I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it actually is, but this morning I got word that a Dallas grocery store took the November issue of D Magazine out of its magazine racks. Through our distributor, we were told that a customer had complained about the cover, which you can see a full rendering of here. I don’t know the specifics of the complaint; obviously I can’t ask the shopper why he or she was offended. And I’m not going to name the store because I don’t want to make the manager’s life more difficult than it has to be. We need grocery stores on our side; selling magazines is part of our business model. (Side note: I love it when someone says, “You’re just doing that to sell magazines!” Yes, we do sell magazines.)
OK, so. It’s just one store. It happens to be in an affluent, predominantly White part of town. But whatever. If you can’t find the November issue at your grocery store and if you don’t want to drive around looking for it, you can call Jacob at our front desk and buy a copy. 214-939-3636. He’s a good dude. You’ll like talking to him. Really, though, you should be a subscriber. For $20, you’ll get a year’s worth of great reading, and you’ll get the magazine before it shows up in grocery stores.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cover itself and how we arrived at the design decisions we did.
Our November cover story, written by Zac Crain, is about the huge parking lot that borders the southeastern edge of Fair Park. That parking lot used to be a neighborhood. Driven in large part by racist antipathy directed at the Black folks who lived in about 300 houses there, the city of Dallas in the late ’60s and early ’70s used eminent domain to buy up the properties, displace the people who lived there, and pave over a swath of South Dallas. The story will go online next week.
When it came to designing the cover, our art director, Kevin Goodbar, agreed that we should aim for a modern treatment, something conceptual. Partly that was a matter of necessity. Hardly any photographs were taken of this time and place in Dallas history. With help from folks at the Dallas Public Library, we looked hard for this stuff. We found nothing that could work on a cover.
That led us to fly a drone over Parking Lot E. Our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, and her husband, Kyle Phelps, got the image we eventually used. With the oak trees reduced to green ink blots, the white grid of empty parking spots, and the faded stains left by automobile effluent over the decades, the image to me looks like an abstract watercolor painting. It became a palimpsest on which Kevin set his cover type. We ditched the traditional cover headline and subhead format and instead reprinted part of a 1966 study commissioned by the State Fair.
The words are provocative. The design is intended to upset you and simultaneously draw you in to further investigate why you’ve been upset. Frankly, then, I can understand why someone with a sensitive constitution might not want to be confronted with this image when he’s shopping for Frosted Flakes.
But a confrontation is exactly what we intended to create. The entire city needs to be confronted with this history. Some folks need to feel uncomfortable. We can’t find a better future without learning from our past. If you haven’t yet heard, that concrete will soon be torn up and replaced by a park. This is a huge step forward — and it doesn’t even come close to settling the score.
That’s what I can tell you about our thinking on the November cover. That’s how we tried to attract attention to a story about the White people who were in charge 50 years ago and how they used their institutions to diminish the lives of Black folks who lived near Fair Park and undermine generations of people who would follow.
Teaching this sort of history has gotten difficult lately. Some parents, it seems, would rather that their children never be exposed to uncomfortable truths. State lawmakers have decided that local school districts can’t make their own determinations about the ability of their teachers to convey information. Instead, the state that prides itself on limiting government interference has passed a law that injects the state into every public school in Texas, in a purported effort to protect young people’s feelings (I’m summarizing).
I hope folks will take the time to read before they react. I hope they can talk to their kids about what happened 50 years ago and what’s going on today. And I hope everyone finds the Frosted Flakes.