By Jason Fuller:
On Saturday, January 25th, The Generation Justice crew (Kamaria Umi, Pauly Denetclaw & myself) set out to record UNM’s Africana Studies Black History Month Kickoff Brunch. The game plan was to cover the brunch and record the Keynote Speaker, Ms. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin which would be followed by an interview. Things would not be so simple…
Our Generation Justice crew had difficulties getting into the brunch and couldn’t interview Ms. Fulton due to a time conflict. However, just as all hope looked to be lost, UNM alumni Edward T. Lewis, co-founder of Essence & Latina magazine (a speaker during the brunch) walked from the UNM Student Union Building into UNM’s African American Student Services. Like a lion waiting in the grass for an antelope, I seized the opportunity at hand. After introducing myself as well as Generation Justice to Mr. Lewis, an interview with arguably the greatest pioneer of color in publishing was secured prior to Mr. Lewis’s plane departing.
Edward T. Lewis graduated from The University of New Mexico in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and international relations. However, in the midst of his undergraduate career, his student activism and leadership would cost him his scholarship; this instilled in him greater hunger for knowledge as he later obtained his master’s degree and started his career as an entrepreneur.
As we sat in Studio C for the call, the number for Mr. Lewis went to voicemail! Frantically we called again and his secretary answered, and within minutes our interview commenced. During our discussion, Mr. Lewis emphasized the importance of family, education & activism and how these areas transformed him into an innovative guru.
As the interview started, I understood just how selfless this entrepreneur was as he gave us an extensive history lesson of his family and the importance of education. Throughout his youth, Mr. Lewis treated education as the door to life; from this he said that his knowledge of people of color in America and abroad fueled his fire to create culturally uplifting publications. With The United States imposing the notion of white beauty on its citizens, there was no positive representation of beauty for people of color, especially that of Black women. As a result, Essence and Latina magazines were established, which remedied our community’s self-hate.
I felt honored to speak with Mr. Lewis, his actions and contributions are revolutionary. His work has provided millions of women of color with confidence and security rarely portrayed within mainstream publications. My mother, sisters, aunts and cousins all gather around the couch to see who has appeared on the cover of essence and always have a fiery debate on how the celebrity resembles them. This timeless magazine is responsible for glee, identity and the realization of beauty within my household and internationally. Mr. Lewis, I thank you for having a dream, because now our beauty is appreciated.