When the final print issue of JET magazine hit newsstands on June 9, 2014, NVCC English Professor Juleyka Lantigua-Williams became a permanent fixture in the magazine’s 63-year history with “This Is Our Story,” the last-ever print cover story for the African-American-focused news weekly, which will shift to a completely online format.
“I was honored to be considered and accepted the assignment thankfully,” said Lantigua-Williams, who wrote for the magazine on topics ranging from politics to the arts, personal profiles, and education over the last three years.
Her first JET cover story, “Fade to Black” (April 2013), is currently a finalist for a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Excellence in Journalism Award.
JET Editor-in-Chief Mitzi Miller reached out to her in early May with the proposal of writing the final cover.
“I was a bit daunted at first—especially because I was tasked with interviewing people whose careers I've followed and admired, like the founders of BET and Radio One,” said Lantigua-Williams. “But as soon as I got to work, it became about creating a lasting entry in the remarkable cultural and historical repository that is JET magazine.”
With a circulation of more than 700,000 readers – the third-largest readership in the African-American market - Hermene Hartman, President of Hartman Publishing Group, Inc., called the move online “a watershed moment in contemporary African-American history” in The Huffington Post’s “The Blog.”
“There's always been a JET; for all African-Americans except senior citizens, there's never not been a JET -- giving us the news that Black people needed to know, yearned to know, but that we couldn't get from the mainstream media,” she explains.
Now in its final print issue, Lantigua-Williams has successfully historicized the magazine’s socio-cultural impact through the story of JET founder John H. Johnson, creating a powerful archival legacy to commemorate what is hopefully only the magazine’s early history. The article begins:
"Before there was a radio or television in every home during the era of separate and decidedly unequal, JET reflected the lives of African-Americans transcending the boundaries of racial oppression. From the very beginning, JET spread the gospel of economic success and upward mobility. But none of it could have been done without the strength and courage of one man’s dream."
“As I talked to more and more people, I realized that everyone had deeply personal stories about JET and that no story I wrote would be universal enough to cover the gamut. So instead of telling readers' stories, I decided to tell the magazine's story...”
“Now that the magazine will move to a digital platform, I am humbled to have played a small role in its print era. It has been a career highlight to write for JET, to capture snippets of the rich canopy that is the Black experience in the U.S. As the adviser of The Tamarack, our college paper, I am proud to serve as a model for our students so they see what is possible through hard work and dedication.”
Juleyka Lantigua-Williams (@juleykalantigua) has been a writer and editor for fifteen years. She earned an M.S. in Print Journalism from Boston University, graduated from the prestigious Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University, and was a Fulbright Scholar (Spain). She has been a nationally-syndicated columnist with The Progressive magazine’s Media Project for fourteen years. Her opinion columns cover a broad range of issues from women's rights abroad, the environment, immigration, maternal health, national and international politics, and Latinos in the U.S.-have appeared in The Houston Chronicle, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, The Harford Courant, and the L.A. Times among hundreds of national, regional, and online publications. Her magazine credits include JET, The Progressive, and GIANT. She served as a mentor for National Public Radio's Next Generation Radio training program. Her essays, interviews, and young adult fiction have appeared in The Simon and Schuster Short Prose Reader (Fourth and Fifth Eds.); Once Upon a Cuento (Curbstone Press); and Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism (Seal Press). In 2013, Juleyka co-edited Confluencia in the Valley, a prose and poetry anthology. Most recently, she served as Communications Director for TEDxFulbright, which took place in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and welcomed 450 participants from 60 countries and was live- streamed to 200 locations around the world.
Photo credit: Jason Honyotski, NVCC student