Multiply Into Many

[Today’s post is based off the Zero to Hero Challenge, Day 16 “Make a Prompt Personal.”  Since I wasn’t inspired by the actual Daily Prompt for the day I will use the example given in the Zero to Hero article which is, Two plus two equals four: yes or no? I will develop a personal interpretation of this prompt and create my post based off my blog’s theme.]

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When I read this prompt, my thoughts immediately went towards the concept of how an idea can multiply and become normalized once one or two people believe it, start to promote it, and influence others.  Their ideas go from two people believing it, to four, six, eight, ten…until it becomes a part of our cultural fabric.  Depending on the goal of those ideas, it can have either a positive or a negative outcome.

Part of why I started the blog Honoring Our HAIRitage was to fight against the idea that African American’s hair texture was ugly, unsightly, unmanageable, and somehow wrong.  I chose the name to counter those ideas and instead honor our natural textures.  Those negative ideas about African textured hair started many years ago and spread by those with influence to become the predominate opinion of today.  They started out with a small group of people, which multiplied into many.  This was done in a variety of ways.  A historical quote by Martin Freeman in an 1859 article in the Anglo-African Magazine gives one such example based off the socialization process of young children:

“The child is taught directly or indirectly that he or she is pretty, just in proportion as the features approximate the Anglo-Saxon standard.  Hence…kinky hair must be subjected to a straightening process-oiled, and pulled, twisted up, tied down, sleeked over and pressed under, or cut off so short that it can’t curl, sometimes the natural hair is shaved off and it’s place supplied by a straight wig.”

Things have not changed much since 1859.  Freeman made this quote with the individual in mind, but it also takes structural racism to create ideas that weave themselves into the fabric of our culture and become normalized.  Examples of structural racism include hair discrimination in the workplace, school systems, and most recently in the military, which labels African textured hair as “unprofessional,” “against the dress code,” or “a safety hazard.”

Overcoming internalized oppression and structural racism can be hard to do.  However, William J. Wilson, gives us a way to triumph over them by writing in the 1853, Frederick Douglass’ Paper:

“We must begin to tell our own story, write our own lecture, paint our own picture, chisel our own bust, acknowledge, and love our own peculiarities.”

Honoring Our HAIRitage is my platform to tell our own story, re-frame those negative messages, and spread a more positive affirming understanding of African American beauty by starting with understanding our history.  I want other women and men of color to know that you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are perfect, just the way you are!  We can start with just a few of us, and together, multiply into many.

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Lupita Nyong’o and Black Beauty

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People magazine has just named Lupita Nyong’o as #1 on the “50 Most Beautiful” list!

I am thrilled that an African woman AND a woman with natural hair, makes this list!  Lupita has been outspoken about her journey towards accepting and loving her natural beauty and the challenges she faced growing up in a world that defined beauty as light skin and long straight hair.  Lupita is not just amazingly beautiful, she has enchanted us with her grace and courage.  I am proud of Lupita for her bravery and honesty in sharing her experiences.

Having a woman of color on People’s 50 Most Beautiful list, let alone being acknowledged in a popular mainstream magazine does not happen often.  Since 1990, there have only been two African American women (Halle Berry in 2003, and Beyonce Knowles in 2012) who have made the #1 spot on the list.  Magazine covers and other major media outlets play a huge role in influencing how we all think about beauty and what beauty looks like.  Traditionally, those same major media outlets have not recognized African American women’s beauty.  My hope is that People magazine continues to recognize women of color for their beauty, talents & compassion and use their massive platform to contribute to redefining beauty standards.

Congratulations to Lupita Nyong’o!

Photo by Lanigirod Photograhy

Photo by Lanigirod Photos

 

Source: The above drawing is provided by Lanigirod Photos.  He is available for commissioned work and is able to create using almost any medium of art requested from graphic design to visual artwork to photography to videography.  He’s amazing and also created by blog’s banner.

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Essence Magazine and Ads for Natural Hair Products

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Essence Magazine did an amazing thing for their May 2014 cover!  Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, and Ledisi all make the cover rocking their natural tresses!  This is groundbreaking for the natural hair movement since no other magazine has featured three different women with natural hair on their cover (Honorable Mention: Oprah featured herself in a huge Afro extension on the cover of her September 2013 issue).  I was so inspired I had to not only buy this edition, but renew my subscription as well!

Each of the amazing cover models took turns writing their own articles and shared their hair story and personal journeys to become the amazing women they are today.  The story that resonated with me the most though was Solange’s.  I appreciated how she encouraged women to be confident and celebrate themselves.  She touches on how many women “apologize for being confident,” because we think it is a form of ego when in reality it is a positive aspect of ourselves.  I think it is especially important for women who are natural to be confident since we can get negative responses for simply being who we are naturally.  Solange writes that, “We shouldn’t be pigeonholed into any one category,” and “We cannot be articulated into one Black woman.  It’s impossible.”  She is absolutely right!  We are diverse and unique and that is a beautiful thing.  We all should be proud of our individuality; it is what makes us who we are.

Now let’s Honor Our HAIRitage and talk about history…As I looked  through the magazine, preparing to write this post, I couldn’t help but notice the many natural haired models and print ads for natural hair care products.  I was very surprised and impressed.  This inspired me to write more about the new trend for natural hair care products and the marketing language used to sell them.

In the May 2013 issue of Essence, I counted six ads for natural hair care products, which is more than most publications.  They included Carol’s Daughter, Cantu Shea Butter, Kinky Curly, Pantene Pro-V Truly Natural, Dark and Lovely Au Naturale, and Design Essentials.  These are just a few of the many products that are now available for today’s naturalista.  This makes sense as manufactures are always looking for the next fashion trend to latch onto and make a profit.  What interests me though is the language and phrases that are used in today’s marketing for Black hair care products and how it relates to what was used in the past.

Noliwe M. Rooks writes in her book “Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women,” about the various ways in which hair care products were marketed to African Americans throughout history and how those messages have influenced ideas about Black hair and its value.  She cites many examples of how white-owned companies at the turn of the century, created ads for products by using degrading images, and insulting language to market their products to African American women.  Once such example came from a 1905 ad for Curl-I-Cure: A Cure for Curls, advertised in the Richmond Planet.  The text reads:

“You owe it to yourself, as well as to others who are interested in you, to make yourself as attractive as possible.  Attractiveness will contribute much to your success-both socially and commercially.  Positively nothing detracts so much from your appearance as short, matted, un-attractive, curly hair.”

This language clearly frames African textured hair (curly) as ugly and something to be changed in order for African American’s to advance “both socially and commercially.”  It also implies that we must not only look a certain way for ourselves, but for others as well, who must not see us with our natural hair texture.  This ad speaks to a white ideal that requires ridding oneself of any features that are reminiscent of an African ancestry because it is “un-attractive.”

These types of ads were very common during this time, but there were also advertisements that had positive messages about African textured hair.  Not surprisingly, many of those ads were created by African American businesswomen who created their own hair care products for their communities.  Madam C.J. Walker is an excellent example of how African American women sought not to ridicule other African Americans, but to present a different message that was focused more on health, hair growth, and hygiene.

What you see in today’s natural hair advertisements, is this same attempt to reframe the context of African textured hair from a negative to a positive.  Looking back at the May issue of Essence, I noticed that none of the ads gave references to African textured hair as ugly or unattractive.  Instead, they encouraged the enhancement of your curls instead of straightening them.  By focusing on healthy hair, preventing hair breakage, and hair growth, each ad evokes the same tactics that were used by Madame C.J. Walker and the many other African American businesswomen of her time.  Check out a commercial for Au Naturale and see if you notice the same messages.

Essence magazine has a long history of supporting natural hair.  When they first began in the early 70’s they only featured models with cornrows or Afro’s which was fitting for that time.  Today, they feature photo galleries of women with natural hair at events and even have a section devoted to the Natural Hair Revolution on their website.  They have also covered natural hair celebrities and was one of the first magazines to announce Solange’s dramatic big chop.  They also featured Viola Davis on the cover of the October 2013 issue where she talks about how she started to accept her natural beauty.

I am so happy that Essence is at the forefront of this movement.  For African American women, Essence magazine is one of a few major magazines that celebrate our beauty, culture, heritage, and values.  We look to Essence as our guide for how to live our lives and be our best selves.  That is why I’m glad they are becoming a true leader in the natural hair movement.

Go pick up your own issue of Essence magazine while they are still on newsstands!

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Check out my new look!

I started this blog just two months ago and already it has been an enjoyable, challenging, and fulfilling experience!  I’ve learned more about myself and re-evaluated why I wanted to blog in the first place.  I’ve even joined the Zero to Hero Challenge to sharpen my skills.  There have been weeks were I’ve been too busy to blog and weeks where I can’t think about anything else but blogging.  When I’m obsessed with it, I think about all the various ways I can improve my blog.  I ask myself: do the pages look good, are my posts enjoyable and informative, am I keeping current, is any of this making a difference?!

One of the major things I’ve been thinking about is the total look and feel of the blog.  I’ve always been an organized person and very visual.  I tried to carry that over into my blog by making it streamlined and easy to navigate.  I want my readers to easily find the information they are looking, not be too distracted, and of course enjoy themselves and learn something new!  I also wanted my own brand: a signature look that was the perfect representation of Honoring Our HAIRitage.

Oddly enough, about a month ago I was in a chat room for the Underground Railroad radio show on WBAI hosted by Jay Smooth, and chatted with a guy who mentioned he does graphic design.  We exchanged information, and many emails later, I have my own banner!  I have to say that I really love it!  It is the perfect combination of elegant and modern.  The beautiful image of a woman with big natural hair represents my blog’s focus and the classic colors will never go out of style.  The text is soft but not too bold or unnoticeable.  I am very happy with the results!

I have to shout out my graphic designer, Langirod, who created my banner!  Thank you for your hard work and patience!  Check out his work here: http://lanigirodphotos.tumblr.com/

I’m not sure what I’ll think of next to make my blog better, but I hope you all like it nonetheless.  I’d love to hear from you, my readers!  Let me know what you think about my banner.

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Natural Hair Event! International Natural Hair Meet Up Day

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Join the Columbus Naturalista’s as we host our third annual International Natural Hair Meet Up Day event on May 17, 2014 at Long Street Studios in Columbus, Ohio!

We will have a panel discussion with natural hair experts, live entertainment by Mr. Tye Davis, a product swap, Swag Bags for the first 50 registrants, and a hair showcase featuring models with natural hair styles designed by Margie Brown (my sister!)!

We give back to the community!  If you bring any unused hair care items to the event, we will donate it to Choices which is a domestic violence shelter for women in crisis.  You will also receive 2 additional raffle tickets to take part in our giveaway.

This event will be fabulous and you don’t want to miss it.

Register here: www.columbusohinhmd.eventbrite.com

I hope to see you there!

Peace~JL

#inhmd

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My First Afro Pick!

The other day I was at Sally’s Beauty Supply Store with my Mom and sister Margie picking up a few essentials.  I needed a new wide-tooth comb because mine broke (NO, not because my hair is thick as hell, it was just old).  As I looked around the aisle for a new comb, I ran across the most amazing Afro pick!  It was black with a fist on the handle and had a peace sign in the middle.  I had to have it!  The pick is made by Antonio’s Manufacturing and made in the U.S.A.  The label on the packaging calls this comb a “Styling Pik,” instead of an Afro pick.  Antonio’s Manufacturing website says they make products specially designed for natural hair styling.

This is my first Afro pick and I was actually pretty excited to use it, as lame as that sounds.  I really love the fist on the handle.  This is obviously a representation of the famous black power fist that was made popular by the Black Power Movement, political figures like Angela Davis, and Tommie Smith & John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, as well as many other prominent African American leaders of the civil rights movement.

I also love the peace sign in the middle which to me shows the link between demanding political, social, and economic equality for African Americans and its connection to peace and justice.  On the products website it says, “This Pik features powerful symbols of the 1970’s era: a clenched black fist representing pride, strength, and self-determination and the anti-war peace symbol.”

The website also names Antonio’s Manufacturing founder Anthony R. Romani as the inventor of an Afro Rake Comb called the “Cake Cutter,” which he mass-produced during the 70’s.  The afro pick however, according to the book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, was invented and first mass-produced by Willie Lee Morrow who also created the Jheri Curl.

And just in case your reading this thinking, ‘it’s just an Afro pick!’  I actually agree with you and think that the makers of this pick most likely made it this way a long time ago when the Afro and it’s political connections were popular, and just kept the same design over the years even after the civil rights movement lost momentum.  It obviously appeals to a certain aesthetic and people who may have had some personal connections with the civil rights movement, Black Pride, natural hair, or whatever.  The goal here, just like any other product, is to sell it and make money off it.  I get it and I still bought it!

Anyways, the pick actually worked really well to lift my twist-out and give it some body.  I am not sure why I haven’t used an Afro pick before, but now it is my go-to tool for giving my hair some height!  Do you use an Afro pick?

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