Pride Magazine celebrates 20 years
By Olivia Fortson | The Charlotte Observer
Dee Dixon is CEO and publisher of Pride Magazine which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Pride Awards Gala on Jan. 19. "Dee is a pioneering spirit," says Cedric Coco of Lowe's. "She's an entrepreneur and a role model not just for women, but for anyone who's trying to grow a business and be relevant to the community." (Photo by John D. Simmons - firstname.lastname@example.org)
Growing up, Dee Dixon’s family called her the General because she was organized and was always saying, “Hey, let’s get up, let’s get ready, let’s go.” And she could write.
Even though she didn’t have a career goal, those two skills led her to become publisher of Pride magazine. The magazine, which covers the successes of Charlotte’s African-Americans, celebrates its 20th anniversary Saturday with its annual Lowe’s Pride Awards. (Info: 704-375-9553.)
“As Charlotte has grown there are people, places and stories that haven’t been told, and Dee spotlights them,” says WCNC-TV news anchor Sonja Gantt, who has been emcee for 12 years.
When Dixon reflects on her life, she says she never planned to be where she is now.
A native of Asheville, she moved to Statesville as a child when her father became a teacher in the Statesville school system. She graduated from N.C. Central University in Durham as a married woman following her sophomore year wedding. She and her husband had three children: sons Tye and Torrey, and a daughter, Nikelle.
After divorcing in the 1980s, she took her children and moved back to Statesville, where she lived with her parents for seven years.
She became a child support agent for Iredell County. After a while, she knew she wanted to do something else, so she kept her job while commuting to UNC Charlotte, where she earned her urban administration degree.
With that degree, she moved to Charlotte and got a job as a personal assistant. But it was her anger over an article she saw in the Observer about how companies were having a hard time finding qualified minority workers that led her on the path she’s on now.
“She wrote me a letter saying that she was qualified,” says Rolfe Neill, who was the Observer’s publisher. He set up a meeting. “I was impressed – I could tell she had the goods,” says Neill. “She was very hard-working, very organized.”
She became a salesperson in the Observer’s Rock Hill bureau. She took on a new role when another Observer employee, Vintage Foster, convinced Neill the paper should publish a new type of magazine.
“He came up with the idea for a magazine called Pride that would showcase how much black people have to be proud of. We gave him what he needed to start. Dee became the ad salesperson.”
After several years, the magazine struggled to break even. “The people who came behind me were going to close the magazine or sell it. They sold it to Dee, and she took it and willed its continued existence. Ultimately it has been a success because it has more advertising and a broader base of appeal now,” says Neill.
The annual awards gala has grown to be a signature event on Charlotte’s social calendar every January.
This year, three Charlotteans will be honored for their contributions to the community: Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, Thereasea Elder and Carlenia Ivory. For the first time, the audience will choose the winner, and a donation will be made to their favorite charity.
Handing out college scholarships is one of the highlights. This year’s winner is Myers Park High senior Christopher Simpson. “We wanted someone who needs to know the community is behind him,” says Dixon.
What Dixon may not realize is how much the community is behind her. “She’s an entrepreneur and a role model not just for women,” says Cedric Coco of Lowe’s, “but for anyone who’s trying to grow a business and be relevant to the community.”
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