Friday, June 10, 2011

The Essence of Essence

by Drew Martin

I thumb through a lot of magazines. One of my favorite is Essence because it has a really specific readership and not published for a middle-aged Caucasian male (me) to read. The pull-quote from the Letter from the Editor, Constance C. R. White, sums up the directive,

"We are committed to reflecting the truth of Black women's lives."

So it would seem that there would not be a lot for me to relate to, but other than very precise leads, such as the title of (CNN Anchor) Don Lemon's article, To My Beautiful Black Sisters, the topics are universal and interesting for everyone to read.

Perhaps topics are more poignant when they are meant for a limited audience but, unbeknownst to the writer/editor, have a much broader reach, as with issues of relationships and parenting. What might be perceived as weaknesses, and not something one might not share outside of a group, are really important to broadcast loud and clear.

White rallies against "one-note depictions of Black women" in the media so it is key for her and all the contributors and readers to understand that although Essence has a niche market it is also a wonderful magazine for everyone.

Lemon's article in the July 2011 issue is brilliant. He starts off with the tragedy of Tyler Clementi, a young man from my town who jumped off the GW Bridge because his intimacy with another young man was secretly recorded by jeering students. Lemon explains his own mother's support when he came out after his boyfriend dumped him. He then turns to the readers and offers how they should react to a son or daughter in a similar situation and to reject bigotry and discrimination.

Lemon mentions his book Transparent (an interesting title reference to Invisible Man), which I would think he wrote for a very general audience, not focused on African American women. Writing this post has made me realize there is a perceived audience a writer is catering to. I think it is obvious that the writer has some idea who he or she is addressing. If there is a career behind the person then the publisher is quite concerned about such details because it represents a market. What I think is missed is the perceived audience a reader may think is being addressed.

I do not know who reads this blog. It is for anyone interested in the arts and media (any age, race or religion) and I want it to be a casual, serendipitous encounter. I don't think of it as a blog that someone would persistently follow. But now I realize someone might read this and think I am writing for a determined audience. In the back of my mind I am writing this post specifically for Constance C. R. White, Don Lemon and the readers of Essence who would not assume someone like me would find it interesting...and in the same moment, I am writing it for everyone.