Former ‘Essence’ editor in chief stops by campus

Fresno State students Viola Malone (left) and Whitney Jenkins (right)
talk with Susan L. Taylor (center) at a reception before Taylor’s
lecture at the Satellite Student Union on Sunday. Taylor came as a
part of the university’s African People’s History Month.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Susan L. Taylor, a former editor in chief of Essence magazine, spoke at the Satellite Student Union Sunday about her journey, problems in the African-American community, self-improvement and what she believes are the keys to success.

Her visit was part of the university’s African People’s History Month and this year’s theme “Black women in American culture and history.”

“I’m very happy to be here. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Fresno,” Taylor said. “I want to talk to people and let them know that change is possible. You don’t have to live with violence, hunger and other problems. The key is to create peace, balance and meaning.”

Taylor discussed the importance of stopping the common problems in the African-American community and the importance of mentoring children.

“It is our job to secure the generations that come behind us,” she said.

She said that one of the problems the African-American community needs to work on is the high percentage of students reading below their grade level.

Taylor also said that in Detroit, for example, 86 percent of African-American children in the fourth grade read below their grade level.

Another issue Taylor talked about was over-population in jail, and the large number of African-Americans incarcerated. She referred to the prison system as a “pipeline-to-profit for jail.”

Taylor also stressed the importance of self-love and how it relates to success.

“Life is a gift,” Taylor said. “You need to learn to love what God made. You were created on purpose, for a purpose.”

She also talked about the importance of taking care of your body.

“Pain is necessary, and important,” Taylor said. “Suffering, however, is a choice. Life is a guest house. It brings a new arrival every day. When I feel pain, I think what have you come to teach me.”

She also talked about the necessity of paying attention to your body. If something hurts you or doesn’t agree with you, pay attention.

“We are the parents today of our elder selves,” Taylor said.

Taylor recommended that people should take 40 minutes out of their morning every day to reflect and prepare for the day.

She concluded by talking about the need for African-American mentors in the community and how each person has an assignment to make things better for future generations.

Taylor began working for Essence in 1970 as the beauty editor before becoming the fashion editor. In 1981, Taylor was promoted to editor in chief, a post she held until retirement in 2008. She was elected vice president of Essence Communication Inc. in 1986 and became senior vice president in 1993.

Taylor also hosted and was executive producer of “Essence,” the country’s first nationally syndicated African-American oriented TV magazine, and of the Essence Awards show and the Essence Music Festival.

She retired from Essence in 2008.

She has also written two books titled: “In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor” and “Lessons in Living.”

Taylor also co-authored a third book with her husband, Khepra Burns, called, “Confirmations: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives.”

Viola Malone, a Fresno State student and intern at HIS Magazine, was one of many students who were looking forward to being able to speak to Taylor.

“I look up to her. I am interning at a magazine, and I look at her as an inspiration,” Malone said.

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