I N S P I R A T I O N by Renee Rankin
On the 18th day of this month in 1973 NAACP President and CEO BENJAMIN
TODD JEALOUS was born in Pacific Grove, CA. At 35, he became the youngest national leader ever of the NAACP.
Jealous descends from a line of civil rights activists and freedom fighters. His mother desegregated Baltimore's Western High School for Girls, and his father was one of the few white men jailed during Congress Of Racial Equality's (CORE) battle to desegregate Baltimore's business district.
Jealous' activism began in early childhood. In first grade, he spoke out about the lack of books on black history in his school's library. As a teenager, he helped register voters for the NAACP even though he was too young to vote.
In college, at Columbia University, he was involved in student demonstrations and led a sit-in at a Board of Trustees meeting, which ultimately led to his expulsion from the university. After his expulsion, he went to Mississippi and worked as a journalist and Managing Editor at the Jackson Advocate, the oldest historically Black newspaper.
He was later readmitted to Columbia University and received his A.B. in political science and went on to receive his master's degree from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
By the time Jealous became head of the NAACP, he had already held several leadership positions. He was Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a consortium of over 200 black newspapers. He was the Director of the U.S. Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and President of Rosenberg Foundation, a nonprofit venture capital organization.
When Jealous arrived at the NAACP, the organization was struggling with financial instability and decreasing membership. He was charged with the daunting task of turning years of turmoil, controversy, and instability around. So far, he appears to have met the challenge.
On the 23rd day of this month in 1946 former longtime Essence magazine editor SUSAN TAYLOR was born in Harlem, NY where her West Indian parents owned a clothing store for many years.
She founded her own cosmetics company, Nequai Cosmetics, in her twenties, which got her noticed by Essence and led to a freelance position in its first year of publication. When Taylor joined the magazine in 1970, she was a struggling, twenty three year old, divorced, single mother and couldn't have envisioned being with the publication for 37 years.
In her first decade with the magazine, she moved from freelance to fulltime staff, and finally, in 1981, was named editor-in-chief. Under her leadership, the magazine offered its devoted African-American readership informative discussions on politics, family, health, religion, fashion, hair, and beauty.
The magazine's circulation grew to almost 1 million by the time of her departure. The Essence brand includes a now defunct syndicated television interview series, Essence books, and the Essence Music Festival, held annually in New Orleans, celebrating Black music, food, and culture.
For 27 years, she authored the inspirational monthly column, In The Spirit, offering autobiographical lessons, anecdotes, and general advice to her readers. The column generated best-selling books, the last being All About Love: Favorite Selections from "In the Spirit" on Living Fearlessly (2008).
Her success and leadership did not go unnoticed. In 1998, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America, the industry's highest honor.
She was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2000, she was promoted to publications director.
She founded Essence Cares! in 2006, a national initiative to mentor and empower Black youth. At the end of 2007, after almost four decades, Taylor decided to leave the magazine with which she was so strongly identified, to devote more time to her National CARES Mentoring Movement, which is an extension of what she started with Essence Cares!.
Her goal is to encourage Black adults to mentor and nurture Black youth and help them secure a prosperous future.
On the 25TH day of this month in 1950 writer GLORIA NAYLOR was born in New York City. She inherited her love of books from her mother, who had a limited education, but loved to read.
After graduating from high school in 1968, she became a missionary with the Jehovah's Witnesses following her mother who joined in 1963. Naylor was always quite timid and shy.
The Jehovah's Witnesses provided her with confidence and encouraged her writing. They gave her a community, but she felt isolated from her culture, and therefore, chose to leave in 1975.
Naylor worked as a telephone operator while attending college. She first studied nursing at Medgar Evers College, but ended up earning a B.A. in English from Brooklyn College in 1981. That was followed by a master's degree from Yale University in 1983.
In 1977, Naylor discovered Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye. It was the first novel she had read by an African-American woman. The novel had a profound effect. For the first time, she felt her story was being told, and consequently, felt encouraged to write.
She began writing and submitted her first work of fiction to Essence magazine. In 1982, her first novel, The Women of Brewster's Place, took the literary world by storm. She won the American Book Award for Best First Novel. The novel was adapted into a TV mini-series in 1989, starring Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, and Robin Givens.
Since her debut, Naylor has written four novels, several essays, and edited Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers 1967 to the Present.
She's taught and lectured at universities throughout the United States including Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and NYU.