Historical context is important to journalist Michael Jones, but he’s often found it lacking at Louisville media outlets.
“The problem with the media is there’s no institutional memory,” he said as someone who’s been a member of the “mainstream media.”
He hopes to do that differently with the Black Scene Millennium magazine, where he’s the editor.
“Black Scene is combining journalism and history and art… not only the history of the magazine, but the city’s history and the state,” Jones, who is also a historian, said.
Black Scene Millennium is a revival of a West End magazine from the 70s, and will highlight how many of the issues the original Black Scene covered decades ago still exist today.
“We’re not trying to be a new Leo or Louisville Magazine, where we’re covering everything,” Jones said. “We’re looking for small bits that we can get really deep into.”
One issue he dug into is police brutality.
“What I wanted to do was put what’s happening now into a historical context,” Jones said. “And a lot of the news now is being dominated by policing issues. So the first thing that I thought was Adrian Reynolds.”
Jones said Reynolds was assaulted by corrections officers in Louisville. He died in January 1998 following that encounter. People who were incarcerated at the time, and said they witnessed the beating, alleged that the corrections officers stomped on Reynolds, according to Jones’ story in the Black Scene Millennium.
Jones interviewed Ann Reynolds, Adrian’s mom, for a story with the headline, “Mothers of the Fallen.”
The History Behind Black Scene
Rev. Leo Lesser Jr., a civil rights leader, started the publication following his 1973 mayoral campaign, Jones said. Lesser was the city’s first Black mayoral candidate in more than 50 years. He lost the primary race. Frustrated by how he was treated by the media during his campaign, he decided to create a politics and culture magazine in the West End.
“He wanted to get the issues from his campaign out and try and look at the achievements of Black people that he felt were going overlooked in the city,” Jones said. “Basically the story of the Black community in Louisville isn’t integrated into the overall story of the city.”
Jones, who is Black and grew up in Louisville, hopes the revived publication will show a fuller and richer picture of Black life in the city as well.
Lesser died in 1974, and his Black Scene ceased publication a few years later. There was a short-lived revival of the magazine in the 80s, according to a LEO Weekly story Jones wrote earlier this year.
Black Scene Millennium, the latest iteration, has been in the works for about two years.
Katy Delahanty is Black Scene Millennium’s publisher. Her grandfather, Robert Delahanty, was an attorney and helped Leo Lesser with his mayoral campaign. He became an associate editor with the original Black Scene.
Delahanty, whose family is white, said her family had long been engaged in politics and social activism. It wasn’t until several years ago though that she learned about the magazine and her grandfather’s involvement. Both her grandmother and her uncle, who “just had a stack in his office,” shared old copies with her. Flipping through the magazines and reading the stories, she thought, “wait a second. It’s all so relevant today.”
She first thought about an anthology, but decided on a limited-run magazine, asking Michael Jones to oversee the editorial process.
“Essentially, let’s show the wide breadth of the human experience is what the 70s was trying to do with Black Scene and Black Scene Millennium is continuing that tradition,” Delahanty said.
She said it’s so much more than just a magazine.
“I think that the magazine is not just a combination of journalistic prowess and people reflecting on issues that happen in the past through today’s perspective, but it also focuses on the multi-facetedness of the Black experience, including arts and culture, recipes, imagery,” she said.
The magazine will be published quarterly for about a year, each issue with a different theme. The first is Black women.
Black Scene Millennium will hold a launch event Friday from 5 – 8 p.m. at Roots 101 African American Museum, on the 3rd floor.