01 Jul Be My Guest: Heather Faison
8:30 this morning. I’m speeding up the Parkway, on my way to the Apple store to get my computer fixed. My Blackberry pings. I check it, knowing I shouldn’t cause I’m driving.
It’s an email from Heather Faison, a writer and dear reader of this blog. I read the first two lines of what she wrote and I was confused. It was a reflection on the end of Vibe. But she was writing like she worked there. As far as I knew, she hadn’t.
One eye on the parkway. One eye on my Blackberry. Two paragraphs in. I understood.
And I put my Blackberry on the seat of my car and cried.
I feel the loss of Vibe in a certain way. But I did it. I ran through the halls. I wrote a few cover stories. I looked up at the mountain in awe and scaled it.
Too many writers like Heather won’t have the chance to make a literary dream come true.
By Heather Faison
My co-workers lined up in a procession to offer their condolences. I smiled widely and assured them I was okay.
“It’s just a magazine,” I said.
But even as I type this my heart is calling me a liar.
Vibe was more than “just” a magazine.
It was — to summarize Sidney Shaw — the first to talk to me…the first to understand. It was partly why I looked my dad in the eyes and told him I was turning down a scholarship in graphic design to pursue journalism.
I’ve never stepped foot inside the Vibe offices. My job is at a Philadelphia newspaper. I copy edit ink-stained pages.
But everyone in my office knew I loved Vibe. They need look no further than my desk for the latest issue. And the entertainment stories I wrote for our paper earned me the moniker “the hip-hop kid.”
Vibe spoke to the full-rounded hip-hop lover in me who bumped Biggie but appreciated pieces on fashion and political commentary all in one issue. Thought-provoking scribes including Vibe Editor-In-Chief Danyel Smith, Kevin Powell, and culture chronicler Nelson George helped prove that writing about hip-hop and R&B was as much of an art form as a Rolling Stone profile on John Lennon.
Even when my desire to make a profit in design outweighed my passion for writing in the way Jay-Z struggled over rapping like Common Sense or making cents, the hope that I would one day be published in Vibe never wavered.
As when King folded, I’m now left wondering: where’s the bottom for Black-culture magazines?
Johnson Publishing Company of Ebony and Jet is battling contractors’ liens against its South Michigan Avenue headquarters, putting strain on a venerable institution already on the brink.
Black Enterprise editors told freelancers in March that it no longer had the funds to pay for stories. The Source, while financially in the green after falling millions in debt is no longer the scrappy glossy that introduced Biggie Smalls.
Advertising from fashion and automotive industries flat lined, leaving Vibe, which recently marked its 16th anniversary, no choice but to close shop.
I passed the Vibe offices on a recent trip to New York and felt my pulse quicken. The time was near. I’d be there one day.
Then yesterday, I felt like Lebron James being told in his senior year that the NBA went bankrupt.
I studied Vibe writers on this very site — among them Aliya S. King and Serena Kim — their diction, their prose, their styles, with my highlighter in hand. The motivation from this community of writers even gave me the gumption to consider taking an internship at Vibe (mind you, I’m a 25-year-old, employed college grad) leaving my banal yet stable job just to get in the building.
Was I crazy? Hell yeah! But so was Quincy Jones who launched the upmarket publication in the shadow of The Source, which at the time ran the show.
My boys John Kennedy and Michael Arceneaux (former Vibe contributors) talked me off that ledge. NYC is too expensive to play Mary Tyler Moore.
Still, the Keith Faison—my father—in me, who ran off to Harlem when I was a toddler to pursue his dream of being a singer, wishes I’d taken the risk. But the Mary Jordan–my mother–in me who has never lived outside of North Carolina, assures me that all things happen for a reason.
Right now. I don’t feel like Keith or Mary.
I just feel lost.
Heather A. Faison is a multimedia journalist and award-winning graphic designer.
After graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 2007, the Raleigh, North Carolina native received the Ford Foundation Black Press Fellowship. Heather is currently a copy editor and regular entertainment contributor at The Philadelphia Tribune, 2008 NNPA newspaper of the year.
Just two weeks ago, Heather was hired as the first official Contributor to AliyaSKing.com Look for her to cover music and entertainment. Her initials are H.A.F. So Aliya has dubbed her ‘Haftime’. She’s not particularly fond of the nickname. But it’s too late. It sticks.
Dear readers: Yesterday, I was so caught up in my own grieving for Vibe that I didn’t think about what it means to scores of writers who dreamed of writing for the magazine.
I have several “dream” magazines that are still on newsstands right now. Will they close down too?
Tell me about your dream publications, online or print. Where do you want to see your byline in the future?
Haftime and I would love to hear from you…