The core of Amandla’s discussion about cultural appropriation had barely settled on America’s consciousness, much less our subconsciousness before this happened…..
and then swiftly this happened.
This “conversation” between 16 year old Stenberg and the now 18 year old Jenner caused a huge uproar. Immediately Amandla not only was accused of being a race baiter and of being the stereotypical “angry black girl” she also became Andy Cohen’s “jackhole of the day” for her counter of Kylie’s cornrows. Many people were astounded that this situation was all about hair. Anyone should be allowed to wear their hair in any fashion they want. Even the styles that have been traditionally worn by black women and girls for decades. The styles that have been worn traditionally by black women and girls for decades, primarily for function, secondarily for fashion. The styles didn’t seem to be on anyones radar or worthy of praise until Miley,or Iggy, Kendall Jenner started wearing them.
When Amandla Stenberg called out Kylie Jenner’s cultural appropriation many came to her defense. Cries of: shes young (she had allegedly been in a relationship with a now 25 year old man since she was 16), “shes just trying to figure it out” the words of Justin Bieber, and that shes can do whatever she wants flooded the interwebs as the dispute between the girls became the highest trending hashtag.
I agree everyone should be allowed to wear their hair the way they want. A London boy in 2011 shouldn’t have been sent home because his cornrows were believed to be too closely associated with London’s gang culture. White children were also prevented from shaving their heads for fear of its association to skinheads.
7 year old Tiana Parker should not have had to leave school because of her hair in 2013. She had attended her school for a year before her dreadlocks caused an issue.12 year old Vanessa VanDyke should not have been threatened with expulsion for wearing her hair in the natural form that grew out of her head.
A Native American boy, 5 years old, was sent home on his first day of kindergarten because his traditional braids did not meet the required dress code for little boys.
Okay…clearly the issue also lies in the school dress code policies. Policies that seem to make it very difficult for children of color or of other cultures
to wear their hair in anyway that is different from their straight haired counterparts. So no, Amandla’s comment was not a jab at Kylie but instead were the actions of a young woman trying to inform a privileged, young, soon to be adult celebrity with a massive fan base of impresionable individuals, to not be so careless and ignorant to the value that has historically been placed on hair and hairstyles by other cultures. It is possible to appreciate that culture without appropriating it.
After these events I imagine that amandla would have had one last question:
What would America be like if we, as a society, defended the freedom of children of any and all color to be who they are the same way we defend young girls/women, like Kylie Jenner, to do what they want?
Vanessa was featured on the real 11/13/2015 and her Afro still looks amazing.
Isn’t it fucked up that when people talk about Americans the default is that they are white; i.e. Americans that migrated from Europe, while all other ethnicities get a special name: ”Afro-Americans”, “Latin-Americans”, “Asian-Americans”, and FFS “Native-Americans”?
From now on, when referring to white Americans, I am using Euro-Americans.
First, my main character came from a neglectful facility, where her hair became very matted and tangled, and her adoptive family cleaned and braided it. So her braids become associated with healing, nurturing love and chosen family. Is this an appropriate use of her hair in the story? Are there pitfalls I should be careful of?
Second, I’m looking for advice on other characters touching her hair. Should I be careful about having close friends, family and love interests touch her hair? Does it matter whether those people are Black or White? Or is it fine so long as it’s an appropriate to the relationship (mischievous sister pulling it, father patting it, lover stroking it, etc) as opposed to coming from a creepy stranger?
I don’t see a problem with this, as you’re giving braids a positive association. Remember her hair doesn’t need to be braided in order to be positively associated, though, and just having clean hair is enough. But I’m just throwing that out there; it’d be a bit of a reach to pull a negative association out of her getting braids after this situation. It doesn’t need to be bigger than it is.
Do consider her head would likely be tender and fragile after that much neglect, so braids aren’t the best option to jump right into as it would likely lead to breakage, especially on the weaker edges. Perhaps there’s a rest given before she gets her hair braided, or it’s braided very gently.
Idea: You could also focus on her hair being properly washed with natural hair-friendly shampoo/conditioner or cleaning conditioner (i assume at this neglectful facility, if she had shampoo it was some cheap kind or chemical-laden one that damages Black hair) and detangled, deep conditioned, moisturized…overall just being cared for properly. Again just ideas of some of the things that might go into her hair being cared for. I’m glad you’re showing aspects of her hair being cared for, and It doesn’t necessarily all need to be on-stage.
As for having others touch her hair, it would depend on the character on what she accepts or not. It’s more about trust and the established relationship as you said.
I’m definitely in on avoiding having strangers or rather anyone she’s not close to sticking their hands in her hair unchecked, but that goes for closer relationships as well.
Having a little sister pull it would likely be annoying regardless, but if she’s sensitive it might be a bigger deal. That’s something you’ll want to work out in her character.
A lover stroking it, father patting it, are all loving things that she may allow the other party because it’s affectionate and they’re close vs. an evasive act of curiosity or entitlement.
Lesya has more on positive braiding symbolism!
A similar concept exists in the Native-written ballet Going Home Star, which is about two modern Natives reconciling the residential school system. The main characters end up journeying through the past to expose what happened in residential schools (the male main character as a survivor of the schools and ran away, but faces the possibility he could have easily been killed; the female main character is a Native disenfranchised from her identity who reconnects) and explore their historical culture, even though they had lost it in modern day.
After they’ve exposed the depths of the wounds that occurred in residential schools, they are finally able to start rebuilding. The visual symbol of this rebuilding is her braiding his hair. Considering one of the first things residential schools did to Native children was to cut their braids (and one of the flashbacks to the residential school showed a girl getting her hair shorn), this was an incredibly meaningful gesture.
You might want to consider this type of care and trust, with what Colette said. Braids are involved, intimate and extremely culturally bound, so an arc off healing and reconnecting wouldn’t be out of place at all. It would probably be quite cathartic for the Black character, and probably Black readers— I know I sobbed my eyes out, seeing myself reflected back and being given so much hope I could still find my culture even after losing it generations ago.
Aside from my mindset, my identity is complex, therefore I write about my Afro-Latino, queer self to express my progress in discovering what can be reconditioned, or what can be refuged from the wash. A perspective process of what it means to be a Caribbean product with an American stamp on your tongue.
“Using DNA extracted from Inca mummies together with older remains found in Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile, Mexico and the Argentinian Pampas, the researchers were able to build up a picture of how the early American’s spread through the continent.
They then compared them to the genomes from modern Native American populations, but were unable to find any of these ancient DNA sequences in the modern lineages. This suggests the indigenous populations in South and Central America suffered a devastating collapse that led to almost none of their genetic material surviving today.
The study also allowed the researchers to reconstruct where the first American populations may have originated from. Some recent research has found evidence of Asian and Australian DNA in Amazonian tribes and suggested they may have been among the original colonists of the continent.
But the new study traced the DNA found in the mummies and skeletons to a group of people who became isolated in eastern Beringia up to 25,000 years ago."
"Dr Bastien Llamas, a senior research associate with the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA who led the study, said: ‘Surprisingly, none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations.
'The only scenario that fit our observations was that shortly after the initial colonisation, populations were established that subsequently stayed geographically isolated from one another, and that a major portion of these populations later became extinct following European contact.”
I feel like I’m morally obliged to condemn smoking – what with
the weird unicorn commercials and whatnot trying to deter teen smoking.
However, I find them far more horrifying than the prospect of smoking, so I don’t
know what their aim is. I digress – the uses of cigarettes in the craft are
many. This is a guide to how I use cigarettes in my craft, to be adapted by my
fellow smokers out there however you see fit.
Many entities (especially those of the Afro-Caribbean – and some
Native American, I understand – faiths) accept cigarettes, cigars and varying
tobacco products as offerings. In this regard, it is best to follow tradition
or intuition. Some Spirits/Deities are particular – favoring cigars over
cigarettes, vice versa, or other smoking methods such as pipes – and which you
should use is reliant on what you know of the spirit in question or what you feel the spirit will enjoy. Another
handy note, I think is that other herbs can easily be added to cigarettes
(already rolled or otherwise) to render and lovely aromatic or flavorful blend.
I, particularly, have a fondness for blending rose, cinnamon and cocoa with the
loosened tobacco and then packing it back into the tube. They’re lovely to
smoke, but also make great offerings (I’ve found) to Pomba Gira. It’s very much
a matter of taste – both personal and that of the spirit.
Many spells call for something belonging to your intended
target – cigarette butts are particularly suited to such, as they must be
discarded after use, already imbued with the thoughts (and saliva) of he/she
smoking it. Simply lift the butt from an ashtray at your convenience and voila!
Personal affect. And with bodily fluid, nonetheless! One of the strongest
personal affects and easily the most difficult to ascertain.
This is what I use cigarettes for most often – a means by
which to channel my intention into a physical medium. It’s merely a matter of
lighting the cigarette and using the smoke to charge something. Admittedly, I
very rarely use incantations in my practice, but when I do, rest assured there
is always a cigarette hanging on my lips. Every part of the cigarette can be
used, nonetheless! The smoke is exhaled as an expression of your will and might
charge an object or diffuse into the air. The ashes might be collected and
added to any number of powders or herb blends or oils. The butts make nice
additions to things like witches bottles – especially in great numbers as the
tar will set up into this disgusting, gelatinous ooze (most probably what my
lungs look like: best not to think about it too much). I usually use them for
chanting or mantras as well, as I simply continue repeating the phrase or
mantra until I run out of smoke.
This brings us back to something I mentioned in the first
point, that smokes can be personalized – and while no longer technically a “cigarette”
they are quite effective for things like trance work or influencing your own
energy. Needless to say, I advise refraining from adding poisonous herbs to
your blends… considering. However, I have been known to smoke wormwood, though
I wouldn’t classify it as poisonous, per se… Obviously, check the rap sheet of
any herb before ingestion/inhalation. And then do so at your own accord –
though I can say, I’ve never had any unpleasant side effects. Wormwood, mugwort
and mullein are my personal favorites for spirit work. Rose, cocoa and cinnamon
for works with PG or just for my own enjoyment – in fact, cocoa and tobacco
have a long history
together. Of course, we could also talk about marijuana – which can be
added, though I’ve never been particularly invested. It does nothing spiritual
for me, but I understand it does for some, so more power to you – it might be
helpful for trance work, but I just use an ordinary cigarette for that most
times. WARNING: While in trance, don’t
forget to ash, otherwise you’ll come out wearing an entire cigarette. Trust me.
Jecilia Negrón || is a Milwaukee based Latina artist. “My current body of work honors our wombyn of color and the raw vibrancy we radiate. Connecting my Afro-Latino, Mexicana, + Native American decent and mixing it with the culture that I interact and help create today such as Hip-hop + fashion. This body of work helps me stay rooted and connected with self and my ancestors.”
• top: "Viva la mujer" | acrylic | inspired by aliifuerza earrings
• bottom left: "In the wind" | mixed media | acrylic + watercolor