We Gather Together

16 Mar

The other day I went to a memorial service for a former Essence colleague Jonell Nash. Jonell had been the food editor of Essence since 1984. She was a graceful, lovely, talented woman. Every one of the people who spoke at her beautiful service described her that way. Her dear friend and former colleague (and my sister-scribe, fellow Howardite) Harriette Cole organized the service and it was perfect. As it was, of course, a sad occasion, but it was also a great reunion of an entire era: from Susan Taylor, our beloved editor-in-chief (still looking amazing and doing the hard work of lifting Black people through her national mentoring organization) to copy chief Charlotte Wiggers and so many more. Essence folk just showed up. My best friend from college, Monique Greenwood, a former editor-in-chief, drove up from D.C. Jonell’s former assistant Marsha Kelly came in from L.A. My time, our time, there was more than a job, a career move; we really were like a family.

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From left: Harriette Cole, Linda Villarosa, Monique Greenwood, me, Audrey Adams, Stephanie Stokes Oliver, Deborah Gregory at my book party for Who Does She Think She Is? At the Jo Malone store in the Flatiron District of Manhattan

 

I met so many women during my time there–some lifelong friends like Linda Villarosa, to name one, but I also bonded with many women, women who I don’t talk to or see very often, sometimes for years, but who are always there when there’s a need. Folk show up and support one another.

Terrie M. Williams is one of those people. Terrie is a PR person extraordinaire who has been representing bold face names for more than two decades now. She is also the author of a definitive book on Black folks and depression called Black Pain. I ran into Terrie last year at another memorial service for a colleague,  the brilliant Cheryll Greene. I told Terrie about my book and she said “anything I can do to help, just let me know.” You know people often say that…I knew Terrie meant it and when I called her to write a blurb for my new book she did so without hesitation. I want to share what she wrote because you won’t see it on the first printing, but it will be on the second printing on the book. It is as follows:

When we face the fire and come out on the other side, we learn what it is we are called to do. Benilde has written so beautifully and eloquently about the soul crushing experience of depression–whether it is named or not. Throughout this defining journey, we see, hear and feel deeply the signs of a despair that longs for light and relief. The healing is in us sharing our stories with one another… and knowing we are not alone .

Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting

Thanks Terrie.

So long Cheryll.

Well done, Jonell.

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