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Ken Smikle

Publisher and entrepreneur Kenneth Albert Smikle was born on January 3, 1952, in Harlem, New York, to Mary Alice Dobbins Smikle and Dr. Kenneth Raymond Smikle, a college dean. Smikle attended Harlem’s P.S. 123 (Mahalia Jackson School), R.A. Vanwyck Junior High School, and graduated from Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bay Side, Queens, in 1970. Smikle, who played jazz trombone and wanted to arrange music, attended Queensborough Community College, CUNY’s York College, and Queens College where he took radio and television classes and edited the Black Eyed Journal.

In 1974, Smikle, his brother, Dawoud Bey, and Gerald Gladney started Spirit magazine, and in 1975, they started an arts publication called Easy, which ran until 1978. Smikle joined Harlem’s Amsterdam News as arts editor from 1978 to 1980. In 1983, Smikle wrote for Essence magazine and The National Leader, and in 1984, he joined Black Enterprise serving as senior editor. Moving to Chicago, Smikle founded Target Market News in 1988 where he was editor and publisher. Target Market News is considered one of the leading authorities on marketing, advertising and media directed to the African American market. Smikle appeared on CNN, CNBC, CBS News, NBC's Today Show, ABC's World News Tonight, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Marketplace and numerous other television and radio programs. Smikle was frequently quoted in Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Advertising Age, Publishers Weekly and other leading periodicals. In 1991, Smikle co-founded the African American Marketing and Media Association. Smikle was also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

As a speaker, Smikle addressed the Democratic Caucus Conference of the U.S. House of Representatives; employees of Nike, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker Oats; and organizations like the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Greater Miami Advertising Federation, the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the National Alliance of Market Developers, the United Way and the American Booksellers Association.

At the time of his HistoryMakers interview, Smikle lived in Chicago with his wife, Renee Ferguson, an investigative reporter at WMAQ-TV, and son, Jason.

Ken Smikle passed away on September 12, 2018.

Smikle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 15, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.174

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/15/2006

Last Name

Smikle

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Benjamin N. Cardozo High School

P.S. 123

R.A. Vanwyck Junior High School

J.H.S. 217 Robert A. Van Wyck

Queens College, City University of New York

York College, City University of New York

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ken

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SMI15

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana, Paris, France

Favorite Quote

It Is Your World. I'm Just Waiting For Instructions.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/3/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Salmon, Pasta

Death Date

9/12/2018

Short Description

Marketing chief executive Ken Smikle (1952 - 2018 ) founded Target Market News and co-founded the African American Marketing and Media Association.

Employment

Target Market News

Black Enterprise Magazine

National Leader

Communications Excellence for Black Audiences

World Records

Amsterdam News

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ken Smikle's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle talks about his maternal family's oral traditions

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle describes his mother's community in West Point, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle recalls his mother's stories about her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle talks about his maternal family's migration from West Point, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ken Smikle remembers his mother's commitment to parenthood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle talks about his paternal family's roots in Jamaica and West Africa

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle describes his paternal family's move to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle describes his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle recalls his father's dreams and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ken Smilke recalls moving with his family to Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ken Smilke describes the origin of his childhood nickname

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle describes the tradition of nicknames in his family

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle talks about his family's cars

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle remembers the residents of the Baisley Pond Park neighborhood of Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle describes Calvary Baptist Church in Jamaica, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle remembers his favorite television shows

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle recalls attending P.S. 123 in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle talks about school integration in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle describes his favorite subjects and teachers

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle describes his father's experience with racism

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle remembers the assassinations of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle talks about comedy styles of Bill Cosby and Redd Foxx

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle remembers famous residents of Queens, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle describes his favorite jazz musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle lists the music and reading material in his childhood home

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle recalls early interest in journalism

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle talks about his social activities at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Queens, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle remembers the student activism at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Queens, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle recalls lessons from the activists at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle describes his high school graduation

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle recalls his transfer from York College to Queen College in Queens, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle remembers studying journalism at Queens College

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle talks about the founding of Spirit magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle talks about the transition to Easy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle remembers joining the staff of the Amsterdam News

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle talks about the history of the Amsterdam News

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle describes the operations of the Amsterdam News

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle describes his experiences on the staff of the Amsterdam News

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle remembers the influence of the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle reflects upon the legacy of Easy magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle talks about how he came to join the staff of Black Enterprise, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle describes the mentorship of Terrie Williams

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle recalls following Terrie Williams to Essence magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ken Smikle talks about how he came to join the staff of Black Enterprise, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle recalls his start at Black Enterprise

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle remembers writing for Black Enterprise

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle recalls the need for a trade publication about the black media industry

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle talks about the founding of Target Market News

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle recalls the need for African American market research

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle describes the growth of Target Market News

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle talks about the digital divide in the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle talks about the Target Market News journal

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle describes the importance of consumer responsibility

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle talks about his role in professional organizations

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle talks about the importance of black professional organizations

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ken Smikle describes his consumer research publications

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ken Smikle talks about the contributors to the Black Issues Book Review

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ken Smikle describes his plans for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Ken Smikle describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Ken Smikle reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Ken Smikle reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Ken Smikle talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Ken Smikle narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$8

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
Ken Smikle recalls early interest in journalism
Ken Smikle talks about the Target Market News journal
Transcript
But I was more of a periodical reader. I loved magazines. I liked the newspapers a lot. And, and my main periodical--the periodical that we read the most, we read car magazines 'cause that was a whole other thing coming from my art background. At one point I really wanted to be a car designer. I wanted to go to Detroit [Michigan] and do design, was trying to enter the Fisher Body [Fisher Body Corporation] competition where if you were gonna be a car designer, you--that was like entree. And went from like car and music magazines into Downbeat and what else. Now my brother [HistoryMaker Dawoud Bey], who is the more po- he was the, the political consciousness of the family. He was very active in knowing about the social movements, the Black Panther Party, the Operation Breadbasket, the Young Lords, all of those kinds of things. And then we had things like Ramparts magazine in the house, the Black Panther Party newspaper. You know, we, we--he--we went out and bought that stuff. But he did most of the buying on the political stuff and I did most of the buying on the arts and the music, and--but we shared an equal love for that. And all of these things just kind of came together in who we became and what we do. I--I'm trying to remember what if--I didn't have favorites so much but it was ab- always about inventing something, creating something. In high school [Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, Queens, New York], I remember, I was working on a student newspaper, but one of the reasons I was--I asked to work--in fact I went about it in an unconventional way. All the slots were taken, you know, if you wanted to submit an article or whatever that was fine, but I actually wanted to get on the paper and learn the process and all of that. And it was an integrated--there was one black girl who was on the--Linda [ph.], what was Linda's last name--who was on the student newspaper in high school called The Verdict, Benjamin Cardozo being the judge, [U.S.] Supreme Court justice. And, and that was it in terms of black presence on the paper. So I had two ideas, one I wanted to started my own student newspaper, it was gonna be music oriented and I remember I was gonna call it Fourth Track [ph.], which would take, you know, four different types of music. And I started doing interviews with musicians. You know, I would--you know, I had a little card catalog of all the music companies and the artists and all of that at home. And then I was calling and saying, "I write for the school newspaper I wanna know if I could get a copy of So and So album," you know, so I could start getting records. I worked in a record store, the record department in Mays department store [J.W. Mays Inc.] when I was about seventeen and was around a bunch of guys that loved jazz and a lot of different stuff, you know, there. So it was always a music connection in whatever it was I was doing at the time. And then sort of combined that love with a growing love for publishing and wanted to, you know, at some point I wanna do my own magazine. Then got deeper when the Black Arts Movement really started taking off in the late--mid late--mid and late '70s [1970s]. We got all up in the middle of that.$$Mid to late '60s [1960s] actually in high school yeah, yeah.$$Yeah, mid right, yeah, yeah.$$That's when it starts, and you're in high school when Third World Press [Chicago, Illinois] is founded and like--when Drum and Spear [Drum and Spear Press, Washington, D.C.] and all the other black presses are (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right, graduated 1970 and right before all of that. Yeah all that stuff was, right, taking off.$$It was taking off, yeah.$$Exactly, exactly. Yeah right. And we were buying poetry, buying Don L. Lee [HistoryMaker Haki Madhubuti], buying LeRoi Jones--$$Baraka probably.$$Baraka [Amiri Baraka] to be later. And yeah that swing from music, I remember Frank Kofsky wrote a book called 'Black Mus-' ah man, it was a--it was like one of the first books to look at black liberation struggle and jazz in--in similar context. The influence or how one mirrored the other or how they both mirrored a social movement at the time and things like that. You know, these, these were like our touchstones. These were the things that got us all riled up and gave us something to talk about with each other as, as a bunch of aficionados. And so the, the--where was I going, I was trying to remember last thing--$$Well, we were talking about the news- the newspaper you wanted to start in context of that I think.$$You, yeah, wanted to start. I remember once we got--when I got into college, graduated in '70 [1970] and then went to York College [Jamaica, New York].$So all that informa- all that information that was available just reinforced for me the idea about how important doing all of this was. I mean from being at Black Enterprise I got a real strong appreciation for how important the nuts and bolts information about business, about money, about who we are in measured ways in society, how important that information is to get out to people as a way to effect change. And so media is the way that you get that message out. So I continue to be enthusiastic about media and--and especially print, but also the Internet. I mean those are still the two most accessible forms of distributing information. And now, perhaps, the best way to get out specialized information in a cost effective business model that has a--at least the opportunity to be profitable. So I--I'm, I'm still very much dedicated to both of those things, print communications and the Internet as a means of communications as well. But obviously, the one thing you can do with the Internet you can't do with print is to create whole communities where people interact with each other on the basis of their shared interest, their mutual concerns about issues, and their mutual goals and aspirations and learning from each other how to get there. And that's what is happening now in the evolution of Target Market News or at least how Target Market News serves a larger purpose. I mean yes, the original idea on this was always to find a way to make money by providing information. But I'm, I'm--at this stage of my life I really want to see how that information can be packaged, amplified, distributed so that it spurs people to action. And I've had some examples of late of how that might be possible because there's a dialogue that is not going on that I think would make all the difference in the world for us in how we are perceived in political circles and in business circles. And that is the dialogue between us and those with whom we want to do business directly with, nothing filtering it. I try to now find more imaginative ways to encourage people to write to companies. To write letters, write emails, place phone calls to those that you already do business with. You know, if you have a favorite brand of breakfast food or if you have a favorite health and beauty aid, you know, whether it's shaving cream or perfume or whatever, something that you have spent thousands of dollars on over the last years--last few years, the question is what has that company given back to you in return. Well yeah, you got the product, but money doesn't work like that. Money is the glue of a relationship and relationships are about more than just money. It's like where are you go--where is this relationship going. You know, it's like, okay, buying a product and giving you money is a date, but are we ever going to get married and get serious and build something here. So that's the mindset I'm trying to get black consumers to come to about what they do with this information.