JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Shame on Westchester Magazine

-1About 1 1/2 years ago I pitched a piece to Westchester Magazine. The story was about a brick located in front of my kids’ elementary school; one that was placed there in honor of a girl who died long ago. I told the magazine that I wanted to find out who the child was; what happened to her; why she was being memorialized.

I was quickly given the assignment, along with an agreement for, I believe, $500. This wasn’t a project about money. It was—and I’m being 100-percent sincere here—about digging through history to bring someone (and someone’s saga) back to life.

I worked my butt off on that article—tracked down relatives and classmates; visited the grave; etc. It was a labor of love; one of the most meaningful pieces I’ve ever written. The first editor told me she thought it was great.

Then—nothing.

More nothing.

More nothing.

More nothing.

Ultimately, I gave up. Westchester Magazine never ran the piece. I handed it over, free of charge, to the local Patch outlet, which ran it almost immediately. It blew up over the Internet, was retweeted by Jeanie Buss (of Laker fame), etc … etc.

Though I haven’t spoken much on this topic, I became convinced that Westchester Magazine turned away the piece because Bianca Webster, the young girl who died, grew up in a low-income household and looked like this …

bianca-webster

You see, Westchester Magazine doesn’t do stories about poor African-Americans. Ever. Though our county is 15 percent black and 22 percent Hispanic, the publication caters toward people who buy $5,000 watches and drive luxury automobiles. All one has to do is read through the advertisements—Pepe Cadillac and Bellantoni Landscape and Le Jardin Du Roi and on and on and on. Had Bianca Webster been a horseback-riding white Scarsdale or Rye kid with a heartbreaking story of blah, blah, blah—she makes it. I’m certain of this.

I digress.

A couple of days ago the new Westchester Magazine arrived in the mail. The cover reads, WHAT OUR KIDS REALLY THINK, and features 13 children of different ages. Of the 13, one is African-American. Let me say this again—one. He also happens to be inside the cover flap.

Why is this a big deal? Hmm …

1. This is a publication that often writes as if Westchester is made up solely of white people in collared shirts and boat shoes. It does an awful job representing the particularly diverse towns: Yonkers, Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle (where I live). This is shameful.

2. If you grew up without diversity (as I did), then you move to a diverse town, you grasp what you were missing. There’s a beauty in diversity; in different cultures, different experiences, different outlooks. How can a magazine that covers such a diverse area pretend it doesn’t exist?

3. You’re black. You live in Westchester. You look at this cover. How do you feel?

4. Westchester is often portrayed as this snooty county. Why? Because of places like Westchester Magazine. The Westchester I know is—in part—gritty, unique, funky, cool, etc. Why not portray these characteristics?

Admittedly, I’m babbling. I’ve got no beef with the people at Westchester Magazine; even pitched a story a while back (then decided not to do it). This cover, however, is shameful and pathetic and speaks to a narrow viewpoint that needs to be expanded.

Word.