Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief Emerita Susan L. Taylor Headlines 2020 MLK Celebration

Monday, January 13, 2020

Susan L. Taylor, Essence magazine editor-in-chief emerita and founder and CEO of National CARES Mentoring Movement, is the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

“Our Sunday’s Best: A Creative Protest Remembered” begins at 7 p.m. in Kenan Auditorium. Admission is free with ticket. This year’s celebration focuses on the aesthetic value of King’s legacy of protest and activism, said Sean Palmer, director of the UNCW’s Upperman African American Cultural Center.

“Valuable scholarship has recently emerged about the importance of the images being transmitted in media as ways to humanize the African American experience, in an environment that had a long-standing history of degradation through art and even fashion,” he said. “It was intentional to have people dressed in their Sunday school attire to show that black folks were more than sharecroppers or maids or convicts or slaves. The images were about seeing African Americans with the dignity and respect that was accorded to other types of Americans. Images from the civil rights movement aren’t just activist and political movements. They are aesthetic movements filled with iconography.”

Sunday suits and dresses turned into activist uniforms for protest and jeans turned into uniforms for voter registration, Palmer added. Black leather and berets became uniforms for defiance.

“All of this speaks to the ways that protest is indeed a creative, iconic force meant to influence the masses,” he continued. “No better person than Susan Taylor, given her legacy with Essence magazine, could make sense of the fashion of the time as a motivator for change.”

After more than two decades as the chief editor of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor left publishing to build National CARES Mentoring Movement, an organization devoted to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty among African Americans. Taylor is the editor of eight books and the author of In the Spirit; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she co-authored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and All About Love.

Admission to the MLK observance is free, but tickets are required. Tickets are available at the Kenan Box Office from noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 910.962.3500 or visit

-- Venita Jenkins