BLAC’s 20th Anniversary Throwback: The Kickoff to a Year-Long Series

The hot mess below?

That was the cover of our very first magazine in April 1999. Back then, as some of you may well remember, we were called African American Parent, an offshoot of our sister publication, Metro Parent magazine. Along the way, we morphed into African American Family magazine, then 10 years ago our current incarnation, B.L.A.C., which stands for Black Life, Arts and Culture. It’s been a crazy ride. And it started here …

Still a Thing

A lot has changed over the last two decades, but apparently these stories from 1999 show that some things stay the same.

  1. Corporal punishment and the black child
  2. Debunking the ‘good hair’ myth
  3. Family reunion planning
  4. Vegetarian soul food
  5. The importance of Black Santa

Super Supporter

Remember the Farmer Jack’s Bonus Savings Club? We sure do. This early advertiser helped us get our start.

In ’99

“The Best Man” was a blockbuster.


TLC’s “No Scrubs” was a hit.

“Sister Sister” signed off.

Michael Jordan retired … again.

Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan kicked off his career on Cosby.

Bob Mackie Fantasy Goddess of Africa Barbie Doll

This limited edition doll released in 1999 now fetches $325 on eBay.

History Highlight

In January 1999, Franklin D. Raines became the first African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company when he was named chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae, one of the largest mortgage providers in the United States.

Catching Up With …

Ken Coleman

The former reporter and, in 1999, state legislative assistant to Rep. Irma Clark (D-Detroit), was one of the earliest contributors to BLAC. One of his first pieces was on the increase in black dolls and the importance of representation for black children.

Do you remember writing the black doll story in 1999?

I certainly remember writing the story. Fascinated by Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s work, the seminal “Doll Experiment,” I always wanted to write about the topic. I pitched it to Denise Crittendon (founding editor) and she liked the idea. 

You’ve written a lot for BLAC over the years. Any particular pieces that have stood out?

The “Detroit’s Lost Heroes” feature is my favorite. I’m passionate about chronicling African-American life in Detroit and the opportunity to bring readers’ attention to the rich history of blacks in our city is important to me. 

So, what are some of the highlights of your life in the past 20 years?

Having an opportunity to write for BLAC, which has been a milestone in my career. It’s helped to validate my work and have it on a stage where it can be seen. I’m grateful for the opportunity. I also worked with Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) general superintendent, to include more local history in DPSCD’s K-5 curriculum. I’m also a proud Historical Society of Michigan board member. 

If you could go back to 1999, what would you tell yourself?

Do even more to share our history.

Birthday Buddy

Just a few months before we printed our first issue, Great Lakes Crossing opened up in Auburn Hills, offering an outlet oasis to southeast Michigan bargain hunters. Unlike a lot of malls in the last two decades (we’re thinking of you, Northland), this mall mecca keeps kickin.  

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