Essence magazine has a new monthly feature for its readers, a column written by Kamala D. Harris, the only black woman in the U.S. Senate and the only black woman seeking the presidency in 2020.
“I want to talk directly to you,” Harris wrote Monday in her debut column, “about what I’m hearing on the trail, in your homes, your towns and schools. And I want to hear directly from you as we go forth on this journey together.”
It will be the first time the magazine has published a recurring column by an elected official, said Yesha Callahan, Essence editorial director for news and politics. Though the magazine has published opinion pieces in Essence by other presidential candidates, Callahan decided to offer this opportunity to Harris because “she is a black woman, and we are a black women’s website.”
“That’s not to say all black women are monolithic,” Callahan said. “Some disagree with her.”
Essence was launched in 1970 and boasts a monthly circulation of more than 1 million and a readership of 8.5 million. The magazine, like many women’s publications, advertises its pages as a place for women to talk to one another about topics overlooked, undersold or dismissed in male-dominated media.
Since the 2016 presidential election, those topics have increasingly included robust and creative political reporting at a time when a historic number of women are running for office — and winning.
“We have an obligation to highlight the work of these strong women,” Callahan said. “As a women’s magazine, we write about politics from a way that affects women. We’re writing about abortion rights. We’re writing about the right to legislate our own bodies.”
Offering Harris, a black woman, direct access to the magazine’s millions of black female readers is a power move of historic proportions. Only a handful of black women have vied for the presidency, and few have been as competitive as Harris.
But Callahan said the column is not a political endorsement by Essence and added that she welcomes opinion pieces from the other candidates. Essence already published one by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on maternal mortality rates for black women and another on health-care access for mothers and women of color from former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.).
Harris’s first column was short, explaining why she is running for president and what issues she would fight for: equal pay, stronger maternal health care, abortion care protections and a tax cut for the working and middle classes. Future columns will be on topics workshopped among Essence editors, the senator and her staff.
“Senator Harris is committed to meeting voters where they are and doing the work to earn their support — this is part of that process,” said Kirsten Allen, a spokeswoman for the Harris campaign. “Black women, who make up Essence’s core readership, are the backbone of the Democratic Party and we are making sure that we are engaging them as well as hearing from them as we look toward victory in this race.”