"We can't be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice," said Oprah Winfrey

By Nicholas Rice
July 30, 2020 12:45 PM
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Alexis Franklin

For the first time in its 20-year publication, Oprah Winfrey has given up her O, The Oprah Magazine cover.

Instead, Breonna Taylor — a young woman who was fatally shot by police who stormed into her Louisville home in March — took over the cover of the September issue of the magazine, which hits newsstands Aug. 11.

In her What I Know For Sure Column, Winfrey, 66, addressed the decision to honor Taylor's memory, saying, "We can't be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice. And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover of O magazine."

According to a press release, the upcoming issue will examine systemic racism in a section titled Hard White Truths, which will inform white readers "when they were most acutely aware of their white privilege — and what, in the wake of thunderous calls for justice, they are doing to dismantle the status quo."

Each page will also include anti-racist actions readers can take, such as which Black-owned businesses they can support, organizations they can donate to, petitions they can sign and articles they can read.

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Winfrey and her team at the magazine began discussions on how they could raise awareness about issues facing the Black community following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

"I have a collection of property ledgers from former plantations. Names, ages, and prices of people, listed along with cattle, shoes, wagons, and all other earthly possessions. The ledgers are framed in my library," Winfrey said in a statement. "When in need of fortification in times of crisis or challenge, and sometimes just to remind myself where I've come from, I read them aloud. I feel a kinship. As a great-great-granddaughter of enslaved people, I know that in a different era my name would have been in someone's ledger. Those ledgers come to mind when I see the names of Black women who were killed by police. Breonna Taylor and too many others like her."

"I see the names, I think of the ledgers, I feel the connection down the generations: the refusal to value Black women's lives," she continued. "And I feel a personal connection. Because I am these women. These women are me."

Janelle Washington

The cover of the magazine, which features a photo of Taylor in front of a yellow background, was created by Alexis Franklin, a self-trained 24-year-old digital artist.

"I am so happy to play a small part in this long-overdue, world-changing narrative on racial injustice and police brutality," she said in a statement. "The original photo is one Breonna took herself and has been featured in the news many times. Looking at it, I see an innocence, simple but powerful. It was critical for me to retain that."

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"So many things were going through my mind — Breonna's life, mostly, and how it ended so abruptly and unnecessarily," she continued. "Every stroke was building a person: each eyelash, each wisp of hair, the shine on her lips, the highlight on her cheek. I had that season when I chose to shut down my feelings around the killing of unarmed Black people because I couldn’t take living day to day in such a state of awareness."

She added: "Now I was as up close and personal as I could ever get to this woman and, consequently, to this very real problem. I felt a new level of determination and pressure to get it right, but I tried not to let that affect me. My greatest work happens when I simply enjoy it and let my hands do what they know how to do."

The news of the September cover comes after the magazine announced its plans to reconstruct earlier this week.

On Monday, a spokesperson for O Magazine confirmed to PEOPLE that the brand will become more "digitally-centric" but denied reports that Hearst — the media company under which O Magazine is housed — will completely cease the publication's print edition at the end of 2020.

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"As the brand celebrates twenty years of O, The Oprah Magazine, we're thinking about what’s next, but again the partnership and the brand are not going away," the spokesperson said. "This is a natural next step for the brand, which has grown to an online audience of 8 million, extending its voice and vision with video and social content. We will continue to invest in this platform as the brand grows and evolves into one that is more digitally-centric."

O Magazine said it plans to publish some form of print media beyond its December 2020 issue, but the brand has not yet decided what exactly that will entail.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.