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The Best of Emerge Magazine.

edited by George E. Curry Illustrated by William Sandifer One World/Ballentine Books, August 2003 $19.95, ISBN 0-345-46228-9

The 1990s were heady times for black Americans. They gamed more power and influence and faced more explosive issues than at any time in United States history. During that era, Emerge was the remarkable magazine chronicling and championing fast-moving events.

Emerge folded in 2000 after a 10-year run to the dismay of consumers of its monthly take-no-prisoners coverage of the African Diaspora. Fortunately, the best articles of that era have been packaged into a new book edited by George Curry, editor of Emerge from 1993 to 2000.

The Best of Emerge Magazine is comprehensive, about 700 pages, yet the book more than pays for itself with 40 pages and six articles devoted to "Kemba's Nightmare," the crusade that was Emerge's finest moment.

Reporting by Reginald Stuart told the story of Kemba Smith, an attractive, middle-class college student from Virginia who received a 24-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for serving as a mule, one who carried illegal drugs for traffickers.

Smith made a poor decision, and she had to pay for her mistake, but Emerge exposed the insanity of new mandatory minimum laws. Smith was a nonviolent offender, yet she was sentenced to remain in prison through 2016. Smith put a face on many young people, particularly black women, who were being warehoused in a justice system operated on automatic pilot.

Stuart's reporting in 1996 and 1998 mobilized blacks nationwide and probably influenced President Clinton's decision to commute Smith's sentence, releasing her from prison after eight years at the end of 2000, six months after Emerge's death. She lives near Richmond, Virginia, and has been studying criminal justice in college.

Other gems among the 107 selections in The Best of Emerge Magazine include seven Friendly Fire columns by Lauren Adams DeLeon that showcase Emerge at its puckish best. Side splitters include the 1996 item about the mugger who made the near fatal mistake of ripping off the mom of a major New York City mob boss, or a 1994 item that challenged the white media's eavesdropping skill in reporting an alleged Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown domestic dispute at a music awards show.

Curry, president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, earns bonus points for in eluding articles from Emerge's pre-BET ownership period: The 1989 piece called "The Fixation on Black Athletic Superiority: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone" the 1990 piece "Nelson Mandela Keeps the Pressure on," and the wicked, priceless 1991 offering "Save Us From Negro Dinners" a commentary that originally carried an illustration of a couple tiptoeing out of a banquet hall, leaving cardboard cutouts of themselves in the chairs.

While Emerge was considered a journalistic success, BET maintained that it was a money loser and sold it. New owners eventually shut it down to create Savoy, a lifestyle magazine with a different mission.
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Author:Dawkins, Wayne
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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