Over the decades, Janus Adams has been one of a very few African American women columnists and commentators on the national scene. From this rare vantage comes the first-ever collection of writings on her life and our times—her new book and audio, Sediddy: Attitude, Gratitude, and Seeing Red.
Drawing upon more than a thousand columns and essays, unpublished manuscripts and a play, she weaves tight narrative threads into a richly textured literary tapestry. Politics to policing. Family to fashion. AIDS to Alzheimer’s. Injustice to joy.
With the eye of the journalist, the depth of field of the historian, and the ear of the playwright, she challenges us to rethink long-standing issues and long-held ideals.
A northern school desegregation "test child" at 8, she knows both the privilege and the pain of being "touched by history"—the price of being a "first." At 10, she is introduced to Dr. King who, with one small gesture, helps her heal. With his charge, he also helps set her life's course of breaking race and gender barriers in education, business, journalism, and publishing. #BlackLivesMatter. #MeToo.
Knowing well the need for professional objectivity she faces the reality of personal experience. Covering the O. J. Simpson trial comes too close to home. Covering police assaults on voting rights demonstrators comes close to getting her killed.
The earliest selection—her feature story on the historic 1977 National Women's Conference—becomes a contemporary blueprint for winning against the odds—and the forces of “take America back.” The most recent, published in 2017, ponders how we go on in troubling times and finds answer and affirmation in a line of stunning clarity that brought readers to tears.
Confronting the personal with honesty and humor, an unfortunate case of mistaken identity at her grandaunt’s funeral turns hilarious even as it digs up grave truths. Married to drummer-composer Max Roach, his suave manner and worldly sophistication are no match for their three-year-old twin daughters' forays into theology. A bout with the flu induces a meditation on the meaning of soup.
Walking the docks of New York overlooking the Statue of Liberty with her grandfather, we are there as he muses on the price of liberty, shares his philosophy of life, and invokes the calm, cool wisdom of ice cream.
In Sediddy—as timeless as it is timely and relevant—Janus Adams braves the American scene with attitude, with gratitude, and seeing red; leading us on a journey past history to healing, to wonder and joy.
These illustrations by John Steptoe, depicting Janus Adams and her twin daughters, were commissioned by Essence Magazine for the original May 1982 publication of her article, "Second Thoughts on Motherhood" (collected in SEDIDDY). In May 2000, for its 30th anniversary issue, Essence revisited the piece among "The Stories You Couldn't Forget."
Wrote Joy Duckett Cain:
"For much of American history, Black women were the after-thought. But once the first issue of Essence hit the newsstands, suddenly, each month, we were first, foremost—and fly! On the pages of Essence, at long last, our beauty, our concerns, our dreams, were validated. But just as important, our humanity was affirmed. Essence gave sisters, and brothers too, a place and a space to tell our stories in our way. Here are some of the stories that have given Essence readers of the past 30 years something to talk about."