Monday, November 30, 2009

African-American Print, White Owners

I just spoke to a vendor of the Essence Music Festival and she said how difficult it has become over the years since Essence Communications Inc. contracted Rehage Entertainment to run the festival.

She explained that previous coordinators worked with grassroots and unknown visual and performing artists, fashion designers, jewelry makers and other afro-chic vendors, especially from Louisiana, but after Hurricane Katrina things have changed.

Rehage has removed previous workers and policies to implement ones that are silently eliminating those artists who have created the very fabric of the Essence Music Festival.

Also, this means that Rehage is a significant stock holder in this event and they'd be damned to let anyone mess up their money. If anyone knows you can make a lot off of black talent, it would be Rehage.

Rehage Entertainment is known to host its very Caucasian, "Voodoo Experience." It is annual event that brings white rock bands and diluted pop artists to NOLA to bastardized and commercialize black spiritual culture.

Essence Music Festival is just one example of black media, hell black arts only having a blackface.

You ever wondered how black festivals either get coopted or they go under? There are many reasons, but some of the main ones are around sponsorship, in-fighting, and commerciability.

The bigger festival coordinators want to grow, the more money is needed, therefore making festivals solicit to big corporate dollars such as Coca-Cola or Chase Manhattan Bank that put hugre and compromising clauses in their sponsorship contracts. For example, it is known that beverage companies emphasize that only their drink can be sold by venords.

In-fighting is another downfall. The egos and the greed by formerly well-meaning and conscious festival coordinators is an often implosion to events.

As well, festivals face the inevitable of being more "appealing" or "universal" to audiences to expand its traffice, and their goes the neighborhood. Soon you'll see more outsiders attending the event than locals and performers will feel more like Saarjtie Baartman (aka Hottentot Venus) standing naked in a Parisian square than an expressive soul.

This leads to my overall point, African-American print media now has white owners. Hence, Essence magazine that was bought by Time Inc. several years ago.

It is also well-known that Robert Johnson sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacom. I am not surprised by this because I was at a conference years ago when BET attempted to release a soft-porn station and Johnson was asked by a black reporter why the station continued to devolve in its programing. He blasted back with a comment I will paraphrase saying that what he did was entertainment and did not have to tackle serious issues because it was not what BET was about.

The once famous, The Source hip hop magazine has changed hands several times with its current owner, John Lewis Partnership out of the UK. As well, the fleeting, XXL and now defunct King is owned by Harris Publications.

The comatose Vibe was recently rebought by Quincy Jones, the former founder.

In September, Newsweek reported that Johnson Publishing's Company CEO, Linda Rice has been attempting to woo Time Inc. and Viacom to buy Ebony.

The only black-owned magazine that is still standing is Black Enterprise owned by Earl S. Graves Publishing Company, so they say.

I point to these print publications because most of these were trailblazers in black global media, spearheading issues and images you would never see. Now they are commodified parts of black culture in America that many think is still black owned. Moreso, the weak and diluted stories they've been covering for the last 20 years have compromised the voices of blacks in America completely.

This is where the discussion of political change versus economic change comes into play. Print magaiznes such as the Source or Jet had political positioning, but lacked basic economic foundations to be rooted media like the Washington Post.

Ironically, Oprah Winfrey who is still standing and dominating, used her positionality as a mammy for desperate housewives and white middleclass to do more in black communities across the globe fiscally (as well as finance her own tour to support President Obama) than all of these newspapers combined. Basically, her business moves are not only genius, but technologically savvy, though I heard her personality is extremely ugly.

So next time you save money to go stunting at the Essence Music Festival and you are at the Superdome trying to find your husband or look cute, please keep in mind you ARE NOT recycling black dollars.

3 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Anna Renee said...

I guess one has to be ugly in personality to be black in this business! The black media should take a lesson from Oprah! Mammy! Okay?? It's all so sad about the rest of them!

Reggie said...

Sounds like a white out.

Interestingly enough right after I graduated from college I moved to the 'Nawlins area and lived there for around 9 years. I also used to work for The Black Collegian, which was published in New Orleans and went out to campuses across the nation.

Yup, sounds like a white out.

Goddess Intellect said...

Damn...but can you really blame these blk business owners for selling off and out? We dont support grassroots and independents anymore...and I think a part of us (that NONE of us want to admit) feels more comfortable when big business is handled by folks who dont look like us.