For the first time since ‘O’ magazine launched 20 years ago, founder Oprah Winfrey will not appear on the cover. The September issue instead features a digital rendering of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT fatally shot at home in March by Louisville police executing a no-knock search warrant.
The historic cover arrives as supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to demand justice for Taylor; in the four months since her death, no legal action has been pursued against the officers responsible. On Thursday, Winfrey called for readers to sign petitions, reach out to Kentucky officials and donate to Louisville bail funds in a column that also explained her decision to give up the cover.
“Only in the wake of George Floyd’s filmed execution was national attention brought to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, two and a half months after she was killed,” Winfrey stated in the column. “Pleas for justice have fallen on deaf ears. As I write this, in early July, just one of the three officers involved has been dismissed from the police force. This officer blindly fired ten rounds from his gun, some of which went into the adjoining apartment. The other two officers still have their jobs.”
Prior to writing the column, Winfrey spoke with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer. The piece sheds light on Palmer’s grief, on how she discovered her daughter had been shot after receiving a call from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, but didn’t know who had shot her until hearing it on the news.
Taylor was “just like me,” Winfrey wrote. “She was just like you. And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter.”
‘O’ magazine commissioned the cover from 24-year-old digital artist Alexis Franklin, who based the portrait on a widely shared photo Taylor took of herself: “Every stroke was building a person: each eyelash, each wisp of hair, the shine on her lips, the highlight on her cheek,” Franklin said in a statement.
The issue, which hits news-stands August 11, will be one of the last regular print editions of O magazine. The publication announced earlier this week that it plans to alter its approach to print after December.
Winfrey is the latest high-profile figure to seek justice for Taylor. Beyonce penned an open letter last month to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, urging him to “demonstrate the value of a Black woman’s life” by bringing criminal charges against Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison, the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
“Don’t let this fall into the pattern of no action after a terrible tragedy,” she wrote. “With every death of a Black person at the hands of police, there are two real tragedies: the death itself, and the inaction and delays that follow it. This is your chance to end that pattern.”