#BlackFemaleAnonymous declares success as they demand Essence execs, including Richelieu Dennis, to step down in initiative #TakeBackEssence

Written by: Alexandria Jordan – July 6th, 2020 6:15pm pst

Essence, a groundbreaking media brand that encourages African-American women to live bold, fulfilling lives, has been under fire amidst accusations of an “abusive work culture.” #BlackFemaleAnonymous, identified as a group of former and current Essence employees, wrote an essay titled, “The Truth About Essence” accusing the brand of bullying and sexual harassment. 

The group demanded immediate resignation of Richelieu Dennis, Owner & Chief Executive Officer of Essence Ventures (Essence Communications including Essence Magazine, Essence.com and Essence Festival); Michelle Ebanks, Essence Ventures board member and former Essence Communications CEO; Joy Collins Profet, Chief Operating Officer; and MoAna Luu, Chief Content Officer. Additionally, they called for AT&T, Chase Bank, Coca Cola, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and Warner Media to immediately divest all active and future sponsorships and media buys at Essence Communications until the company is under new leadership. The #TakeBackEssence change.org petition has received close to 3,000 signatures.

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Out of all the accused, Dennis had the most loaded charges, which included trying “to force Essence employees and contractors to sign nondisclosure agreements” to protect him and his family from “liability or disparagement after a string of wrongful layoffs.” #BlackFemaleAnonymous threatened to prove all accusations publicly if Dennis and the other aforementioned didn’t step down.

On Day 4, a day early before the collective’s pronounced deadline, #BlackFemaleAnonymous demands were met. Richelieu Dennis, Michelle Ebanks, Joy Collins Profet, and Moana Luu have all ceased to engage in daily business operations at the magazine. Essence has since installed Caroline A. Wanga, a former Target executive, as its interim leader, and has also pledged to hire law firms to conduct a review of workplace issues. 

Some of the expectations from the proposed plan were “Equitable salaries at market-rate,” strict anti-bullying and intimidation policies, and a performance review process that assures staff opportunities for promotions and raises, including opportunities for fair, non-punitive feedback, all of which would be “based on performance, and not likeability”.

Wanga noted on her Instagram that she “learned there are things that need to be better for our team and culture — and I’m ready to begin that work. I’m committed to flourishing while fixing and fastening what needs to work to be in service to our teams, communities and partners. So let’s GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” She ended her statement with the hashtag “#BlackWomenRiseTogether.”

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I don’t believe in losses. You win and you learn. The conversations @richelieudennis and I started a few months ago about his strategic vision for @Essence and the opportunity to be on a team furthering the health/wealth of the global black diaspora, across a portfolio of businesses including @essence, was a “win.” A win stitched together by a 50 year legacy of black creatives, businesses, and community that I would be honored to be a part of. With the work I’ve done to create equity for all, creating equity for black- as a part of one of the most respected voices in the black community- was aligned to where my personal and professional purpose intersect. It was clear the time was now -and still is – for me to dedicate all my experience and passion to elevating Black people, further empowering our communities and setting us on a path to economic and experience prosperity. 72 hours ago I had a “learn.” I learned that the team I was joining was working hard on behalf of thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs…investing millions in our communities each year…striving everyday to ensure that Essence delivers confidence, beauty, intelligence, adventure, inspiration, power, love and so much more. I also learned there are things that need to be better for our team and our culture – and I’m ready to begin that work too…the work that Rich first shared as part of his strategic vision and why it would take people like us to make it happen. So I stand unapologetic about the greatness of the Essence legacy and the grace needed to make it better. The best way to achieve that is the same as what often works when “better” is the goal…we’ll do it together—as an Essence team and as a black community. Together we will uphold the legacy that got us “here,” while addressing the urgency of our agenda that will get us “there.” That’s what Essence has done for 5 decades and will do for 5 more and beyond. I’m committed to flourishing while fixing and fastening what needs to work to be in service to our teams, communities and partners. So let’s GOOOOOOOOOO!!!! ‘Cause ain’t nobody got time for another black business or cultural institution to fold. #BlackWomenRiseTogether

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#BlackFemaleAnonymous replied to Wanga on social media. “We don’t want @Essence to fold. But we must fix the systematic brokenness of any Black cultural institution that devalues Black women. We’re counting on you, Caroline. Fix it or fold.”

Stay tuned for more news and updates. 

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About The Author:

Alexandria Jordan is an on-air host and red carpet correspondent with AfterBuzz TV and Black Hollywood Live. She is passionate about all things entertainment and loves connecting with people who share similar interests.

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