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Cosby Show Cast

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Most people are still shaking the dust off in the wake of EBONY Magazine’s November cover shaking up social media on Thursday. Now the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, veteran media executive Kierna Mayo, is pulling back the cover on the process behind the cover in an in-depth interview with Colorlines.

Read an excerpt below:

Why did you decide to explore the state of the Black family in this issue?

Mayo: I wouldn’t define it as the state of the black family issue per se, but it is a look at the black family. Every November for quite a few years now, it has been the tradition that we turn the focus on family for this issue. And being new to this editorship and constantly thinking about what we can do that is provocative and intelligent and unique, I was kind of at a loss. It was really confounding in a way, because when we sat down to talk about which black family really embodies what we wanted to say, many of the families that we wanted to reach out to were not available. We were faced with a situation where we could keep going in the more traditional direction, which would have been a celebrity cover in the classic sense, but one of my top editors, S. Tia Brown, suggested that we do “The Cosby Show.” And it immediately resonated. It really stopped me in my tracks.

Once I heard Tia say that, it sparked something in me that, you know, it just stuck and we kept going. We wanted to talk about respectability, and where we are as a community with this notion of perception. We wanted to be able to have a contemporary conversation about how people genuinely feel about the Cosby allegations, and it was a family issue. So things just came together and it all seemed to make sense. And then from there, we had lots of conversations within the staff and with my superiors as well, because it’s not something that we took lightly at all.

I haven’t slept in two days. Even before we dropped this, I had that knot in my stomach because I connect with black audiences. And it is not lost on me, or anyone at Ebony, that this is sensitive and that we care. We care in a different way and we’re fragile in a different way and are entitled to that fragility. But, we believe that it is past time to have an honest conversation about many of the things that this incident serves actually as a metaphor in our own families, in our larger families and in what we exalt as the perfect family.

Why do you think it’s provoking so many wide-ranging reactions?

Mayo: The image of the original “Cosby” show cast is not nearly what people are reacting to. They are reacting to the fracture on top of that image, I would argue. We’ve all looked at that image of the Cosby show hundreds of times as African Americans. That in and of itself isn’t what makes this a story. And I don’t think it’s why you’re’ interested in talking to me.

Read the full interview over at Colorlines.

Watch Mayo talk about the controversial cover with CNN’s Don Lemon below:

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