Advertisers are being asked to withdraw their support of the magazine until new management is in place
New interim CEO for Essence Communications
The change follows a post condemning the magazine’s current management
By Frederick H. Lowe
Caroline Wanga, who joined Essence from Target Stores on June 29 as its new Chief Growth Officer, has stepped in as interim CEO of Essence Communications, Inc., the media company that publishes Essence magazine, following the departure of Michelle Eubanks, who previously held the job.
Wanga was Target’s chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of human resources.
The corporate shuffling at Essence Ventures, parent company of Essence Communications, Essence magazine, Essence.com and Essence Festival, was sparked by demands from a group called #BlackFemaleAnonymous.
The group, comprised of current and former Essence employees, charged that the magazine’s management has abused the staff, including underpaying them and creating a hostile work atmosphere. The allegations were contained in a post titled “The Truth About Essence.” The accusations were posted on Medium.com
In addition, the letter’s writers called for AT&T, Coca Cola, Chase Bank, Ford, Procter &Gamble, Walmart and Warner Media to drop their sponsorships of Essence Communications, owner of Essence magazine, until there is new leadership in place.
The group also demanded the resignation of Essence Ventures board member Michelle Eubanks, Chief Operator Officer Joy Collins Profet, Chief Content Officer Moana Luu and Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis, who is also the company’s owner.
BlackFemaleAnonymous charges that Dennis had a history of making sexual demands of the women on his staff. If a woman employee refused his advances, Dennis would openly sexually harass them at private company events, the group alleges.
BlackFemaleAnonymous also launched a petition drive apparently with the purpose of pushing out current management.
Dennis purchased Essence in 2018 from Time Inc. for an undisclosed price. The monthly magazine is for black women 18 to 49. Dennis told The New York Times he purchased Essence Ventures to empower black women. He is still the company’s CEO. Essence published its first issue in May 1970.
“Leadership approved layoffs of Black female staff recently returned from maternity leave. Other Black female staff have been threatened with dismissal during their maternity leaves and were not offered timely healthcare coverage for their leave,” charged BlackFemaleAnonymous.
“The current Black female staff at Essence are not emotionally safe nor are they fairly set up for professional and economic advancement in the company,” the post said.
Turmoil at Essence magazine is troubling because there are so few Black publications with a national reach that can address critical issues.
“Essence magazine is failing Black America,” the group wrote. “When Black media become unstable, it triggers the instability of the entire culture.”