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Sullivan’s Island: My Sankofa Moment

Hair seems like such a trivial topic when contrasted with the overwhelming pain that slave men, women and children endured. However, it’s important to remember that these strong men, women and children came from a culture where hair rituals were deep, rich and involved. It would have just been one more injustice to have your hair shorn or to be unable to groom yourself. The wonderful book Hair Story by Ms. Ayana Byrd and Ms. Lori Tharps, discusses how slaves were not inclined to think about their hair given the inhumane and unclean conditions in which they lived. Plus, the grooming aids slaves had used in Africa were nowhere to be found in their new environment. Thus, slaves’ hair often became tangled, matted.

During my family’s recent RV trip from Boston to Florida, we made many stops. We designed our trip so that we would have time to visit Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s Island is known as the African-American Ellis Island because it was where slaves were quarantined before they were transported to Charleston, SC (North America’s main entry port for African slaves).

When I arrived on Sullivan’s Island (specifically, Fort Moultrie, a National Parks Service museum that traces the African Passage), I began to place myself in the shoes of those slaves who would have walked on its soil just over two centuries ago. Those who know me well already know that I’m a highly sensitive person when it comes to other people’s pain. When people share their travails with me, I’ll be in tears in a matter of minutes because their pain hurts my heart. So it’s no surprise that I got weepy as soon as I began to walk through the halls of Fort Moultrie at Sullivan’s Island. If I’m honest, I wasn’t just weepy, I was crying and I was hit with a deep sadness that my ancestors experienced this AND that this history is largely overlooked, ignored or downplayed. After all, this was centuries ago right? Oh, that reflection caused me such sadness because as I look around today, it is evident that slavery still impacts our society.

As my children walked ahead of me in the arched, cavernous hallway, I imagined what it must have been like to reach American soil and then realize that you were about to be subjected to further pain, anguish, torture. That I might be looking at my children for the last time. I also realized that had I been born then, I may have been one of the shackled.

Hair seems like such a trivial topic when contrasted with the overwhelming pain that slave men, women and children endured. However, it’s important to remember that these strong men, women and children came from a culture where hair rituals were deep, rich and involved. It would have just been one more injustice to have your hair shorn or to be unable to groom yourself. The wonderful book Hair Story by Ms. Ayana Byrd and Ms. Lori Tharps, discusses how slaves were not inclined to think about their hair given the inhumane and unclean conditions in which they lived. Plus, the grooming aids slaves had used in Africa were nowhere to be found in their new environment. Thus, slaves’ hair often became tangled, matted.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how slaves, as resilient as they were, found ways to groom themselves.

Find out more about the movie Sankofa.

IMAGE:  http://images.moviepostershop.com/sankofa-movie-poster-1993-1020235232.jpg

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What We Can Learn From Chrystèle Saint-Louis Augustin

I imagine that the pressures of modelling must be overwhelming at times. It must be much easier to go with the flow and blend in with all of the other models. That is why I admire Chrystèle Saint-Louis Augustin, a French model of Caribbean descent (both of her parents are from Martinique according to information I found about her). Why do I admire Ms. Augustin? Well, among other things as the pictures illustrate, she sports a head full of coily hair. In my opinion, she ROCKS HER FRO! It could be said that Ms. Augustin’s mane is remniscent of an earlier super model, Ms. Peggy Dillard.



I imagine that the pressures of modelling must be overwhelming at times. It must be much easier to go with the flow and blend in with all of the other models. That is why I admire Chrystèle Saint-Louis Augustin, a French model of Caribbean descent (both of her parents are from Martinique according to information I found about her). Why do I admire Ms. Augustin? Well, among other things as the pictures illustrate, she sports a head full of coily hair. In my opinion, she ROCKS HER FRO! It could be said that Ms. Augustin’s mane is remniscent of an earlier super model, Ms. Peggy Dillard. Don’t know who she is? I’ll be sharing more details about her in an upcoming post.

What can Ms. Augustin teach us? Well, I’d argue that if she can make her coily and/or curly hair part of her brand, we can all think about how we can do the same. Granted, we don’t all have model looks, nor do we all work in the entertainment / fashion industries. However, perhaps we each can revisit an unstated (and sometimes stated!) assumption that straightening our tresses is a necessity if we desire to project a professional image.

TOP IMAGE: http://bit.ly/LG6u3q

BOTTOM IMAGE: http://bit.ly/NIzgwb

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MTV Does Hair

As we’ve discussed over the several months on this blog, hair matters. It affects how we feel, the image that we portray, how others receive us. It appears that we’re not the only ones who accept that hair is important. MTV is casting for an episode called “I hate my hair” on it’s show “True Life”. TRUE LIFE: I HATE MY HAIR Is your hair your obsession? Do you spend hours of your day and week to style and manage your hair? Are you digging yourself into a financial hole just to deal with your hair? Do you have unwanted hair, or not the “right” hair? Are you undergoing a procedure to alter your hair or do you go to great lengths to manage it?


As we’ve discussed over the several months on this blog, hair matters. It affects how we feel, the image that we portray, how others receive us. It appears that we’re not the only ones who accept that hair is important.

MTV is casting for an episode called “I hate my hair” on it’s show “True Life”. Here’s the casting call :

TRUE LIFE: I HATE MY HAIR
Is your hair your obsession? Do you spend hours of your day and week to style and manage your hair? Are you digging yourself into a financial hole just to deal with your hair? Do you have unwanted hair, or not the “right” hair? Are you someone with a hormone imbalance that leads to hair loss, or facial hair growth?

How does your hair affect your social life? Does your hair make you feel unattractive and affect how you interact with members of the opposite sex? Do your friends and family think you are out of control with your hair obsession? Are you undergoing a procedure to alter your hair or do you go to great lengths to manage it?

If you appear to be between the ages of 15 -28 and have hair that’s making you unhappy, email us at casting@lintonmedia.com and tell us about your story. Please include your name, location, phone number and recent photos of yourself.

I can happily say that I don’t hate my hair…I am learning to love it in all of it’s shapes (wow, still working on loving that just woke up, mashed in shape, whew!).

So, while this casting call’s not for me, I wanted to share it because: 1) some one may be interested in the casting call; 2) it strikes me as interesting that MTV is interested in this topic. A few days ago, MTV even did a casting call for women going natural (see this article on The Root). I couldn’t find the actual MTV casting for the natural hair show so I didn’t blog about it but I thought that you all might like to hear about it. What do you think? How would you like the hair stories to be portrayed? Any True Life fans out there? What do you think?

IMAGE: http://bit.ly/NmsgTC

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Barbie!

It seems that a trend is afoot. Folks are taking “regular” Barbie Dolls and turning them into coily-haired goddesses. A visit to the Mattel website, revealed only one Black doll: However, dolls like this are showing up: Can you say GORGEOUS!!!!? Wow, if only such dolls were readily available. The thing is, it sounds like the “regular” hair can be converted to coily glory with hot water and pipe cleaners. Would it really be that difficult for Mattel to figure out how to manufacture such dolls? I guess it’s going to take significant consumer demand before such adjustments are made. What do you think? Would you buy one?

It seems that a trend is afoot. Folks are taking “regular” Barbie Dolls and turning them into coily-haired goddesses. A visit to the Mattel website, revealed only one Black doll:

BARBIE® SPARKLE LIGHTS™ Mermaid Doll - Shop.Mattel.com
However, dolls like this are showing up. Can you say GORGEOUS!!!!? Wow, if only such dolls were readily available. The thing is, it sounds like the “regular” hair can be converted to coily glory with hot water and pipe cleaners (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/14/natural-hair-group-in-geo_n_1149574.html?ref=hair-beauty). Would it really be that difficult for Mattel to figure out how to manufacture such dolls? I guess it’s going to take significant consumer demand before such adjustments are made. What do you think? Would you buy one?
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Me, my head scarf and I

Yesterday, as I prepared to hit the gym, I had an interesting hair experience. I had to decide whether or not to wear a headscarf to the gym. The thing is, the gym is located at the college where I work and I often see my colleagues and students at the gym. This may seem like a small issue but I had a flurry of ambivalent thoughts. On one hand, I said to myself, “Who cares what people think? Girl, you better protect your hair! You know if you don’t wear a scarf your hair will get sweated out and you’ll have to tighten up your edges all over again.” On the other hand, “You are one of a handful of black female (or male) professors here. People already have preconceived notions why are you helping to confirm them? Why in the world are you going to walk around looking like a mammy?

(I found this image at http://www.theblackactor.com/images/2007/12/21/mammy.jpg?)

Yes, I went there. Picanniny, mammy, ghetto. These words darted into my mind before I could control the onslaught. Then, I wondered how the simple act of wearing a protective scarf had become endowed with such negative connotations. Hmm, was it because, shriek to self, white women don’t wear headscarves when they work out!!!? That is, was my aversion to headscarves because of my personal opinion or because of societal messaging that it was unacceptable because it was different from the norm? Isn’t wearing a head scarf while working out similar to wearing a swim cap when swimming (I won’t even get into the fact that I can’t find a swim cap that fits all of my dreadlocks! I need to invent that!)?
I am not saying that I would sport a head scarf to the mall, to work. Wait, I’ve seen beautiful head wraps at work so there are definitely different types of scarves. I’m realizing that my visceral response to head scarves is because they emphasize racial identity. In an environment where there are not a lot of people like me (according to the PhD Project, less than 5% of business professors are of color), I want to stand out because of my competence and sparkling personality (haha) NOT my choice of accessories. Woo-hah, self-discovery! I love when I’m writing and I gain insight into myself right on the spot. What are your thoughts about head scarves? Have you ever worn one to work? Do you wear them in public? Why or why not? How did people respond?
  • Ms. J

    Wow, I looked this up for my own reasons. YES, I wear a scarf, to Work, Shopping, wherever i chose. It’s amazing to me how people have the nerve to approach you and ask you why you doing something to or for yourself. A headscarf is just rhat it doesn’t make the person wearing it any more or less who they are. But society says things that individuals feed into. Do what comfortable for you, what works or is working for you. Right?. My job title is Utility. We do a variety of tasks. Chemicals are involved. Their sprayed around they land on your skin, get in your face hair and wherever else. In the interview i was told its not a pretty job. So therefore I dress accordingly. My hairs not long, i’d like to think it’s healthy. That’s my goal. I haven’t had perm in my hair got 2-3 years. So for me it’s braids, wug or scarf. Whatever or wherever i see fit. If your weak people could bring you to tears. Be Strong and Be You. GOD BLESS

  • Ms. J

    Wow, I looked this up for my own reasons. YES, I wear a scarf, to Work, Shopping, wherever i chose. It’s amazing to me how people have the nerve to approach you and ask you why you doing something to or for yourself. A headscarf is just rhat it doesn’t make the person wearing it any more or less who they are. But society says things that individuals feed into. Do what comfortable for you, what works or is working for you. Right?. My job title is Utility. We do a variety of tasks. Chemicals are involved. Their sprayed around they land on your skin, get in your face hair and wherever else. In the interview i was told its not a pretty job. So therefore I dress accordingly. My hairs not long, i’d like to think it’s healthy. That’s my goal. I haven’t had perm in my hair got 2-3 years. So for me it’s braids, wug or scarf. Whatever or wherever i see fit. If your weak people could bring you to tears. Be Strong and Be You. GOD BLESS

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Sex Kitten and Psyche

Black women have had to overcome the idea that they were sexually promiscuous so, in Madame C.J. Walker’s times, they behaved and dressed in ways to negate that stereotype.This was viewed as a form of racial progress and meant that Blacks experienced a tension between respectability and sexuality in advertisement. In other words, while the Black beauty industry promoted the notion that Black women were beautiful, it did not convey overly sexualized images of Black women; rather, Black women were often presented as respectable, upright citizens.


Black women have had to overcome the idea that they were sexually promiscuous so, in Madame C.J. Walker’s times, they behaved and dressed in ways to negate that stereotype.This was viewed as a form of racial progress and meant that Blacks experienced a tension between respectability and sexuality in advertisement. In other words, while the Black beauty industry promoted the notion that Black women were beautiful, it did not convey overly sexualized images of Black women; rather, Black women were often presented as respectable, upright citizens.For example, Madame CJ Walkers Wonderful Hair Grower ad showed a “Prominent Minister’s Wife” as a model in the advertisement.There has been a dramatic change:nowadays, sex sells.This presents a convergence of issues where Black women (heck, all types of women!) are often portrayed in hypersexual ways.When this is combined with the societal view that beauty equals long, straight hair, you end up with a flood of Black sex kitten imagery complete with long mane. This magazine cover drives home the point. What does such imagery do to a woman’s psyche?

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