Warsan Shire, 24, has just become London’s first ever Young Poet Laureate. The Kenyan-born Somali poet writes about both English and African culture, exploring war, sex, culture, love, and everything in between with a great depth and sensitivity. She expresses her worldview with an honest vulnerability that most would shy away from. Her first book of poems, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, was published in 2011. She has a BA in creative writing and even teaches workshops on using poetry to heal trauma – and she’s not even halfway through her 20s yet. Warsan was chosen from six young finalists, and she will now undertake a residency at the Houses of Parliament and spend the next year creating work that reflects on London. Carol Ann Duffy, London’s current poet laureate, announced Warsan as the winner as part of National Poetry Day. Her willingness to be candid and speak her truth in her work is something we could all stand to learn from. ”It is our vision for east London to be a thriving cultural district,” said chief executive Dennis Hone, “and Warsan as the first Young Poet Laureate for London will play a key part in that transformation.” Congratulations! [BBC; Well & Often; Warsan Shire]
What kind of racist bullshit is this?! A charter school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent a seven-year-old Black girl named Tiana Parker home from school because her dreadlocks were considered “unacceptable.”
But dreads aren’t the only hairstyle that’s not A-OK with Deborah Brown Community School: according to Raw Story, the school policy states that “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” Keep reading »
For the last several years, natural hair “trends” have been on the rise for African-American and other women in the U.S. Just last week, Oprah graced the cover of O Magazine donning an enormous Afro, much bigger than the one she wore in the late ’70s when she first started on primetime. Oprah’s gesture pays tribute to the millions of women who have tossed relaxers and weaves to the side and embraced their own hair — their natural hair.
As I wrote last spring, women of African decent, and some others too, sometimes use a product called a perm to make their hair “more manageable.” These began as a trend in the 1920s so blacks (both men and women) could more readily assimilate into white culture and evade the detriments of racism. If you’ve ever read or watched The Autobiography of Malcolm X, you’ll remember the scene in which he dunked his head in a toilet bowl to find reprieve from the smoldering “conk” (what a perm used to be called) he was using to straighten his hair.
Oprah’s hair was a wig designed by lock guru Andre Walker but the idea of it still persists – Afros, and other natural hairstyles are here to stay … or are they? Keep reading »
The film industry is one that desperately lacks female influence, so Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ election as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a particularly cool victory. In its 86-year history, the Academy has only had two other female presidents — the most recent being almost 30 years ago. Cheryl Boone Isaacs is also the first ever African-American president for the Academy. Keep reading »
American student Gabrielle Turnquest was recently called to the Bar of England and Wales after passing her Bar exams. This is a great achievement for anyone, but Turnquest happens to be a little more impressive than the average person to pass the Bar exams. She just happens to be 18 years old, making her the youngest person to be called to the Bar of England and Wales in its 600-year existence. Keep reading »
UPDATE, 4:45p.m.: Via Jezebel, Horizon Science Academy has posted an apology on their web site and said it will “correct the information” in its dress code, as well as send out an updated version. [HorizonLorain.org]
School dress codes are generally a great thing for kids. The mission statement of the new dress code at The Horizon Science Academy in Lorain, Ohio is a very promising one; the goal is to decrease the pressure on students to fit in with their clothing. It diminishes socioeconomic differences between students and creates a sense of unity at school. All good ideas, but this dress code in particular has a very strange and racist stipulation: it inexplicably bans afro-puffs and small twisted braids. Keep reading »
This week, Antonia Opiah, the founder and editor of the black hair site Un-Ruly.com, launched a temporary exhibit on black hair texture. Noting that non-black people have long held a fascination with black hair, and that she’d frequently been asked by total strangers if they could touch her head, she created “Yes, You Can Touch My Hair.” For two days, she invited anyone and everyone to come to Manhattan’s Union Square for the opportunity to — with permission — touch a variety of black hair. As Antonia explained in an op-ed for Huffington Post, the “Yes, You Can Touch My Hair” exhibit was an effort to “‘take one for the team’ and further explore the tactile fascination with black hair.”
But are projects like this helping or hurting black women, whose hair has traditionally been the object of so much fascination by whites? Is it another way for our culture to objectify and fetishize black women, or is it a step in the right direction? I spoke with Deena Campbell and Nicole McGloster – the Digital Editor and Editor in Chief, respectively, of VIBE Vixen (one of our fave sites!) — to get their thoughts on the campaign and what it means for black hair and black women.
Check out our chat, after the jump. Keep reading »
One day in college, during track practice, I wore a bandanna to my work out. I was having a spectacularly bad hair day and that thin piece of printed cloth made me feel safe from criticism. My coach, who was a hard ass, wasn’t having it and ordered me to take it off immediately. I ran back to the locker room, did my best to make my mane look presentable but still, I cringed as I walked back to the track, embarrassed of what my teammates would think.
Like many black women I know, I have always had a tumultuous relationship with my hair. If it didn’t look good, I didn’t feel good and often it dictated whether I would have a good or bad day. But my own criticism of my hair wasn’t something I could have ever controlled; it was something that started with my ancestors, long before I was born. Keep reading »