Why I Needed To Work In Black Media

ME& Allie

With Allison, the managing editor of HelloBeautiful.com

Last year I started working at a website for and by Black women. It was literally was a breath of fresh air. Everything that was and is curated on the site is for Black women. I am a Black feminist. I am for all things Black and all things women.

Growing up, I was obsessed with magazines. YM Magazine (Young and Modern, R.I.P) was my absolute favorite but I devoured all of the titles of that time: Seventeen, Teen People, Black Beat, Word UP!, Jane, VIBE, the ever-present Ebony & Jet and Essence to name a few. I just loved everything about glossy’s –  the covers, the fashion and even the advice that didn’t apply to me at the time. But it was the writing that made me fall in love.

After seeing Queen Latifah as a writer/publisher on ‘Living Single‘, I knew exactly what I was going to do. And after watching Carrie Bradshaw, I knew there was only one place where I could truly be Khadijah James: New York City.

Prior to working in my current position, I had never worked at a job where it was more than a handful of Black folks. I had even gotten use to not working with Black folks. I didn’t like it but I didn’t see that changing as long as I was working as a copywriter or in marketing.

It’s one of the reasons why I quit one gig and was monumentally relieved when I got fired from another gig.

From the moment I started college in 2003 to today, the things that I have heard come out of the mouths of privileged white folks have been unbelievable yet unsurprising. Some of the comments run the gamut from believing AIDS was spread because Africans were eating monkey brains to a coworker telling me George Zimmerman was right to follow Trayvon home that fateful night to a marketing VP saying “Lupita didn’t sound genuinely grateful” in her amazing Oscar speech. A white British coworker even told me that I sounded like I had an attitude in an email when I defended myself after he tried to accuse me of something I did not do.  

After the Zimmerman verdict, I literally didn’t want to go into the office the next work day because if someone said the wrong thing to me, I was going to lose it.

Before I worked at an all Black space, I knew I wanted to be around more Black folks but I also knew the likelihood of that was slim. The reality is positions at Black publications are few and far between. You’re lucky if you can get in as a freelance worker.

The thought of not being able to fully work & thrive with my people is frightening. I definitely know and understand that where I work isn’t the only place that employs mostly Black folks but it’s literally so hard to get a writing gig anywhere that the reality ( I hate to say) is that my next position will probably be with mostly white folks.

Sadly, the reality of working in Black spaces also carries a lot of uncertainty.

The position that I am in is only a contracted position. I’m currently working in an all Black space but I’m well aware that I can have the rug pulled out from under me at anytime. I was even let go in August but brought back due to unforeseen circumstances. Many of my creative friends, myself included have been laid off numerous times and we certainly don’t make the amount of money we deserve.

But in the meantime, I’ll keep writing and working and continue to support all-Black spaces because we need the support.

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