Today’s interview features Susan L. Taylor, discussing her profoundly inspirational and thought-provoking book, All About Love: Favorite Selections from ‘In The Spirit’ on Living Fearlessly.
All About Love is a gathering of Susan’s favorite In the Spirit essays, as well as the favorites of many Essence readers. Several themes reoccur ~ finding harmony with ourselves and others; shedding the old skin of anger and bitterness; opening the heart and soul fully to love; wealth building and abundance; commitment to personal and social change; strengthening our families and communities; and primarily, keeping faith and finding the face of God in all our challenges. These are the principals and values that embody the wisdom Susan tries to live each day.
Susan L. Taylor is synonymous with Essence magazine, the brand she built—as its fashion and beauty editor, as editor-in-chief and editorial director. For 27 years she authored of one of the magazine’s most popular columns, In the Spirit. For nearly three decades, as the driving force behind one of the most celebrated Black-owned businesses of our time, Susan Taylor is a legend in the magazine publishing world.
She was the first and only African-American Woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award—the industry’s highest honor—and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of the NAACP President’s Award for visionary leadership and has honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities.
A fourth-generation entrepreneur, Susan grew up in Harlem working with her father in his women’s clothing store. She founded her own cosmetics company, a first for Black women, which led to the beauty editor’s position at Essence. She is the author of four books: In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she coauthored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and her most recent, All About Love, Favorite Selections from In the Spirit on Living Fearlessly. She is a much sought-after speaker, inspiring hope and encouraging us to reclaim our lives and create sustainable communities.
AG: Susan, start by telling our readers about All About Love.
ST: These writings are my and Essence readers favorite “In the Spirit” columns, which I have rewritten and deepened. Essentially, they are to help us remember that we are not weak or incomplete, but more than enough. We are human and divine and with our mind, we can create the joyful, peaceful and prosperous life God created us to have. All About Love is our encouragement to cast off negativity, doubt or fear–they grow when we give them power–and keep on stepping toward our goals and plans with walk-on-water faith.
AG: What inspired you to create this collection of essays?
ST: For years, Essence readers have been asking me to compile the ones that have been most helpful to them in a single volume. I also wanted to be able to read the ones that are most meaningful to me, the truths that have saved my life and that I must remember and practice to keep balance and inner peace at the center of my crazy-busy life.
AG: You founded a mentoring program called National CARES Mentoring Movement. Can you tell us about this project and what motivated you to create it?
ST: This is the painful truth we can no longer avoid addressing: Of all African-American births, 6.6 percent are to girls under the age of 18. Among our children, 58 percent of Black 4th graders are functionally illiterate. In some cities, nearly 80 percent of Black boys aren’t finishing high school.
Everyday more than a thousand Black children are arrested. One in every eight Black men between the ages of 25 and 29 is incarcerated, and the leading cause of death for our Black boys is homicide. What I and people all over the country are saying is, “Hell no! Not on our watch.” Millions of our young are in peril and the negative forces claiming them–the mothers and fathers of our tomorrows–are more powerful than our community’s or country’s effort to secure them. The goal of the National Cares Mentoring Movement is to put a caring and loving adult in the life of every vulnerable child and to increase the rate of high school graduation among Black youngsters by 10 percent annually. Now there are 22 cities at various stages of launching local movements. Already in operation are Atlanta Cares Mentoring Movement, Chicago Cares, Memphis Cares, Baltimore Cares, and the fearless brothers of MADD DADS are organizing the state of Florida.
AG: Being the “face” of Essence magazine for a number of years, you left the magazine to work on building the National Cares Mentoring Movement. Was this a difficult decision for you?
ST: It’s time for the next generation to take the reigns of Essence. They are energized, well trained and hard working. At times we older ones hold on too long. I did what I came to Essence to do; my 37 years there have seasoned me well. Now I’m ready for the heavy lifting, for even tougher, mightier work–linking arms and aims with the many caring people throughout the nation who have a passion for justice and understand that neither public policy nor political will is going to rescue our young and that this is our call to commitment, Black people’s work to do.
AG: What are your long-term goals for the National CARES Mentoring Movement?
ST: Oprah Winfrey put out the call for one million people to sign on to mentor. She devoted a show to the National CARES Mentoring Movement and ran it twice within a month. This gave the movement a tremendous life. Mentoring costs nothing and saves lives. We asking every able, stable Black person to devote four hours a month in a one-to-one mentoring relationship, or to with a group of friends mentor a number of youngsters–say those in a group home. Not only do mentees benefit, mentors grow in ways that are immeasurable.
The long-term goal, is ending the carnage in our communities, the over-incarceration of our young and turning every failing public school into a top-tier, safe learning environment that young people want to be a part of. Also, the leaders of the four national Baptist convention, that together have over 16 million congregants, have agreed to encourage churches to open their doors after school and enlist retired teachers to offer homework help, and on Saturdays for the accurate teaching of our history. We need our women and men to organize their congregations in churches, temples and mosques to do this critical work. This is the overarching goal.
AG: Where can our readers find more information on joining this movement?
ST: Readers can log on to National CARES Mentoring Movement for more information and to sign up to mentor. Just enter your zip code and a list of mentoring opportunities in your area will appear on the screen. Select one that appeals to you, investigate it and sign on.
AG: Are you working on any other upcoming projects?
ST: I am working on a healing and stress-reducing meditation CD. And a book about how we sisters and brothers can build solid lasting relationships is in my heart. All of my work is in synergy. We need inner peace and we need to get along with one another in order to secure the children and rebuild our communities. Peace and love begin in our individual hearts and homes, then we can live and build together well. We have to practice forgiveness and non-judgment every day. This is the most difficult and most necessary walk we humans must take. The most revolutionary thing we Black folks can do is learn to love one another.
AG: Name one thing that the world does not know about Susan L. Taylor~the person?
ST: Many folks think I have it all together all the time. Life is a school room, and I am learning how to listen to my life and my own intuition. When I don’t, things fall apart, I get depressed, lose faith and suffer. Them I turn to a wisdom book, or someone who helps me remember this: Magnify God, not the perceived obstacle. We combine with whatever we focus on. “God’s ways are ingenious; God’s methods are sure.” Each day I’m learning to trust God more and more.
Please visit the National CARES Mentoring Movement website and watch Susan and Oprah discuss the movements inspirational success stories.
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