NABJ Statement on Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct at ESSENCE, Okayplayer and Other Platforms

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WASHINGTON ⁠— The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is disheartened about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct at publications like ESSENCE, Okayplayer OkayAfrica and others. We have learned that some of the leaders at these companies such as Abiola Oke and Richelieu Dennis have been dismissed or have resigned, but still believe sweeping change has to occur now, as others may have also been involved. It is important to note that Dennis still remains the CEO of Essence Ventures, which owns Essence Communications. As we have said previously, it is important that the readers, consumers and advertisers of these platforms hold them accountable and demand change.

Knowing that these issues, and this culture, must first be dealt with in the Boardroom, it is also important to examine what is happening across all newsroom departments.

These companies should move swiftly to rectify the issues and provide remedies, resources and apologies to the women impacted. We applaud and extend our support to the women who have boldly spoken out. The fear of speaking truth to power must be eliminated and companies must stop making their employees feel they have no voice. Women, and all journalists, should be respected for the talent and experience they bring and not looked at as sexual objects or subservient.

Every day Black journalists, and journalists across the world, are having to fight against discrimination, parity issues and efforts to muzzle press freedom. It is disappointing that journalists are also having to face issues of harassment and bullying within their newsrooms, and worse from fellow members of the Black community.

This must stop. NABJ calls for an end to this culture and implores all news/media company management to get the training needed to keep this from happening again. We also implore the owners, boards of directors and investors of these companies to ensure they are careful of who they are hiring, retaining and entrusting to lead their organizations, and to always have a listening ear when employees speak out. Even if they don’t speak out or can’t, it is the responsibility of leaders to be watchful and vigilant to ensure a harassment-free and inclusive culture.

NABJ looks forward to finding ways to help combat this issue and we encourage our members and others to reach out to us to share confidential information on these issues at nabjalerts@gmail.com. Your voice matters, please speak out.

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