Phyllis Coley worked in the entertainment industry in New York City for years before moving back to Durham in 1991 and starting the magazine in 2004.
By Chiara Evans
Inside her home near Rockwood Park, Phyllis Coley wakes up around 5 a.m. It’s not uncommon for her coworkers to hear from her early. As she gets ready for the day, a frayed brown piece of paper hangs on the mirror in her line of sight. It reads, “… he called on God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that you would bless me indeed. And enlarge my territory that your hand would be with me. And that you would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain.’”
“That’s what I want for Spectacular,” Phyllis says. “We’re never causing pain, that we increase our territory, and that we are a blessing to others.”
Before Spectacular Magazine, Phyllis worked in the entertainment industry as a promotions/marketing director for New York City’s WKTU-FM and as a manager for the rap group Kid ‘n Play. She later produced the TV show “The Electric Factory” when she moved back to Durham in 1991.
But as the years went on, Phyllis couldn’t disregard the biases she noticed in media coverage for Black individuals.
“When I started, I felt that African Americans were not being covered fairly or equitably,” Phyllis says. “If a Black person did anything negative, it made the front page. If they did something great and they got an award, it was in section C, page 12.”
Her dedication to sharing honest information led her to launch Spectacular Magazine in 2004. Phyllis began the “Spectacular Magazine Radio Show” in 2009 after stimulus money under President Barack Obama was distributed. She feared that she would not be able to inform her community quickly enough about the opportunity to receive those funds through her monthly publication alone. Phyllis’ featured guests included the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Dr. Sharon Elliott-Bynum and former Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall during the program’s decade-long run.
Phyllis shifted her platform online in 2016. She learned how to read analytics, clicks per minute and the differences between tags and hashtags. Two years later, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University offered her a position to teach a “Social Media for Boomers” course.
For Phyllis, making an impact does not end with storytelling. The magazine’s 26-person team also connects with the community through annual, inclusive events like the North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration – currently set to take place as an in-person event on June 19 – the MLK Black History Month Parade and Block Party, Man of the Year Awards and Woman of the Year Awards.
Looking down the road, Phyllis hopes her son and business partner, Lawrence Davis III, “continues to keep [Spectacular] moving forward and to grow it after I’m retired. And that we continue to tell the stories that make a difference.”