No More Martyrs Celebrates Essence Magazine

The No More Martyrs 2018 theme for Black History Month is 'Representation Matters to our Mental Health'.  Whether it is seeing our stories on television (thank you Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes) or hearing our rights being fought for from the senate floor (thank you Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Robin Kelly and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson), representation provides a sense of validation that fosters our mental wellbeing.  When we see pieces of our unique, multi-layered selves in the world, feelings of isolation give way to a celebration of our humanness; flaws and all.  Despite this fact, much of what is seen on the pages of magazines still prioritizes Eurocentric ideas of beauty and acceptance.  This is exactly why No More Martyrs chose to pay homage to Essence magazine for Black History Month.

Essence magazine has been in the business of celebrating Black women for nearly 50 years.  In January of 2018, it was announced that Essence was purchased by Richelieu Dennis, founder of Sundial Brands and Shea Moisture.  With this move, Essence is now 100% Black owned for the first time in nearly two decades.  There is no better time than now to pay homage to Essence! Representation Matters to our Mental Health and this is photo project is our way of saying Thank You! 

 Top: Remake featuring Carol Pendergrass / Bottom: Essence Cover - May 1970

Top: Remake featuring Carol Pendergrass / Bottom: Essence Cover - May 1970

The Original:  Essence magazine launched in May 1970 and featured cover model Barbara Cheeseborough.  Cheeseborough was born in Philadelphia in 1946 and began her modeling career after high school.  During her career, she could be found in various magazines including Essence, Vogue, Harper Bazaar Italia and Cosmopolitan.  She passed away in 2013.

The Remix:  Carol Pendergrass is a Division Chief and Supervisory Contract Specialist with the Department of Defense (Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal).  She is a wife and mother of 4 whose life's mission is to instill in her children that they can achieve anything.  In her words - "Representation matters because it brings a sense of validation, self worth and inclusion to many groups of people.  Representation creates influential and relatable role models, which causes individuals to see themselves in a more positive manner.  It also motivates young minds to 'shoot for the stars' and strive for accomplishments that they never imagined possible.  Representation eases feelings of alienation, encourages people to feel comfortable in their own skin, and accept themselves in the midst of apparent differences."  

 Top: Remake featuring Ashilee Dumas / Bottom: Essence Cover - April 1971

Top: Remake featuring Ashilee Dumas / Bottom: Essence Cover - April 1971

The Original: Marcia McBroom graced the cover of Essence in April 1971.  McBroom started her career as a dancer, fashion model and actress.  The daughter of a Pan African (Marie Lee) and civil rights leader (Dr. Marcus McBroom), McBroom remains actively engaged in the community through the 'For Our Children's Sake Foundation', an initiative she launched to support grassroots organizations committed to children around the world.

The Remix: Ashilee Dumas is the future of social work.  She is currently a graduate student at Alabama A&M University.  Through the Alabama A&M Graduate Social Work Program, her academic concentration is community mental health. She aspires to be a hospice social worker.  In her words - "Representation matters because it has the power to propel you into your future.  You grow up to learn about your own culture so you can be prepared to talk about it in any particular discussions.  When you're open to speak about your own heritage, you will know the person you are and never be ashamed of where you came from."

Instagram: @Mahoganyashh           Facebook: @Ashilee Dumas

 Top: Remake featuring Joy Ragland / Bottom: Essence Cover - June 1985

Top: Remake featuring Joy Ragland / Bottom: Essence Cover - June 1985

The Original: Grace Jones is a force on her own.  The indomitable Jamaican beauty made a name for herself as a singer, songwriter, model and actress.  As a model, she has graced magazines worldwide and, as an actress, she is known for her memorable appearances in James Bond - A View to a Kill, Conan the Destroyer and Boomerang.  Jones continues to be a trendsetter inspiring new artists to be unique and unapologetic in their artistry.  

The Remix: Joy Ragland is an actress, model and comedian from Detroit.  With a theatre and performing arts background, Ragland has successfully transitioned to commercial, film and television work.  The busy wife and mom is committed to her profession and is currently balancing projects in New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta.  In her words - "Representation has such a broad meaning in today's society.  I think representation means putting your best foot forward and performing to the best of your abilities.  Representation means that YOU are the face of something and, for many, that face is hope, trust, loyalty and progress."  

Instagram: @joyjay_r              Facebook: @Joy Ragland           Website: resumes.actoraccess.com/joyragland

 Top: Remake featuring Nadia Richardson / Bottom: Essence Cover - January 1988

Top: Remake featuring Nadia Richardson / Bottom: Essence Cover - January 1988

The Original: Born Zara Mohamed Abdulmajid, Iman is a Somali-American model, actress and entrepreneur.  She began modeling in 1976 and took the fashion world by storm.  Her illustrious career in fashion continues through her cosmetic, fashion and jewelry lines.  Iman continues to impact the globe through her philanthropic work through Keep a Child Alive and the Children's Defense Fund

The Remix: Dr. Nadia Richardson is the Founder of the No More Martyrs mental health awareness campaign.  She is an innovative health equity educator focused on fighting health disparities.  Richardson launched No More Martyrs to encourage Black women to embrace a culture of unapologetic self-advocacy and self-care that dispels mental health stigma.  In her words - "Growing up, my Mother was intentional about exposing us to beautiful expressions of Black artistry.  My siblings and I were introduced to Jessye Norman, Nancy Wilson, Miss Lou, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica.  Essence magazine was also in our home.  This very picture of Iman hung on my wall as did many pages of Essence from the time I was a child to the time I graduated college.  Essence's representation of Black women made me feel regal, seen, heard and celebrated.  Such representation fosters our mental wellbeing."

Instagram: @No_MoreMartyrs     Facebook: @Join.No.More.Martyrs    Website: www.NoMoreMartyrs.org

 Top: Remake featuring Loreal Jones / Bottom: Essence Cover - April 1989

Top: Remake featuring Loreal Jones / Bottom: Essence Cover - April 1989

The Original: From New Jersey, Karen Alexander began modeling in New York when she was sixteen years old.  She has been featured on the covers of Elle, Vogue, Glamour and, of course, this April 1989 cover of Essence magazine.  Alexander was vocal about experiencing racism during her career.  In addition to modeling, Alexander also had a film career and appeared in the original Bad Boys.  She remains engaged in the community and is currently involved in philanthropic efforts to end gun violence.

The Remix: Loreal Jones is the founder of Loreal Jones Images.  A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Jones took a leap of faith and launched her own company in 2016.  Her dream is to help change lives as a beauty and lifestyle coach.  In addition to being a skilled makeup artist (she served as the lead makeup artist on this photo project) and author, she also developed her own line of mink lashes.  In her words - "Representation matters because being included or apart of something is one of the biggest ways to make a person or group of people feel needed, relevant and important.  Black women representation is vital to the culture because we play a huge role in the forward momentum of our communities.  Seeing us represented well does wonders for our soul and gives a hopeful blueprint to the next generation of queens."

Instagram: @lorealjonesmua      Website: www.lorealjonesimage.com

 Top: Remake featuring Carmen Fortson / Bottom: Essence Cover - December 1994

Top: Remake featuring Carmen Fortson / Bottom: Essence Cover - December 1994

The Original: Essence shocked the world when it took a turn from a traditional holiday issue to feature Rae Lewis-Thornton on the December cover in 1994.  Lewis-Thornton was propelled into a national conversation around HIV and AIDS in Black women.  The author of two books, she is now an Emmy award winning AIDS Activist.  Lewis-Thornton continues to challenge stereotypes around HIV and AIDS by sharing her story.

The Remix: Carmen Fortson serves as the Patient Access Manager for Thrive Alabama.  Thrive Alabama has been offering support to those living with HIV and AIDS since 1988 and now provides more than 3,500 people in North Alabama with medical, behavioral health, substance abuse, housing, and case management services.   Thrive Alabama empowers patients to create a healthy community by providing compassionate, accessible, affordable, comprehensive care.  In her words - "Seeing someone succeed who looks like you, lives where you live, or shares your history can give you the encouragement to accomplish your goals and dreams.  Representation helps people who might otherwise feel isolated or weak.  Together, we can show the power of our collected voices. We must also lead by example because someone is always watching and we should represent that light and strength.  Representation is showing up and standing up; it's what makes us visible and powerful."

Instagram: @Thrive_Alabama      Facebook: @ThriveAlabama     Website: www.thrivealabama.org

 Top: Remake featuring models listed below / Bottom: Essence Covers - January 2007 / May 2000 / July 2015

Top: Remake featuring models listed below / Bottom: Essence Covers - January 2007 / May 2000 / July 2015

The Original: Essence magazine is known for celebrating sisterhood through colorful covers.  The January 2007 cover was an intergenerational showcase of beauty while the May 2000 cover highlighted the powerful bonds of Black women in Hollywood.  The July 2015 featured the cast of Orange is the New Black, a ground breaking series that continues to set records with its viewership.

The Remix: Dr. Adrienne Starks (bottom left) is the Founder and CEO of STREAM Innovations.  STREAM Innovations, Inc. is committed to helping students to develop and explore their passion by providing exposure, experiences and engagement with high expectations for their success.  STREAM Innovations promotes collaborative innovation to engage students in their desired STEAM (science, tech, robotics, engineering, arts and math) discipline(s) and innovate solutions to real world problems in their communities.  In her words - "Representation means knowing your passion, pursing your dreams and leaving spaces better than how you found them.  We all bring rich experiences and perspectives to any table we sit.  I bring my perspective as a daughter, sister, aunt, scientist, entrepreneur, woman, person of African descent and American into every space I live, love, play and work.  I bring my ability to be compassionate, ambitious, loving and hard working with an analytical lens to every space that I enter."

Instagram: @STREAM Innovations       Facebook: @STREAM Innovations    Website: www.STREAMInnovations.org

Dr. Aisha Fields (top right) serves as the International Director for the All African People's Development & Empowerment Project (AAPDEP).  AAPDEP is an African led membership based non-profit, that believes the future of African people everywhere is tied to their ability to unite their people, resources and skills. The Zenzele Consignment shop supports the mission of AAPDEP and provided the African print skirts for the final group photo.  In her words - "It is important for African people to be surrounded by positive, powerful images of members of our community working toward and concretely building a bright future for us all."

Website: www.developmentforafrica.org and www.zenzeleconsignment.com

Group photo: Bottom from left to right (Adrienne Starks, Nadia Richardson and Carmen Fortson).  Top from left to right (Ashilee Dumas, Carol Pendergrass and Aisha Fields)

Click the video for behind the scenes footage of the photo shoot.  

Special thanks to:

Photographer - Dokk Savage and Kandace Turner

Instagram: @DokkSavage     Facebook: @Dokk Savage   Website: www.DokkSavagePhotography.com

Studio:  True Moments Images (Owner - Veronica Dennis)

Website: www.TrueMomentsImages.com

Makeup: Loreal Jones

Instagram: @lorealjonesmua      Website: www.lorealjonesimage.com

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