Activism Now: British Vogue's September Issue Stars Several Black American Heroes—and a Message of Hope

Dr. Bernice A. King, left; one of three panels of British Vogue’s September pull-out cover; activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham.
Dr. Bernice A. King, left; one of three panels of British Vogue’s September pull-out cover; activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham.
Screenshot: British Vogue/Condé Nast

August has only just begun, but the 2020 September issues are beginning to debut; each with its own approach to our newly socially distant, racially reawakened reality. (At this point, last September feels like another lifetime, doesn’t it?). Case in point: While a few August covers may have sparked controversy over the way their Black cover stars were presented, British Vogue has charted a different course for September, scrapping the typical supermodels and celebrity cover stars for a slew of predominantly Black and American activists making change around the globe.

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Well, kind of—in fact, British Vogue’s trifold cover is topped by Black British supermodel Adwoa Aboah and soccer player Marcus Rashford, both of whom are also activists, Aboah as the founder of the nonprofit Gurls Talk and Rashford for his efforts to end child poverty. They are among several activists photographed by self-taught Black Lives Matter photographer Misan Harriman for the cover.

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Inside the cover and issue are fellow social justice powerhouses like Dr. Bernice A. King, Campaign Zero co-founder Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Women’s March co-founder Tamika Mallory, Professor Angela Davis, Janet Mock, Joan Smalls, Jesse Williams, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrice Cullors and many more; elsewhere in the issue, bestselling author Tayari Jones, Jodie Turner-Smith, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing and Virgil Abloh also make appearances.

As British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful writes in the issue’s editor’s letter:

One of the more joyful phenomena of the past years has been seeing how, in the face of what can seem like ever-escalating injustice, activism has re-emerged from the margins and taken hold of the mainstream. I have loved seeing younger generations fire up older generations again, seeing “social justice” go from a term that elicited a yawn and an eye-roll to embedding itself in our daily lives, and giving rise to people using the platforms of a new era to essentially say, “Enough is enough.”

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This year has often seemed like a dark time for humanity, but it has also marked itself as a golden era for activism. From climate change to child poverty, domestic abuse to the struggle for democracy, people will no longer be silenced. In the fight against injustice, the power of the collective voice is being heard.

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The issue is one of 26 international Vogue covers published in 19 languages throughout August and September with a single theme: Hope.

“We all need hope in our lives, now more than ever,” says Anna Wintour, Vogue editor in chief and Condé Nast’s artistic director and global content adviser. “[S]o at this tumultuous time, Vogue decided to bring all the global editions together around this optimistic, humane, forward-looking theme. Hope may be hard to find at a moment of crisis, but it also feels more essential than ever. It’s part of our shared humanity, a source of delight and inspiration, and keeps us focused on a brighter future.”

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The British Vogue September issue is just one component of the #VogueHope project, a collaborative portfolio by the editors-in-chief of the global edition, each interpreting what hope means at this moment in history.

“I knew instantly and deeply believed in what British Vogue’s interpretation needed to be,” writes Enninful, “an ode to the extraordinary voices, old and young, who in this difficult year have devoted their energies to fighting for a fairer society.”

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Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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