By Nicoletta Feldman and Lauren Minore
Audience members gasped in awe the moment Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, walked onto the stage in the Cavalla Room for a moderated discussion on Nov. 7.
Taylor was the featured speaker of Pioneering Voices in the Media, a collaboration between The Center of Business Media and Tapestry.
The event began with the members of the Jubilee Singers of Westminster Choir College singing “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. While they performed, a slideshow highlighting Essence magazine played in the background.
After the song concluded, a video was played for the audience. The video, made by junior journalism major Qur’an Hansford, provided the audience with background information about Taylor, her career and Essence magazine. It also mentioned the National Cares Mentoring Movement, which, according to Hansford’s video, is “an initiative dedicated to healing the effects of centuries of structural disparities.”
The video acted as a segway into a moderated discussion between Taylor and sophomore film major Danielle Jackson. Part of that discussion was spent talking about the National Cares Mentoring Movement, of which Taylor is both the founder and CEO.
Taylor noted that the foundation grew out of Hurricane Katrina and the damage that the storm did to New Orleans, Louisiana, the home of the “Essence festival.” After not being able to host the festival in New Orleans the following year due to lingering damage, Taylor realized a need “to have a bigger party with a deeper purpose.” Thus, the National Cares Mentoring Movement was born.
According to Taylor, the movement is present in 58 cities nationwide, including in Newark, New Jersey. The goal is for mentors to “be guides, be tutors, be graduation buddies, be role models and help to move them through.” National Cares Mentoring Movement operates with the purpose of mentoring and educating students so that “middle-class people, aren’t looking down on poorly-spoken children who don’t have what you had growing up.”
There are also programs for parents, as well as in-school programs.
Aside from the National Cares Mentoring Movement, Taylor spoke on a myriad of other topics — including her journey with Essence, her education, and being black in corporate America — but there was a common theme that transcended all other discussion.
That theme, perhaps, can best be summarized as self-awareness and self-empowerment.
In her video, Hansford described Taylor’s mission as “to encourage to get in touch with the beauty within themselves.” Through her video, Hansford also informed the audience that Taylor has written inspirational books as well.
Such inspiration was ever-present in the Cavalla Room.
“What we want to teach our young people is how to be their authentic selves,” Taylor said, emphasizing the importance of individuals staying true to who they are. “That’s what should be taught. The most important thing, and I think with everybody who is in his or her right mind responds to is authenticity. So, all of us have to be confident enough to bring our authentic self to the game — whatever that is.”
Part of being one’s authentic self, as stressed by Taylor, is being aware of oneself and one’s surroundings.
“I think, first of all, you have to know when it’s time to leave, you have to know when it’s time to transition, you have to know that you can’t know everything,” Taylor said. “You can’t know everything. Know what you need to know, know what you want to know and go more deeply into that.”
Because it is impossible to know everything, Taylor advised the audience to fill their lives with people who can bridge the gaps between the areas in which they may not be as informed.
“Surround yourself with a multiplicity of people who are smart and caring and loving. That’s what I do.”
Editor’s Note: News Editor Tatyanna Carman, Business/Advertising Manager Danielle Jackson and Opinion Editorial Editor Qur’an Hansford are members of Tapestry and were not involved in the editing of this article.