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IfEatEatthing eat athing eateat eateat eat woman and interrupt the exploration of the world ofwomen to the sun. Good eveningand welcome to woman Our topic tonight.It's a new image for black women.With me is Marcia Ann Gillespie. Marcia is editor in chief of Essence magazineand a board member of Essence Communications.Essence is a magazine for black women.
Welcome Marcia. Thank you so much I want to hit you right away with a quote.You object you say when you hear other women say we are not all sisters.And we and we don't all suffer the same things.Well I object when women say that we are all sisters and we all suffer the samethings.A Basically because you know we really haven't. I mean it's verysimplistic. It tends to try it almost it if you want to use the term whitewash the differences that do exist.And I just don't mean between black women and white women between black women and other black women between white womenand other white women. And it also tends to makeone of us especially when we're dealing with white women who often will use that term. To me it usuallytends to do something for black women and that is it makes us have to take a backseatyou know because my life story has yet been you know to be told and I have to tell itand it is different.
When you first took over as it's now what year was that 1971 andyou were very young.Yeah. What with essence saying to black womenat that point.Well you know Essence came out in May of 1970 and I like many women whopicked I was very excited because it was a beginning to talk about positive images.Absolutely. But unfortunately it began to look more and more like a fashionmagazine which I did not feel and that the readership did not feelwas necessarily the vehicle they wanted. So what I tried doing andI hope I've been successful in some part is to broaden the mix because for a longtime the example that I use even with my editors so that when I used to look through women'smagazines around the period of 1970 I used to try to break them into like threecategories. There were women's magazines for the young mama housewife youknow. And it gave her a bigger and better recipes and new ways to pretty of the kids.And then there was that kind of magazine that was really for the clothes horse a very high fashion. And then there was a
third one which I was called How to get and keep.And I want to refute things.And quite frankly you know when you're talking to black women those each category ismuch too narrow. Because a black woman where we are interested in clothes or interestedin children in our homes and we're interested in men but we are also interestedin work because we do. And we're interested in politics and just the world in general. So Ireally wanted to make a healthier mix in the magazine which is what we've triedto do and so I call it a new kind of service magazine because normally when people used tosay service they meant how to keep your pots shiny orsomething like cooking right.Right. Even though will do 12 ways to cook an burger but it won't be the big story.Are you trying in any way to make the essence reader a better consumer.Yes I hope we are. We do column every month on consumerinformation past and beyond that I think that just in giving readers a
great variety of information they are becoming more aware as I am when Iread some of the stories that we read which that awareness then translates into how we do what wedo.Have you done any film reviews on the black exploitation films or if you made any commentthrough the magazine on those films.We've done both. I've written I think at this point must be twomaybe two editorials on the subject. The last one was this summer. I crywhile there are some work or something. But basically you know my point of view which therefore isthe magazines is that you know very. And used to be very angry I've ceasedbeing angry I'm just annoyed and very disheartened by the filmsbecause on the whole it to me is just another stereotype in which black peopleand black women are locked in and nine times out of 10 we're either all suffering or we're hotmamas. And even though there are some black women who might fit in even one of thosecategories that's again not the totality of what we are. And so where we're being
limited the television shows the movies. I see a limitation. You know rightacross the board. And I really do see just which I see an update of an oldstereotype.Was there an overwhelming response from the readership in one direction or another and they did.Most people who read your magazine dislike this kind of film.See if I can use the letters as an indication.Yes but at the same time I know those films do make money so someoneout there is coming to see them. I'm hoping that it is really not our readership.How does essence deal with the women's movement.Well you know I always say to people we deal with it pragmatically. I take aSojourner Truth. I kind of wrote with it netbecause I do think that there are some things in the women's movement that are very positive that all women can gain from.On the other hand I have felt for a long time that it basically is a white middle class movement.There are many of the issues and concerns that is you know caused a great deal of fear are not
the same issues and concerns that at the moment are a top priority for me.I've also had great problems because you know when I used to hear Fortunately you don'thear that as much. You know the kind of categorization of men is being you know malechauvinists and pigs and all of that which was of course the loudstage of the movement that really kind of turned me off because I can't turn to black men and startdoing that because they haven't had a chance at the power. I'm not saying theymight not turn out to be all of those things but they haven't had a chance at the power because Iknow that there's so much pressure being placed on black men in black women to push their support and Ican't you know consciously help them you know.But I just hope that the women's movement will show I see broaden its scopereally begin to not just sort of talk at problems that do affectwomen who happen not to be middle class in the traditional sense but we really become involvedwith the problems I always say you know its like when I heard women white women talking about
the need to fulfill themselves in meaningful meaningful work you know getting out of the home.And I always say to them you know I just wish black women had the choice to stay home and raise children ifwe wanted to because thats something that has always eluded us we have been workers we areworkers. Our problem is that we work in menial jobs so we don't have to get enoughmoney for what we do. You know so there are differences that have to really be looked atand embraced.You tell me when we spoke earlier that you were going to try to do an issue on how black women reallyfeel about white women.I think it's overdue. And I want to also include the reverse white women really dofeel about black women. We have been looking at each other now first you know couple of centuriesand with a great deal of hostility I think from most of that time. And I really dothink that if the women's movement if any of the things that the women's movement is really going to you know have any meaning.The first thing that's going to happen I have to really happen is we're going to start being very honest about our feelings andperceptions of each other. You know pro and con.
What you project on and if you do this in any project and maybe tell me some of the thingsyou think might be included in that issue.I'd like to look at myths myths that. Wemeaning black women have fostered about white women missing white women who are forced to step down like theSmiths. My goodness you know it's like in many ways I would say some of themhit head on. When I grew up my images of white women were basically that you werevery lazy in intellect.I would say that for many white they grew up thinking you knowwhat. Why did I think so because you know and I've been in the neighborhood that I lived inmost of the black women went off to clean and take care of and raise white childrenwhile the and I couldn't understand you know what were these women doing you know go to work anddo anything. We have to really look at for example the wholeidea of the beauty myth.You know what what post to say that you know do all white women even fit into the
category of beauty i.e. you know she's usually tall she's usually blonde she's usually thinyou know she usually has very Aqua lined features where does that leave a lot of white women. And also whatare our feelings about that. Because more and more black women arecompeting with white women competing for jobs competing for theaffection and love. Black men competing. You know right acrossthe board. But if we're really still feeling in some way that we can't because we are inferior then we have tolook at that in and explode that kind of you know feeling the women'smovement didn't really open up a line of communication did it.I mean it welcomed black women into the movement but it really didn't do the reverse I mean itreally didn't make an attempt to. Say all right this is a conduit for us to exchangeinformation. Not really.I think that maybe you know. Stated there was never any attempts to do that.I think there were attempts but I think it was like a lot of other rhetoric. I mean people were
saying that that was to be the end result but in fact it doesn't. So I think that's true.And also what happened is you know the women's movement came right on the heels of civil rightscame right on the heels when we blacks are really pushing so hard to finally break down thebarriers that have you know kept us from really you know growing in and enjoyingAmerica as we should. And there's you know there has been you know incredible suspicion whichI have felt you know it's like a line from a poem that I use which was one of Langston Hughesresponse have taken my blues and gone so that the suspicion was also oh okso they want to work whose jobs are they taking. I have to work.You know my man's just getting a chance to really stretch out in the in the field whoknows who's going to make room for white women and us youknow and I think that these sorts of discussions really do have to happen because we see a shrinkingeconomy you know.So I think most women who work now have to work. I think it's not a matter reallyanymore so much of choice as it used to be.
Yes but you know even in that there are degrees there are degrees.You know because of where one is going to have to work to maintain two cars and of great house in thesuburbs and one can have to work because one's paycheck is absolutely necessary to keep foodon the table.So there are there to grease right there lots more women single women who are heads of households nowas there are single men who have about souls and I think that that kind of makes it a newballgame in the sense that because there are such a large number now being introduced into theeconomy that and also because you know we see it right now you know blacks havebeen and still are you know still the last tired in the first find so that when we look atwhat's happened with unemployment and the effect it's had on black families and single blacksit's really been very devastating in 67 and 68 during the beginningof the black is beautiful thing.Where were you were you in college at that point you know I was working at Time Incorporatedas a researcher for Time-Life.
Well how do you think that affected you and whateffect you think that having to enter the whole Black is Beautiful thing.I think the best way to describe it is it gave me a very special glow insideit. Through words that needed to besaid again and again and again and it didn't make me feel veryspecial I felt. It's very hard to describe what was happening atthat time.But one of the best ways was it was like a family pulling together. It was a greatdeal of love I mean there was a lot of anger and rage but there was a great deal of love that waswe were expressing for each other and I was very positive very positiveexpression.You mentioned you were working for Time magazine is that you know it wasn't the magazine it was the book station.How did you find it necessary to leave. And I'm using your word thewhite publishing world.Well that was a gradual process. I knew after I had been a TimeIncorporated for about two years that it was not going to be a place that I was going to be
able to make a home for any length of time. I was thinking oh several reasons one of which isyou know I began to see who had the power. And you know power isimportant but added For me it was. Because I could see who could make the decisionsand it was basically a white Anglo-Saxon and Protestant institutionpushing a very limited. Even though they covered vast subjection areasand tried to do what I think fairly they were limited they were limited severely.And so I ran into problems on things as you know variedas whether to call Wounded Knee a battle or a massacre which of course now the Department of the Armythinks we should call a battle in which at that time one of my editors at Time Inc. Thought we should calla battle. By the time I did start working on a Black Historyseries it was I mean it was just constant tensionconstant tension.And I really came to the conclusion I'm sick to death of having everybody else tell me my wifewell and I have to get out of here because I think my sanity was
at stake. I don't think I would have gone raving mad. But I was turninginto a very angry bitter person and I couldn't let job do that to me.How did the people around you. Or didn't you tell them.My feeling yeah. Well I think most people got a good sense of where I was comingfrom in the whole thing. And basically I think they felt Look we pay you a lot of money there's a greatdeal of supposed status and prestige working here. You know you're either going to be happy the wayit is or maybe things will get better. Well that may be an if. You know youcan spend your whole life for and I knew that I would not functionvery well there anymore. And plus I had outgrown the kind of job category thatthey were only willing to give me.So there was there was you know have you found a way to cope with your angerthat kind of anger.I hope so yes. A great deal of it is because you knowbecause my circumstances have changed in the sense that now I
am getting the chance to talk about my life or our lives. I am in aposition where you know I'm not having to wait for someone else to say yes you can do itso that you know since frustration is a form of anger that level of frustration hasdisappeared. The second part of course is that. Ino longer am in a position or even try to place myself in the position of reactingto the larger society to what whites think feel and whatever and insteadin the process of you know of evolving philosophies andideas and information that are about blacks and for blacks and blacks which isa very much more positive trip so that that dispels it.Now I still have angers which I hope I won't be able to work out butI feel a lot more in touch with the better part of me now where you have a lot of pressure on you.Yeah yeah that's nice.Does that scare you know you used to.
When I first became the editor I was 27 26 27and it was like getting what you wanted. But you know how you say oh that's what I really want to do but youdon't have any idea of all that it entails. So I'd say for the first two years I wasterrified terrified of. Well yes I had togive up the idea that everybody was going to like me you know. I've never been aboss before. I never knew anybody who was a boss before getting adjusted tothat which I'm still getting adjusted to. But I'd say todayno I'm not terrified because I think I have people around mewho are strong enough in themselves to make sure that I do not misuse the power.You have a support system you know the reason why you're here but yet you have complete control and that's something that youinsist on. Yes yes. And that is unusual because there aren't that many peoplein your position that I think have complete control.That's probably true. I think that a great deal of that is really due to the
you know the management because the publisher and the president really do understand.My philosophy and were willing to take a chance on an unknownentity which is exactly what I was when they hired me.Are you concerned with sexism in schools assay the women's movement is that men do you feel that little black girls need to knowthings about sexism that they're not being told.Well I think that you know black girls do need to know more aboutyou know what's happening in terms of sexism. My level of concern is not nearly as greatbecause you know I always have the feeling that you know it's like I was saying to you earlier blackwoman becomes one word for me. And my great concern is that black children in theschool system are just being mowed down and blown away. And it's notabout girls or boys but still for great numbers of young blackkids going to school their horizons are limited because they think that our
horizons are limited. So it's not about male or female.It's becomes we're just about people you don't.Have anything in essence do for little girls.No we don't. Even though I get letters every once in a while will say I'm 13 years old andI wish you'd do something for me in the magazine. But that becomes you know you can't mix thingslike that where a woman's magazine. And so hopefully we're giving information to women who aremothers of women who are around children that will help children because helpingmothers and women cope with children and understand what your children are and all butnothing directly aimed at children where do you know black kids get those messages.Well for there is a very fine black children's magazine being publishedby Johnson Publications out of Chicago called Ebony Jr. so that there are you knowways of getting then of course to you know positive imagesif if essence helps a black woman feel better about herself.
We're helping black children write about everything itseems to have you know. Correct me if I'm wrong but it seemsto me that success is highly emphasized in a way. You knowis that a philosophy that you agree with.Yes and No.I think that for me it works and it works. And I always goback to this when I was a little girl growing up in a small town on Long Islandwhich was predominately white Evony coming into our house every monthshowed me black people living lives that I could not dream upbecause I did not see them where I live. Just as I think that was true when Iwas growing up. I think there is also a need for perhaps today for peoplewho don't see it in their ordinary lives.Also because success is among blacks need to be applauded everystep of the way because you know we're still at the stage where we're still talking about firsts
the first black this and the first black that or maybe the second. And we have toapplaud those successes until the numbers become like 30. You know the 30th or the300. And we are still a long way from that. So I think that it all ispart of giving people positive images you know. Nowfor Essence we do try to push success but perhaps not in thesame sense of I'm not just interested in you know if they're living in a fifty or seventy five thousanddollar home and we never really talk about things like that. Well how many cars things youknow the buying me stuff. But we are talking about people whohave managed to make change in their lives and that's success.What about the other women's magazines and I don't I'm not too interested in thisnaming names.How do you feel about them.Well I'm not a prince very knocked out by women's magazines.I did used to read women's magazines before you began and frequently.
And frequently. I remember saying when you know when I was there when I was first youknow applying for the job I said well you know I really don't know very much about women's books I never reallyliked them you know because I always think it's so narrow in one sense because we're peopleand you know I just didn't when I've always looked at women's books I was felt they were still dealing withwomen as if we were something different and strange and had to be either babied or a parent ortwo or whatever.I was never tuned into because I never saw myself in any of those women's booksI mean you know the time when it's just been in the last really five years or so that women'smagazines are paid even the slightest bit and I'm talking about white women's magazines of attention to black women.You know when a black woman can even model in the pages of so that I was nevereven in it. You know from jump street past that I've alwaysfelt that if I were a white woman I would be enraged because they don't showyou they don't give you the totality of you I mean I look at so many of the magazines today and
they just look like upgraded you know movie magazines. There's Paul Newman stilllove Joanne Woodward. What is not said.If you buy the ticket so you know so I can whack it they're successful theysome of them you know have lots of readers. So somebody is frightening.I just when they're successful but is in essence at the moment the fastest growing.Yeah it's the fastest growing women's magazine in Americawhich is a very nice you know.I think a great deal of that is also due to the fact you know there aren't very many American Saint-Arthur for blacksbut past and beyond that I would not be shy.I think that we are giving black women a great deal of information that they really need andwant. We are also talking to them as if they were adults. We don't mince our language.We don't wear white glove still know when we put the magazine together.I see black women really don't ever call me you know or even use some of those quoteunquote four letter words when I think they are appropriate and I think
it's about talking to a family. It's always about toreinvest in ours. And.The readers are responding to one of the criticism that's sort of general for allwomen's magazines that they don't really deal with the older woman is doingthat at all.We have done articles now and again we have not done anyconcentrated push for the older woman.QUESTION One of the things that again intrigues me OK is that I use olderwomen that I know as yardsticks I think they're interested in many of the same things that we're running which I sayjust are you interested I could call the columns that we're doing really don't have anynecessary h to them because I know women who are 50 are going back to school.I know women you know the sexual health column doesn't cut off at 45so I don't know really. You know I don't think I think again it almost becomes pandering when you say nowwe're going to do something for older women. We have talked about certain issues you know that it affect older
women more.But if you had to you know in just a few sentences describe what you think thenew images of black women had to do that.Well if I were going to describe the image that we're trying to portray ofblack women becomes of a whole whole human being nota woman who can be just looked at you know in very tight stereotypical terms.I see black women as being adventurous about theirlives we are willing to accept challenges we're mountain climbers we've had to climb thismountain for god knows how many years where I have athree year cycle and ladies we are very positive thatwe can still make changes that will affect our lives and otherpeople's lives.I am always very hopeful when I'm in the company of black women because Istill and I hope will die that way. Knocked out by the kind of
life force that I feel coming from.But when you do everything.Yeah I agree. You have lots of covers essence covers that have bothmen and women. Is there a message there.Yes absolutely.I'm constantly reinforcing the fact that we do love andcherish each other because you know sometimes if you read other things you would get the feeling thatthat does not happen. And even though I think that you know this country hascreated incredible schisms between black men and black women. I think that there are stillmany positive examples of people who have managed to cross the void. And I do thinkthat that's one of the things oppression has done oppression has made it very difficult for us towholeheartedly come together. You see because we have people like morningto hand-hold say that you know we're matriarchs and which is reallynot true. We have people who have been touting for years the fact that you know
black men leave their their homes which is only become a recent phenomenon andreally isn't based on economics and oppression. So I'm constantly trying toreinforce in our minds that we build strong family units. Because I camefrom one I know to many of the people who came from. And I think they have to be talked about. We alsodo covers which will show black men with children again to reinforce that imagebecause too often it's being said the black men don't love to stay with and take careof their children. We have to keep you know sing a happy song.Well thank you thank you. It's thank you for watching and good night.Woman was produced by w n e d TV which is soley responsible for its content
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New Image for Black Women
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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This episode features a conversation with Marcia Ann Gillespie. She is the editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine and a board member of Essence communications
Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Social Issues
Copyright 1976 by Western New York Educational Television Association, Inc.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Gillespie, Marcia Ann
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04384 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:40
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Chicago: “Woman; 335; New Image for Black Women,” 1976-01-16, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2019,
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APA: Woman; 335; New Image for Black Women. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from