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ESSENCE Responds to Accusations of Unequal Pay, Sexual Harassment and More by ‘Black Female Anonymous’

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Essence - Michelle Obama cover1

Essence - Beryonce cover

*Today Essence magazine is responding to some unknown forces from within its predominantly Black female staff.

The organization is being accused of unequal pay, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism, and classism. The goal of “exposing” the company is to compel advertisers to basically boycotted the Black female-targeted brand to force it to better treat its employees.

In a Medium blog published on Sunday (06-28-20), it is alleged that the Black women who are employed for Essence are unhappy working under the company’s chief officers, including Essence Ventures owner and CEO Richelieu Dennis.

The unhappy employees, who go by the name Black Female Anonymous, say the company’s leadership is making the magazine the “most deceptive Black media company in America” by exploiting movements like the #BlackGirlMagic for monetary gain.

The rogue group not only points its collective finger at Dennis, but Essence Ventures board member and former Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks, COO Joy Collins Profet, and CCO Moana Luu are named as key actors in the workplace downfall of the trusted Black print.

On top of the foregoing, the Medium blog post stated that the company has a two-year history of wrongfully laying off or forcing Black women to resign.

Whoa, that’s a lot to digest. However, as you can imagine, Essence isn’t going to let the accusations go unanswered because there is a lot at stake.  Below is the company’s official response.

Essence black logojpg

THIS STATEMENT IS IN RESPONSE TO A RECENT ANONYMOUS POST. WE DENY THE ACCUSATIONS AND REFUTE THEM WITHOUT RESERVATION.

Candidly, the last 24 hours have been heartbreaking. At ESSENCE, we uplift the voices of, provide platforms for, and generate opportunities that elevate Black women and communities and have done so for 50 years. It is the work we have committed ourselves to every single day since we were founded in 1970 and that has been accelerated over our past two years as a 100% Black family-owned company creating opportunities for Black creatives and leaders in an industry that has failed them.

When faced with challenging moments, we believe that truth and clarity are foremost, and after taking the time to connect with our teams and engage with each other, we want to be very clear about one thing. It is extremely important to us that we foster a safe, transparent and respectful workspace for everyone and that we expect that from everyone – not just those who work for us, but also those who work with us.

Still, anonymity does not negate accountability. Facts will always matter, and we are not afraid of the truth. The allegations and mischaracterizations throughout – whether of pay inequity, intimidation, and otherwise – are unfounded attempts to discredit our brand and assassinate personal character. Further, accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct are extremely serious matters, and we fully understand the gravity of the implications. As such, these are also not claims to be recklessly and untruthfully thrown about – particularly when there have been no claims to respond to or any evidence of such defamatory accusations. In fact, there have been multiple comprehensive reviews of the HR function, and no evidence has been found to substantiate these anonymous claims. We have and will continue to review any legitimate claims of any nature that come to our attention.

As a multi-platform media, technology and commerce company led predominately by Black women, we are committed to working with those who see and believe in our vision for ESSENCE. Our leaders and the business are committed to the economic elevation of our communities so that as we thrive, so do they and the Black people who invest in us with their time, talent, content, subscriptions and beyond. Every business decision we make is with that in mind – and we don’t always expect that everyone will agree with every decision. That would simply be unrealistic. However, we do make every effort to be transparent and open in what we are doing and why we are doing it as we work to transform this business to meet the potential it has always had. Some people will be open to the vision and the journey, and others will not. But in no way at

any time does that give anyone the right to so grossly misrepresent the truth at best and make up lies at worst about who we are as an organization.

ESSENCE is a business in transition. It is never an easy or seamless process extracting a company from a conglomerate with shared services and establishing it as an independent with stand-alone functions. As part of the execution of our strategic growth plan, with our entire team, we have and will continue to create a culture that is our own and that reflects the values and vision for a Black-owned business.

This includes the June 2 announcement of the hiring of Caroline Wanga, a C-level executive who has a proven track record of building healthy teams and workplace cultures at a Fortune 50 company, as our new Chief Growth Officer. She is charged with HR/reshaping organizational culture, assessing and establishing operational strategies, new growth opportunities and market strategy. Prior, we built an HR function from the ground-up, supported by a family executive with over 25 years of HR experience who led the transition while we searched for a full-time HR lead; increased town halls from monthly to weekly to foster honest and transparent conversations across the organization; and instituted third-party services, including but not limited to the independent Employee Assistance Program to give employees additional external support and access to resources.

The fact is that this is an ongoing process given our two-year leadership of a 50-year- old company, but we’ve made significant strides in building this company back up and continue to accelerate the pace at which we evolve it for the benefit of our entire community. We are extremely proud of our teams and the work they continue to put into this transition, which is evident by the mounting of our first-ever streaming ESSENCE Festival last week, as well as a much-improved magazine and digital content, new world-class technology platforms, the expansion of experiences that elevate our culture and a deep commitment to enriching each other.

As we close, our message is simple – the accusations are false and we fully deny them. We are not succumbing to a cancel culture. We are not going to defame anyone. We are not meeting hurt with hurt. We know there is a lot of pain and a lot of healing that needs to happen in our communities, but we don’t have to destroy each other to heal.

We will continue to do the work to be better every day and come together as an organization for each other and for Black women globally to build together, to change together, to rise together. #BlackWomenRiseTogether

 

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Business

Black Billionaire (Robert Smith) Has to Pay Back $140M After Admitting to Tax Evasion / VIDEO

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Robert F. Smith

*Robert Smith, the richest Black person in America, will have to give a hefty amount of his wealth back to the IRS.

According to reports, the amount is almost $140 million based on tax evasion tactics that Smith has admitted to using after he was exposed following a four-year U.S. tax investigation by The Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Services.  Smith, 57, has been cooperative with the two powerful government agencies.

Forbes magazine recently published on its online platform that Smith avoided prosecution because he agreed to cooperate in a case against Houston businessman Robert Brockman, who has been accused of using a number of entities in the Caribbean to hide $2 billion in income.

MORE NEWS: Geo. Floyd’s Killer Derek Chauvin Has Divorce Settlement DENIED Due to Possibility of Fraud

Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith

For his own part, Smith is not running away from the wrongdoing of evading taxes.   He said over a three-year period, he failed to file accurate reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, known as FBARs.

Smith , who is CEO of  the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners based in Texas, has been called a brilliant businessman, chemical engineer, and investor.  His net worth has been estimated at $7 billion.

For the most part, Smith has been flying under the radar because his name was not a household name, per se.  Yet, he was picked up by public radar in 2019, when he gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta.  During the speech, he shocked all in attendance, especially the college’s graduating class, when he promised to pay off each graduate’s student loan debt.  It was estimated to total $34 million.

 

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Business

Al Harrington & ‘Smoke: Marijuana + Black America’ (EUR Exclusive/Watch)

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Al Harrington, Smoke Marijuana Black America

*This week BET rolls out “Smoke: Marijuana + Black America,” narrated and executive-produced by Nasir “Nas” Jones.

The original documentary, examines marijuana’s cultural, social, economic and legal impact on American society and the Black community. Told through the lens of aficionados, policymakers, advocates and innovators in the booming legal cannabis industry. EUR correspondent Fahnia Thomas spoke with former NBA player and cannabis investor Al Harrington about Viola, Harris and Mary Jane.

FT: Why did you want to be a part of “Smoke?”

AH: We don’t have a lot of representation in this cannabis space. There aren’t a lot of places to get information especially from someone like myself that’s an operator in multiple states. I want people to understand my journey and the journey of people of color. It’s a tough place, it’s not easy and we’re not always welcomed into the space.

We have to understand the history of cannabis and how Black people played a part in where we are today as a society. All of our freedoms were taken away and all of our lives were mostly impacted negatively around the cannabis plant. Now there’s this new billion dollar industry we don’t have a real position in. We don’t have a seat at the table and that’s a crime. There’s enough money to go around for everybody. There needs to be more inclusion of people of color. If it wasn’t for the sacrifices we made – our freedoms – we wouldn’t be having these conversations.

CHECK THIS OUT: RADIOSCOPE RAW Podcast: Our Uncut 1989 Interview with Lakeside

Al Harrington, Smoke Marijuana Black America

Al Harrington in BETs ‘Smoke: Marijuana + Black America’

FT: What struggles have you faced and continue to face in the cannabis industry?

AH: It’s been about 10 years since I first started and one of my first challenges was being able to differentiate good advice from bad advice. I had attorneys who told me the wrong things to do and I don’t think they did it on purpose, they just didn’t know. A lot of these rules are up to your interpretation. Also, I was still playing in the NBA when I started [getting into the cannabis industry] and I had keep to myself in a position where I didn’t lose my contract or get locked up. Then, once I started to scale the business I realized how hard it was to fund a business. Some would think with the resources I have it should be easy – like everyone is going to give me money – but that wasn’t the case. When I think about how difficult it was for me to raise money, I could only imagine how difficult it would be for someone who isn’t a celebrity or athlete. How would they ever be able to participate in this industry? It’s so expensive to be a part of it.


FT: Your company Viola launched an incubator program to provide small Black owned businesses resources within the cannabis industry, how can people apply?

AH: Through our website – when they hear the incubator program a lot of people think I’m randomly picking people, it’s not like that. It’s way more difficult. We’re looking for entrepreneurs that are already in the space, have started a business and they need resources to be able to scale it up, like back office support. They can use our platform to elevate their business. Even some people operating in the gray market that have really solid brands but are in states that don’t have their programs fully built out yet, can’t find enough resources – like capital to get a license. So we would say, ‘join us and use my license to be able to get on the right side of the business and grow from there.’ Maybe they have a following and they just need a license or a grow space or access to distillate. Viola would be able to get those resources to them.

Al Harrington, Smoke Marijuana Black America

Al Harrington in BETs ‘Smoke: Marijuana + Black America’

FT: “Smoke” features testimonies from other notable individuals like Vice President-Elect Kamala D. Harris, what can you share about her role?

AL: She has a history of locking up people of color and at the end of the day you can’t blame her because she was doing her job. I like that she has grown from her way of thinking…throwing the book at guys for low level drug offenses – and now is trying to figure out how we can expunge these records and give these guys an opportunity to really come back into society and be successful. When you go to jail and you serve your debt to society as they say and you come home it follows you. It could eventually force you back into a life of crime. I know some of the things she is focusing on is expungement, re-entry and changing the way we look at cannabis and the stigma.

“Smoke: Marijuana + Black America” premieres on BET Wednesday, November 18 at 10pm ET/PT.

 

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Automotive

JeffCars.com’s Review: 2020 Genesis G90

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2020 Genesis G90 (Photo Credit: JeffCars.com)

*Standard Equipment (Premium): 19-inch wheels; rear wheel drive; an 8-speed automatic transmission; a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system; a navigation system; complimentary service valet; a push button keyless starter; Nappa leather seats; a suede headliner; power front seats; heated front and rear seats; ventilated front seats; a power sunroof; a 3-zone automatic temperature system; a heads up display (HUD) system; an automatic radar activated cruise control system; a front seat wireless charging system; a power tilt/telescopic system; a power rear side and rear sunshade; power door closure; a hands free power operated trunk; and carpeted floormats

Other Trim Levels:

5.0-litre Ultimate

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 17-speaker Lexicon system AM/FM/HD audio system with SiriusXM

Apple CarPlay/Android: Yes

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

USB Connectivity: Yes

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2020 Genesis G90 (Photo Credit GMA)

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.3-liter, 6-cylinder/365-hp (horsepower)

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage17-city/25-hwy

What’s New: The first generation G90 has undergone a mid-cycle refresh.

To continue reading the review, click here.

Jeff Fortson of JeffCars.com

Jeff Fortson (Photo Credit: JeffCars.com)

About The Reviewer:  Jeff Fortson is the host of Auto Trends with JeffCars.com, the only  multicultural syndicated automotive radio show on the airwaves. The 30-minute weekly show, which airs on SiriusXM 141 and a number of FM radio dials, includes one-on-one conversations with many of today’s pioneers and influencers. The engaging show, which goes beyond traditional car talk, can be heard via all mobile and stationary infotainment devices by tuning in here.

 

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