EBONY, Bill Cosby, And Very Smart Brothas

Very Smart Brothas, huh…

It was October of 2011. I was in New York City do to a shoot for a story in Essence Magazine. While walking to Essence, I happened to randomly bump into Jamilah Lemieux in the street. Which, considering that New York City has 21 billion people and I happened to literally walk right into one of the 16 people there I personally knew, was crazy. And then she proceeded to tell me that she had just left a EBONY Magazine meeting where VerySmartBrothas was being discussed. Apparently, we were up for some type of honor. She also asked me to call her later that evening when I was done with Essence.

I did, and learned that the honor was a spot in EBONY’s 2011 Power 100 issue. I also learned that EBONY was going to experience a huge digital revamp, Jamilah was (obviously) a part of it, and she asked if I wanted to be a part of it too. Fast forward to January of 2012, and I’m working for EBONY too.

Since then, my role with EBONY has evolved. I started off as all digital, and now I’m doing digital and print work. I’ve also gained invaluable experience working with and learning from the EBONY staff; Cory Townes, Aaron Rhodan, Melanie Martin, Kyra Kyles, and Aliya King to name a few, and Jamilah, Genese Cage, and Kierna Mayo in particular. I have no doubt that VSB would not be where it is today without what I’ve learned and experienced through EBONY.

All that to say that my feelings about this brilliant-ass, outrageous-ass, and explosive-ass November cover are not coming from a place of objectivity. I have an emotional and spiritual (and, to be frank, financial) tie to the people working there. And to the magazine. So take what I’m about to say with several dozen grains of salt.
But holy fucking shit. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to read a magazine, and more honored to be a part of something. Which is still surreal to me. This issue of EBONY Magazine — with that amazing fucking cover — will be iconic. I know what it means to have that cover sent out to Black America. And I know people will buy it. Hate it. Collect it. Spit on it. Share it. Save it. And I have a column in there! How crazy is that?

I just…I just could not be prouder of Kierna and Jamilah and everyone else who’s a part of this issue for being a part of this issue. And more appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of it too.

Damon Young, editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothas


About That EBONY Cover…

I almost never want to write about topics of this level of popular, yet most likely short-lived burn, or media attention. However, while doing my tour of various Black blogs and websites, I came across the above article that I have quoted in its entirety which is supposedly about the cover seen below.


Infamous Bill Cosby Cover Of EBONY


Given the cultural significance of the 1980s Cosby Show, this article falls flat. I understand excitement. Surely, I can lightweight sympathize with Mr. Young’s professional ebullience. Mr. Young clarifies his bias enough for me to gather that much. However, is this cover the symbol that Mr. Young makes it to be? That is to say, is this cover simply another exploit to rave about and to collect like 2008 Obama memorabilia? Is this cover an attempt from those at Johnson Publishing to earn back the money owed to JP Morgan? Is this cover a maneuver so JP Morgan will not ask Johnson Publishing to remove EBONY from shelves as they did JET? The words of Mr. Young most assuredly cause OWL to ruminate these possibilities.


I was told in private company that there had been a murmuring and a buzz. I was informed in confidence that this cover was a conversation starter. And yet, Mr. Young, decided to not discuss whatever should have been discussed. Unless, of course, his profile and resume were the conversation promised. For very smart brothas, I would certainly hope one so biased would speak more than just words of braggadocio now.


I certainly do not wish to make light of this subject;Mr. Damon Young has done plenty of that for us. Nor do I wish to remove any burden from the back of Mr. Bill Cosby. I also do not want to neglect to mention the symbolism of the cover. A symbolism that does a bit of dog whistling at US Black Men in regard to the US Black Family. While I definitely wish it were not the case, Bill Cosby cannot escape the media representational context. On that infamous cover that made Mr. Damon Young giddy with glee, Bill Cosby represents US Black Men and US Black Fatherhood.


No One Can Absolve Bill Cosby Of His Sins

Now, before anyone storms through my Twitter mentions, fingers at the caps lock, let me be clear. Mr. Damon Young owes me no explanation or thoughtful response to the cover. He obviously has not provided one thus far. His was simply muse for my curiosity. A curiosity that still wonders just how much of Johnson Publishing is at the mercy of JP Morgan. The ownership of EBONY cannot absolve Bill Cosby of his perversions. It would be nice if workers of EBONY could keep visions of glory at the expense of informed public opinion down a little.