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father,” Jackson said.
Rev. Al Sharpton issued a statement saying that he spent time with Jackson and his family in New York, as Jackson made the announcement of his illness. “As I watched him, I was reminded of the greatness of this man,” Sharpton said. “Reverend Jackson has changed the nation and served in ways in which he never got credit.”
Maynard Eaton, a journalist and national director of communications for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called Jackson a legendary and fearless civil rights champion. He said the disease may slow Jackson, but won’t stop him.
“Activism and civil rights are in his blood. As a journalist, Jesse Jackson has been a treat and joy to cover and write about,” said Eaton. “He has been a civil rights darling and media maverick…Jesse Jackson is a quintessential and preeminent civil rights activist of our time.”
Even though Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurological condition, it is very treatable, said Dr. Nabila Dahodwala, an associate professor of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease does not necessarily mean that you must make drastic changes, but every individual is different in how they are affected, how they respond to treatment and how they choose to spend their time,” Dahodwala said.
Ihtsham ul Haq, an expert in neurology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, said he believes Jackson will do well. “Though each patient’s journey with Parkinson’s disease is a little bit different, thankfully for many the symptoms are often well-managed with medication, said Haq. “The hallmark of the disease is the slow loss of dopamine in the brain, which unlocks our movement.”
Haq continued: “As patients begin to produce less of it they show the slowness, stiffness, and tremor that typify the disease. Replacing dopamine usually substantially alleviates these problems.”
Leslie A. Chambers, the president and CEO of the American Parkinson Disease Association, said making appropriate lifestyle changes and focusing on physical therapy will go a very long way to helping Jackson live the best life possible, in spite of the disease.
“Since its a lifelong chronic illness, the American Parkinson Disease Association encourages people with Parkinson’s to seek out a top notch medical and healthcare team, which includes a movement disorders specialist physician and allied healthcare providers and protect and defend their overall health status with a nutritious diet, physical therapy and safe, effective daily exercise programs, as well as emotional and social support from family, and professional care partners-givers,” Chambers said, adding that the association extends heartfelt wishes to Jackson.
Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA and the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group said that even though Jackson is in for the fight of his life, she warned that Parkinson’s disease had met its match. “This is a major blow, but it’s not the death knell,” said Leavell. “We will keep working and encourage Jesse with all he’s done for us and continues to do.”

Newswire :Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for ‘full-scale boycott of BMW

By Freddie Allen (Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire)

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Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (at the podium), called for a “full-scale boycott of BMW,” during the 2017 Rainbow PUSH Coalition Global Automotive Summit in Detroit, Mich. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, called for a “full-scale” boycott of BMW, the German automaker, for refusing to reply to the survey for the group’s annual diversity scorecard.
Not only did BMW refuse to complete the survey, the German automaker also refused to meet with the civil rights leader.
Jackson made the announcement, during a press conference at the 2017 Rainbow PUSH Coalition Global Automotive Summit. “The diversity scorecard was developed in 2012 to provide a snapshot of each manufacturer’s success at building and sustaining ethnic diversity and inclusion, with a primary focus on people of color,” survey’s report said.
Jackson said that he met with all of the automakers that participated in the survey. The diversity scorecard participants included: Ford Motor Company; Toyota Motor North America; General Motors; Nissan North America; Hyundai Motor America; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Honda North America; Subaru of America; Kia Motors America; Mercedes-Benz USA and Volkswagen Group of America.
The automakers answered questions about employment, advertising, marketing procurement, minority dealership opportunities and philanthropy.
The auto companies that reflected best practices for ethnic diversity established by the Rainbow PUSH Automotive Project, an initiative of the Citizenship Education Fund, earned green scores. Red marks indicated that diversity initiatives and investments were non-existent, not disclosed, or the company didn’t provide enough relevant information for scoring.
Ford and Toyota earned tops scores for employment, advertising, marketing, procurement and philanthropy. General Motors scored green in employment, marketing, procurement and philanthropy.
At the other end of the spectrum, Kia Motors America, Mercedes-Benz USA and Volkswagen earned failing grades in advertising, marketing and procurement and yellow scores, which indicate some progress in diversity, for employment, dealership diversity and philanthropy.
BMW earned red marks in all categories, because they refused to reply to the survey request. According to Jackson, that refusal showed the company’s contempt and resentment towards the Black community.
“We are in a different stage of our civil rights struggle,” said Jackson. “The first stage of our struggle was to end legal slavery; the next phase was to end legal Jim Crow; the third stage was the right to vote.” Now, that the Black community brings money, market share, talent and experience to the table, Black businesses should be seen as partners, Jackson said. “We trade for with you, you trade with us,” said Jackson. “There is more to the car than the ride.”
The civil rights leader called for “a full-scale boycott of BMW” until the company agrees to meet with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and works out “a mutually beneficial trade relationship. Jackson said that Blacks account for more than 10 percent of purchases of the company’s luxury models.
According to a 2014 poll by Strategic Vision, a research and consultant firm based in San Diego, Calif., BMW was the brand that was most often cited as a future vehicle purchase for African Americans.
“If you have a BMW, we urge you to get another car. If you don’t have one, don’t plan on [buying one],” said Jackson. “We’re saying to the auto industry, ‘we’ve worked too hard and consumed too much, to be locked out.’”
Jackson said that the Black community wants equity, parity and mutually beneficial, reciprocal business relationships across all business sectors, a message that he plans to convey through a partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies. NNPA media outlets reach more than 20 million readers in print and online every week.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, recognized that some people will question why the Black community and its allies should support the BMW boycott. “The real question is: Why did BMW decide to boycott the diversity report card? It’s an insult!” Chavis exclaimed. “What is BMW hiding? Why isn’t BMW joining the rest of the auto sector in responding to the report card?”
Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group, said that the diversity scorecard is very important, because there are companies that say that they do business with the Black community, yet, the scorecard proves that they don’t. Leavell said that when it comes to promoting ethnic diversity and inclusion and economic equity, obviously BMW doesn’t have anything to show. “To insult an organization like [the Rainbow PUSH Coalition], to not even respond to very valid inquiries, means that BMW should be boycotted,” said Leavell. “Our people should know what kind of business BMW conducts.”

Newswire : Comedian and Freedom Fighter Dick Gregory dies at 84

By Stacy M Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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Legendary civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory died on Saturday. He was 84. Friends, family and celebrities took to social media to honor the icon and innovator of the Black community.
“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC,” said Christian Gregory, his son, in a statement posted on Facebook. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
On Facebook, Roland Martin, a journalist and host of NewsOne on TV One said that he had enormous respect for Gregory. “He was honest, truthful, unflinching, unapologetically Black. He challenged America at every turn. RIP,” wrote Martin.
“He was one of the sweetest, smartest, most loving people one could ever know,” said Steve Jaffe, Gregory’s publicist of 50 years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jaffe added, “I just hope that God is ready for some outrageously funny times.”
Singer John Legend tweeted that, “Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice. RIP.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted that Gregory “taught us and loved us.”
Quoting legendary entertainer Richard Pryor, sports writer Myron Medcalf tweeted, “Dick Gregory was the greatest, and he was the first. Somebody had to break down that door.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, also paid homage to Gregory. “We salute and honor the living legacy of freedom fighter Dick Gregory. RIP,” Chavis wrote on Twitter.
Gregory had been in a Washington, D.C. area hospital battling an undisclosed illness. However, as late as Thursday, family members were said to have been upbeat about his recovery and he even had plans to appear at a show on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
Born Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory in St. Louis, Missouri on Oct. 12, 1932, Gregory became a comedian and civil rights activist whose social satire changed the way Whites perceived African-American comedians, according to his biography.
Dick Gregory entered the national comedy scene in 1961 when Chicago’s Playboy Club (as a direct request from publisher Hugh Hefner) booked him as a replacement for white comedian, “Professor” Irwin Corey. Until then Gregory had worked mostly at small clubs with predominantly Black audiences (he met his wife, Lillian Smith, at one such club), according to his biography.
“Such clubs paid comedians an average of five dollars per night; thus Gregory also held a day job as a postal employee. His tenure as a replacement for Corey was so successful — at one performance he won over an audience that included southern White convention goers — that the Playboy Club offered him a contract extension from several weeks to three years,” Gregory’s biography said. “By 1962, Gregory had become a nationally known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums.”
Gregory’s biography continued: “It’s important to note that no biography of Gregory would be complete without mentioning that he and his beloved wife, ‘Lil,’ had ten children, who have become highly respected members of the national community in a variety of fields. They are: Michele, Lynne, Pamela, Paula, Stephanie (a.k.a. Xenobia), Gregory, Christian, Miss, Ayanna and Yohance.”
While a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis he led a March protesting segregated schools. Later, inspired by the work of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Gregory took part in the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw attention to such issues as segregation and disfranchisement, according to his biography.
“When local Mississippi governments stopped distributing Federal food surpluses to poor blacks in areas where SNCC was encouraging voter registration, Gregory chartered a plane to bring in several tons of food,” the biography said. “He participated in SNCC’s voter registration drives and in sit-ins to protest segregation, most notably at a restaurant franchise in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Only later did Gregory disclose that he held stock in the chain.”
Gregory’s autobiography, “Nigger,” was published in 1963 and it became the number one best-selling book in America. Over the decades it has sold in excess of seven million copies. He explained his choice for the title in the foreword of the book, where Dick Gregory wrote a note to his mother, his biography explained. “Whenever you hear the word ‘Nigger’,” he said, “you’ll know their advertising my book.”
Through the 1960s, Gregory spent more time on social issues and less time on performing, his biography noted. He participated in marches and parades to support a range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger and drug abuse.
Dorothy Leavell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group said that this was a sad moment and a great loss to America, especially Black America. “Dick Gregory was a personal friend, but also a voice for Black America which has now been stilled,” said Leavell. “Dick was also a close friend to the Black Press and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).” Leavell continued: “While we mourn this loss we are grateful for the many contributions he made that have helped us all.”
Chavis agreed. “Dick Gregory epitomized the rare combination of being an intellectual genius and one of our greatest social visionaries,” Chavis said. “The National Newspapers Publishers Association deeply mourns the passing of freedom fighter Dick Gregory.”