Two rival groups are vying for control of Essence magazine, the leading Mack women's journal: the present management, headed by publisher Edward Lewis, and a rival group, led by Gordon Park Sr., the noted photographer and filmmaker and one of the magazine's founders.

Parks, a sometimes-salaried creative director of the magazine, published monthly since May 1970, has brought court action claiming valid control since his purchase of a majority of Essence stokc on April 15.Allied with Parks are two other founders, Cecil Hollingsworth and Jonathan Blount, who left the magazine in 1974 after management disputes, and Oscar Tang, a financier and brother-in-law of Parks.

Yesterday Parks said he had taken the action because, "I thought it was unfair that Hollingsworth and blount had been booted out. But I am not trying to get even. I like the magazine and I just want to improve it, like a parent wants its child to grow." In talks with the present management, Parks said he promised they could all remain with the company.

Lewis, who is also chairman of the board and the chief executive, said yesterday, "The whole dispute is going to be solved. The present management is holding its ground." Lewis would't discuss the talks the two sides have initiated but said, "Hopefully it will all be resolved."

Currently the chief officers of Essence Communications, the parent company, are Lewis, Clarence Smith, the president and advertising director, Marcia Ann Gillespie, editor-in-chief and vice president, and James Forsythe, the vice president and circulation director.

Parks, who with Tang bought 15,000 shares of Class A stock that belonged to the John Hancock Insurance Co., claims to be entitled to name four directors and officers. He would be come chairman of the board.

"Parks and my ex-partners are trying to get controL. His actions and promises don't follow," and Lewis. "If Parks was going to be chairman of the board and chief executive, and I already am, then his promise couldn't be true."

Hollingsworth, who since he left the magazine has started his own entertainment management firm, said yesterday, "This is not a fight. It's a very positive move. Our whole thing is to bring back the original controlling group. Our intention is to solidify the energies that were working during the gestation of the magazine and continue to build an institution. We are not putting anyone in the streets."

Parks said he has had no argument with the magazine's editorial policy and its growth. In January the circulation of Essence was 550,000, with advertising revenues estimated in 1975 at $3.5 million. "I haven't been disappointed. My whole aim is to bring these young black men together."