Ebony magazine is moving, folks.
So, here's my little tour of the company's editorial departments, ripped from my memory (1999-2006). Full disclosure: I worked on the Ebony floor -- aka The Plantation -- for seven years, until I got canned. Ha!
For starters, the moniker "The Plantation," commonly used by former Ebony employees, referred to the heavy-handed, often quirky, policies -- assigned lunchroom seating, no vacation, consistent raises, but no promotion if you were under 50, etc. -- definitely not the magnificent edifice.
The Johnson Publishing Company headquarters -- AKA The Ebony-Jet Building -- was built in 1972 at a price of $8 million (approx. $41 million today). The Ebony-Jet building offers a breathtaking view of Grant Park, a movie theater, penthouse executive suite, glass walled conference rooms and decked out private offices. There are 11 floors, and each floor has a different décor and category of worker bee as well.
Let's stroll to The Jet and Ebony floors, shall we?
The Seventh Floor: Jet magazine
The elevator doors open to reveal an ultra urban space decorated with deep, mustard tones and rich chocolate leather. This is the home of Jet magazine.
The custom yellow-and-brown leopard carpeting evokes warm feelings of Africa.
Occasionally, there's a parade of Fashion Fair Show models, in full rehearsal and strutting their elongated limbs for an upcoming runway show. The movie screening room is also located on this floor. After hours, select JPC employees are invited to watch first-run movies before they hit the big screen.
On any given day, a celebrity and his entourage are parked by the elevators, chatting it up with Jet editors. The editors' individual cubicles are adorned with photos of celebrities that have come to meet them.
Oddly, these stars rarely took the short elevator ride from the 7th floor to the 8th floor, to meet the Ebony editors.
But The Man (overseers of the Ebony Associate Editors, definitely NOT Lerone Bennett Jr.) would descend the rear stairwell to meet the celebrities on the 7th floor.
The Man took the back stairwell to prevent us from following him; dutifully, he would boast about the celebrity visitor after the star had left the premises.
It was known that celebrity visitors were not allowed on the Ebony floor unless The Man invited them, but there were some celebs that didn't play by those rules.
A respectful Jay-Z was one of them; he wouldn't be 'handled,' by a tour guide or boxed on one floor.
Jay-Z wanted to see the entire building and he did so -- he even met the Ebony Associate Editors. An excitable comedian Wayne Brady did the same, exclaiming, 'Take me to meet The Queen!' (AKA, Linda Johnson Rice) along the way.
The Eighth Floor: Ebony magazine
The elevator doors open to reveal a captivating landscape of warm orange, and rich, dark brown accents and cabinetry. Bright, extra-wide, orange sofa chairs flank a bronze sculpture, The Snail Bird, by Douglas R. Williams.
This is the home of Ebony magazine.
Five state-of-the-art executive offices line the main wall of the floor.
These offices are equipped with sofas, cabinet televisions, mini-bars, refrigerators, and wide windows that provide a near-panoramic view of Grant Park. These are the senior-level offices of The Man.
It's poetic that The Man's offices are lined along the wall, because if you really think about it, The Man and the wall are one and the same. And they function as one: To divide, to hold back, and to fortify The Man's position of power while simultaneously, block the ascension of the worker bees.
The centerpiece of the Ebony floor is the boat-shaped, glass walled conference room.
On the opposite side of the conference room are four, dusty brown metal cabinets, arranged in a row of broken dreams. (There are no windows, so where are the gnats coming from?)
There is no laughter here; just the sound of work, and the occasional whimper.
Internet usage is frowned upon, but there is an 8-track cassette tape player for the young workers to share.
I snapped this photo of the actual 8-Track Cassette player installed in my cube, circa. 2001.
Welcome to the The Plantation, for me, the official birthplace of the WTF* moment.
According to the company's press release, the company has "launched its search for a new home as the legendary publisher opens the next chapter in its history."
Follow Zondra Hughes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ZondraHughes