Graduation season is upon us. Just days after we received the news that First Lady Michelle Obama would deliver the commencement address at Spelman College, neighboring Clark Atlanta University (CAU) announced Susan Taylor, editor-in-chief emeritus of Essence magazine and founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, will deliver their 2011 commencement address on Monday, May 16.
What a treat for those blessed graduating Panthers who just four to five years ago left their parents nest to venture closer to their true independence. One of their biggest assignments then was to balance freedom and responsibility. They succeeded. The rewards: a degree of their choosing, confidence and the fortuity to be under the guidance of Taylor, a remarkable visionary, before they take their next step.
For those of you who are taking notes, Taylor’s résumé is extensive. It includes her foray into the publishing world as Essence’s first fashion and beauty editor, then as editor-in-chief and eventually editorial director, also recognition as the first and only African American to have the honor of receiving the Magazine Publishers of America’s Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the industry’s highest honor; and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. The recipient of the NAACP President’s Award for visionary leadership and a host of honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities and board positions, she’s also penned four books: In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she co-authored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and her most recent, All About Love, Favorite Selections from In the Spirit on Living Fearlessly.
The aforementioned position and honors are extremely important accomplishments. Her presence is truly significant, not just in terms of those past endeavors, but based on the fact that Taylor continues to move in her destiny, imparting and instilling words of wisdom into our next generation of leaders. Taylor has made so many strides that she could rest on those laurels and call it quits.
Fortunately for us, she continues to support the community and is steadfast on her philanthropic mission. She’s even undertaking an impressive feat in Africa, where she co-chairs, alongside actor Danny Glover, Shared Interest, a capital campaign to raise money to build housing in the rural areas of South Africa.
Taylor and Obama’s presence at both CAU and Spelman, respectively, signify the relevance of supporting our Historically Black Colleges and Universities that produced a fair share of many of our great female leaders and favored celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Althea Gibson, Nikki Giovanni, Phylicia Rashad, Toni Morrison, the late Esther Rolle, the late Betty Shabazz, Yolanda Adams, Taraji Henson, Wanda Sykes and Erykah Badu.
Selah! –yvette caslin