As an only child, I left New York City to spend summers on my maternal grandparents’ farm in Farmsville, Virginia. We had no electricity or running water, and used an outhouse. My grandparents relied on the produce they farmed and their livestock to feed the family. They did not have much money. Even so, my grandmother’s house was always open, and she stressed the importance of sharing whatever we had. This attitude of sacrifice, generosity and sharing led my mother and her 13 siblings to pool their resources to send to college one of their sisters who they acknowledged was the smartest one in the family. The sibling, my Aunt Matilene, was a whiz in math and science and would go on to be an oceanographer and lawyer.
The focus of my own charitable contributions has been in the area of education for children of color. I’m involved with the Harlem Village Academy, a charter school in Harlem where I’ve served as chairman of the board and remain active as a fundraiser. I’d like the impact of my efforts to be that Black and Hispanic children have the best resources — from teachers to principals to a holistic environment. That is what will give them a leg up when it comes to competing. If those of us who’ve had a measure of success don’t get involved with educating our children, then all of us are going to have hell to pay.
Being successful in business allows one to be in a position to make charitable contributions to causes and organizations that advance our interests. This is why I’ve also always been a financial supporter of the NAACP, the National Urban League and other organizations fighting for social, economic and political justice.
As the co-founder and CEO of Essence magazine, I personally feel very good about being a force for change in transforming the paradigm on how Black women are perceived, as well as changing how Black women see themselves.
I'd like my legacy to be that I tried to make a difference in fostering a better place for people to believe in themselves and their community, and to be an example by the way I conduct myself. My hope for the future is best expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: that we will one day all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.
Propelled by the extraordinary success following his co-founding of Essence magazine, Edward Lewis has become one of the most successful and respected magazine publishers in the country. In 1995, he also co-founded Latina magazine. His book, The Man From Essence: Creation of a Magazine for Black Women, is a must-read for aspiring media moguls. As a pioneer in the field of publishing, he has shared the stories of thousands and given a voice to millions of people of color.
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(Photo: Earl Gibson III)