Continuing to stay “In The Spirit” and still shaping new worlds for many, the elegant Susan Taylor takes time to sit with the Harlem times. Highly recognized across the world stage for her inspirational monthly editorials for over 30 years, Ms. Taylor, the High-priestess in Black media was a dominating force. Indeed, she still reigns now having transitioned onto another path and yet to an even higher calling. Not breaking her stride, she talks vehemently about her passions, her Mentoring Movement and is still raising the bar.
The Harlem Times: Our News publication was founded jointly by Reverends and in concert with the Church. In keeping with the faith-based message that sky-rocketed your magazine into the hearts and minds of your readership across the country, how would you parlay it’s meaning in present day terms to our audience?
Ms. Taylor: A deeply meaningful mission and a bold vision that guides content was and is the key to capturing hearts and building a loyal audience. Then and now, our people are seeking connection, community and a place where our challenges, stressors, fears and other disruptors are discussed. In this anxiety-ridden world, we are all seeking solutions. We also want to see the successes and triumphs of people who look like us lifted up and celebrated. There are few places that highlighted the inventiveness, brilliance, beauty and amazing tenacity of Black people who are not celebrities. We hunger greatly for positive representation to counter the everyday negative news about African Americans. That our young are targeted, over incarcerated, denied quality education and slaughtered and [it] wounds our collective psyche and soul. It has shredded the moral fabric of our nation. Along with what is fly, fun and fabulous, to create a lasting emotional connection with audiences, media professionals must offer what is relevant and meaningful to people’s lives. Today, with the multiple platforms and instant access to information, editors have to know their audiences intimately, tune a listening ear and be creative in delivering content. Beautiful design too is a critical component.
The Harlem Times (THT): You have launched a “New Way Forward” and an organization for young people that is the only one of its kind, called NATIONAL CARES MENTORING MOVEMENT. The Harlem Times Makes a happy discovery that we share on kindred platforms in our support for STEM education. Here, you call able minds & bodies to task to engage with our youth. Please tell our audience how we can all help and why it’s so important to be a mentor!
Ms. Taylor: The village is on fire! Forty percent of Black children in the United States, made wealthy from the centuries-long free labor of their foreparents, are born into poverty. Today, 84 percent of Black 12th graders read below grade level and 86 percent are behind in math and science. It’s predicted that just three out of 100 Black boys entering kindergarten today will graduate from college. This is a national crisis and one that the government, business, and foundations alone cannot solve. To cut through to the heart of the dilemma, we African Americans must knit ourselves together and lead this collaborative recovery movement.
Strategic unity is the only way forward. Through Harlem CARES, S.E Queens CARES and Brooklyn CARES and in over 57 other cities, National CARES is calling Black America to mentor our impoverished young. Mentoring works miracles. It’s a low-cost, high-results solution to a growing crisis. Caring for our young is a moral responsibility. Our local leaders are a caring volunteer army. They need the community’s commitment of time and financial support. CARES recruits and connects mentors to youth-support organizations in desperate need of Black volunteers. When the call goes out for mentors, White women are typically the first responders. Ours is an urgent request for Black men and women to step forward strongly right now!
THT: How did you develop such a positive consciousness?
Ms. Taylor: Pain is transforming. The breakups and shakeups in my life—none more challenging than financial crises—awakened me. I began to see the lessons that life was trying to teach me. Self-awareness and understanding are the keys to creating the inner-peace and sure footing we are all seeking. Gratitude, optimism, spending introspective time each day is healing and revealing. Pain is information, sent to us from beyond for our learning and growth; it’s not a punishment. We must be determined to fire the judge, that unrelenting inner critic that names, blames, measures and condemns. And I’m always working at not pointing the finger at others. We can only operate at our level of understanding. Something I wrote some 30 years ago, which has gone viral, continues to help me find compassion and forgiveness within myself. “Hurt people hurt people”. This, I discovered in researching my beloved parents’ lives.
THT: Everyday 1,000 African-American children are arrested; the number 1 cause of death for African American boys is homicide; 80% of Black Am. Boys drop out of high school in many cities & One in every 8 Black males 25 – 29 is incarcerated….please share for our readership how your New Way Forward, “Risings” came into being and has become a solution in many communities?
Ms. Taylor: The Rising, a group-mentoring initiative, which we are piloting in four U.S. cities for replication throughout the nation, is a reculturing training for our young—to change the predicable futures of our suffering impoverished children. As Stephen Gould said so profoundly, their lives have been upended by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within. The training is adapted from the manual, A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America. Created for National CARES by a brain trust of brilliant, caring subject-matter experts who are devoted to our children and community. The curriculum helps our children to unearth those places where secret pain bridles hope. It teaches them to love themselves, honor our heritage, revere family and community. The Rising helps our young discover the genius within themselves surrounded by a circle of mentors who believe in them, challenge and encourage them and whom they know care about their success. People can visit www.caresmentoring.org to learn more about this life-changing work.
THT: The Dept. of Defense and Picatinny Arsenal are jointly partnering with the Harlem Times and in tandem we’re doing a series of articles that speaks to how important it is to our nation’s future for Education in STEM. How can Americans use the services provided by the DOD for educational purposes?
Ms. Taylor: Partnerships that bring legions of disconnected young people into STEM learnings are critical to filling the pipeline with workers needed for our nation—the government and businesses—to succeed in the technology-driven 21st-century economy. Community leaders must ensure that teachers are trained and schools are equipped for these challenges. To leave at the sidelines, millions of brilliant needed contributors to this future of this nation is insanity.
THT: What were your aspirations as a young girl? What are your hopes for your daughter and grands?
Ms. Taylor: Self-awareness is what I want for my children and all of us, and a deep belief in themselves. Finding their passion and purpose and having the courage to live what they were created to give to life, which is what our Creator puts in our heart—that’s what I want for my beloved daughter, Shana and her daughter, Amina. I didn’t always follow my heart. When I learned to trust my own truth, and have faith in myself, my life began to grow rich and deep. Keeping alive that faith and trust is an on-going struggle. In the quiet we can hear that still small voice that is always whispering the truth. Looking outside of ourselves for truth, for Spirit, God, Allah—whatever we may call the Divinity—is like frantically searching for your glasses when they’re sitting on your face. Inner vision is the way to balance, joy, service and fulfillment. Human and divine, we are earth angels, sent here to learn, to love and do our Creator’s mighty work.
THT: The Consciousness changing, group mentoring and children caring “National Cares Mentoring Movement” is making leaps and bounds in its progress on a nation-wide level. Please talk some about the work you’re doing with children in STEM?
The HBCU Rising is a collaboration between the NATIONAL CARES MENTORING MOVEMENT, Clark Atlanta University and Brown Middle School. An innovative group-mentoring effort, the program is designed to close the achievement gap between under-resourced African-American students in middle schools and their peers in highly resourced communities by increasing reading comprehension, STEM competencies, critical thinking, communication and social skills among the students in under-funded schools. Our goal is to increase middle school student’s interest and competency in the STEM disciplines while affording them a fun way to learn as they aim toward college. This allows opportunities for older students to shadow their mentors in industry, possibly secure internships and increase their interests in ever-growing and well-paying STEM arenas.
THT: As a beacon, you’ve tread unchartered waters for decades – not just for women, not just for those of color – but you’ve cast a light throughout this nation right into the very living rooms & on the coffee tables for all to receive. To whom among the cast of later leading role models would you consider passing the baton?
Ms. Taylor: The recovery of our communities, country and world requires an intergenerational mass movement. There’s no retiring. I loved handing the baton to the phenomenal young women at Essence. They are smart, insightful and prepared to lead at the top-tier. I have taken my appropriate role, which is my highest calling, in service to our children and community, bringing the gifts God has given me and the skills and connections I gained over my 37 years at Essence Communications to this collaborative movement to reclaim and remake ourselves.
THT: Some of us are familiar with your story, but for those under 18 please give them a 3 minute “TWEET’ about how you got started…. Some people feel that they were put in certain positions for a reason. Do you think you were destined to be the voice behind Essence magazine? / OR …would you consider yourself courageous & just a good old-fashioned hard worker?
Ms. Taylor: When we allow the Holy Spirit to have its way in us, surrendering to the will of the Almighty and not our ego, the courage, passion and everything we need to implement a plan that will benefit humanity is put at our fingertips. And, yes, I am a hard worker. That value was bequeathed to me by my parents. I learned to serve in my father’s women’s boutique in East Harlem, which he opened in 1936, Larry’s Specialty Store. But today, I’m still striving to have a more balanced work life. My beloved friend Maya Angelou said to me once when I was exhausted, “Remember that the time you spend resting and renewing is as vital as the time you spend hunkered down over your work.” I’m trying to live by her wise words.
Susan Taylor’s contributions, her dedication and her call to action within our communities and our country remain unparalleled at present. In Keeping with our mission to serve the “Harlems of the world”, we suit up and join her in her efforts. She receives the Harlem Times highest honor for the work that she continues to do for our youth and our future.