O, The Oprah Magazine announced that it will release a historic magazine cover that will not feature Oprah for the first time in its 20-year history. First Lady Michelle Obama joined Oprah on the April 2009 cover, but the September 2020 cover will feature only Breonna Taylor, the Black woman and emergency medical technician who was killed by police earlier this year in Louisville, Ky.
The circumstances surrounding Taylor’s murder and the response from Louisville Metro Police Department have been controversial, and what resulted was a public outcry that increased the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, along with George Floyd’s murder.
Significant events are often preserved on the cover of magazines, acting as a time capsule to look back at moments in history and remember the social commentary of the day – many related to race and injustice issues.
For example, The New Yorker’s recent ‘Say Their Names’ George Floyd cover, including an art commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement; TIME Magazine's 2015 Freddie Gray cover, highlighting the protests that resulted after he died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody; and Life Magazine’s 1970 Kent State cover, featuring photos from the school shooting that resulted when National Guard forces confronted a peaceful rally opposing expanding the Vietnam War into Cambodia.
These are only a few glimpses back in time, with too many examples to count.
I commend O Magazine for advocating for social justice, but I can’t help but think that this magazine cover is a bit different than these other historic covers.
O Magazine has long been a place for Oprah to express her thoughts, personal likes and dislikes, and more. She has always put herself front and center, which is fair given it is her namesake, after all. So what is about Breonna’s story that after 20 years, Oprah is stepping aside and letting someone else be the cover photo?
Is this a rallying cry for social justice reform? A marketing strategy to sell more magazines? Perhaps a little bit of both?
No matter the original intention, Oprah’s sheer power alone makes this historic cover one worth celebrating. In a written statement that O Magazine shared with the release of the September cover, Oprah wrote: “What I know for sure: 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.”
As PR professionals, we understand the value of using our megaphones to help share the stories of the voiceless.
How do you use your voice to advocate for change?
What do you think about the upcoming cover?