Monday, September 29, 2014

Is Natural Cool Enough for Black Professionals?: As A Key Area of Focus for N.I.C.E at the Florida International University (FIU) Black Professional Summit, the Answer is Definitively Yes!

On Saturday, I attended a Black Professional Summit.  I was a Panelist on an amazing Panel entitled, "What If We Were United?" and I also had a vending space where N.I.C.E. T-shirts were sold, with 10% of every purchase going to homeless organizations" and I offered my books Cultural Competency for the Health Professional (http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9781449672126/ and Cultural Competency for Health Administration and Public Health (http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763761646/) and other jewelry/craft items that I have gathered from around the world.  The Summit was well-attended (sold-out) and the attendees were excited and eager to learn about all of the various topics offered.  The Summit also had a photographer there to take Professional head shots which I thought was a great idea and I definitely took advantage of that! There was also a business Etiquette presenter and a host of other interesting and important workshops/sessions.  All of this was organized, primarily, by one young, Black woman, Kenasha Paul, a Law Student at Nova Southeastern University and the head of the Black Alumni Association at FIU, and she was sure to thank everyone who helped her in the process.  It was my first time meeting this young lady and I have to say I was impressed with her poise, calm demeanor and happy smiles throughout the day as it was clear that putting together this event was no small process.
The Natural Is Cool Enough and Rose Consulting Table all set up and ready to go!

The N.I.C.E. T-shirt!  10% of all proceeds go to Homeless Organizations.  If you would like to acquire one or more just let me know in the comments section of this post and I'll be in touch!
Two of my books:  Topic: Cultural Competency!

I am pleased to say that Natural Is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.) was front and center at this event.  I had a great deal of dialogue with young women who were at various stages of the natural hair process.

Some had experienced the big chop, others were transitioning from perm to natural hair, some were wearing locks, braids or braided extensions.  Many were were full fledged short to long term naturalistas!  There was rarely a quiet moment at the table, where I showcased the new, light blue v and crew neck t-shirts, that I will take with me to share in NYC at my presentation entitled "Getting Down to the Roots" at Columbia University soon.  Subsequently, the t-shirt, in that color, like all of the other prior colors (lavender, white, red and yellow, will be retired in the U.S.) as I move on to the next color and style.  I am so proud that Natural Is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.) is a part of this beautifully conscious movement that Black women and men are making towards their natural hair, especially as they begin to or have entered the work world because no matter where we are or what we are doing, socially and professionally, Natural IS Cool Enough.  That's N.I.C.E.!

More Florida International University Black Professional Summit Photos

Kenasha Paul, Organizer of the FIU Black Professional Summit

Panel on "What If We Were United?"

One on One Dialogue after the Panel

A Naturalista, Listening In!

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Naturalista "Quickie" on Scandal for Olivia Pope aka Julia Baker (Kerry Washington): Don't Be A Tease Shonda Rhimes!

In the opening scene of the newest "Scandal," Olivia Pope referring to herself as Julia Baker, has her hair styled naturally.  It was a thrilling moment to see her in such a positively natural state, particularly since I expressed concern about this not happening in a previous blog post (http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/09/kerry-washington-viola-davis-and-other.html). But, she was on an island, outside of the mainstream, in a place near Zanzibar which apparently is not even on a map as the story line went.

As soon as she returned to Washington, D.C., Olivia Pope's hair was so bone straight, that it makes you wonder, what steps did it take to get out the kink, to that extreme, and the question is why? What an unfortunate statement!  It was as if a message was being sent that her natural tresses aren't good enough in the "real" world but only in some remote location where she is unseen and a toy for....well, I'm not going to go there because this blog is about hair.  So for a few fleeting moments, on "Scandal" a big step towards embracing the notion that Natural Is Cool Enough on network television took place, but it was definitely a "quickie" and a tease.

Olivia Pope in D.C. after she returned from an island near Zanzibar
Now Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington, is it possible to bring out those Natural Tresses in Washington D.C. on "Scandal?"  How about having Kerry Washington, as Olivia Pope, stand at a press conference with her hair naturally curly/kinky, while she's saving one of the characters from a scandal, or walking through the halls of the White House or any other power house in the nations capital where she thrives.  There was almost a continued victorious moment for Naturalistas, two nights in a row, with Tracee Ellis Ross, boldly and beautifully displaying her natural curls on "Blackish" (http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/09/tracee-ellis-rosss-natural-curls.html) and then the mere opening of "Scandal" with natural hair exhibited for fleeting moments bursted the bubble. If the young Olivia Pope (Yara Shahidi), who also plays the oldest daughter on the new show "Blackish" appears on "Scandal" again, would it be possible to let her natural tresses flow without pressing her natural curls into oblivion?

Be bold Shonda Rhimes, as you are already by casting so many Black actresses/actors in your shows, and let the world know that for a Black woman character, namely Olivia Pope, aka Julia Baker, that is tough, powerful, smart and beautiful, albeit not flawless, and any others sisters that appear on "Scandal," Natural IS Cool Enough."  Let the natural hair flow for real and not just as a "quickie" and a tease.   That would be N.I.C.E!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tracee Ellis Ross's Natural Curls: Definitely Natural Is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.) For This Sister on The New Show "Blackish!"

    There is a sister to thank for her courage, per her physical appearance, on the new show "Blackish."  She is Diana Ross's daughter and clearly resembles her mother. The reviews and perspectives are creeping of which some are positive (http://www.tvguide.com/News/Blackish-Review-ABC-1087479.aspx) and others negative (http://www.politeonsociety.com/2014/09/17/why-i-wont-be-watching-abcs-blackish-sitcom/).  The show is new so time will tell.

But N.I.C.E. offers one key review, relevant to Natural Is Cool Enough, and that is Tracee Ellis Ross's natural curls, flowing beautifully all over the screen in every scene that she was in. Whether she was sleeping, chatting with her children, conversing with her husband, in her work attire, etc.  her natural curls were up front and present making it clear to all watching that Natural IS Cool Enough. She plays a doctor so there was a lot implied in the notion that she would be in a professional environment rocking her natural curls, clearly evident when she stepped out in her scrubs.  The best line of the show, in my opinion, is when her husband accuses her of not being black and she states with all the attitude that she can muster "Tell that to my hair and my ass!" That was an excellent line because it was a statement (I will just focus on the hair here) that her hair, in its natural form, is a personification of her Blackness.  It is a clear statement that her hair, in its natural form, gives credence to the fact that she is a Black person. It was not just the line that was excellent but her delivery.  She mustered up, with her eyes and neck movement and every aspect of her acting skills, the expression that a Black women must often provide in telling someone who she truly is. It seemed like a very real moment for her.


In short,  I enjoy the work of Tracee Ellis Ross and loved her work in the show Girlfriends, so I was eager to see what she would bring forward in "Blackish."  She did not disappoint, particularly in terms of her hair. It is not often that we see a Black actress showcasing to the world that Natural IS Cool Enough with strength and pride.  You go Tracee!  A true, courageous naturalista!  That's N.I.C.E.!  Now can something be done about the hair of the little girls' hair in the show?  One had cornrowed braids combined with a straight updo for a little bit.  It would be great to see nappy and curly with the little girls of "Blackish" too.  That would be N.I.C.E.!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Other Shonda Rhimes Actresses: Show Us Some N.I.C.E. Kink!

     Over the past few days or so, I have been glancing at all of the rage about the articles written by the New York Times writer who used the term Angry Black Woman in regard to Shonda Rhimes. Oh no she didn't (hand on my hip, neck moving and finger pointed).  Ok, that's angry so let me calm down. First of all, I don't know why anyone is giving that writer one iota of their time.  You see, although it is not true about Shonda Rhimes, based on everything that I know about her, from what I've read,  from people who are close to her, who cares if it is?  Is anger an emotion that Black women can't have? Recently, I had to tell someone off  and honestly, angry is insufficient to describe me in that instance. I was absolutely fired up and I felt blessed that I was so intensely able to express my choice words with true anger.  It felt so good.  But, I digress.

     My only request from Shonda Rhimes is that while she keeps writing fabulously and providing us with premiere television showcasing beautiful Black sisters, can she let them show a little kink from time to time?  No, I am not talking about kink in terms of sex.   I am talking about kinks in terms of hair.

     So we have a sister named Kerry Washington (I read an article which stated that she is totally natural: http://longing4length.com/2013/05/kerry-washington-natural-hair.html) gracing our television screens in "Scandal." There is no doubt that she is an awesome actress.  But I would like to see what the power she brings to the table would be like if her hair was kinky on our television screens.  Maybe an afro or some braids would do.  It would just change everything to see that kind of radiant energy exuded from this sister.  Instead, we see this:

Interestingly, when she played a slave in Django Unchained, we saw this: 

     Why not show kinky hair in the power role instead of only in the oppressed role?  She looks equally beautiful with her natural hair and how significant it would be to tell all those watching that in a position of power, Natural IS Cool Enough.  She was very cute with her natural hair in the past and now, as our society watches Black women embrace natural hair, it would be more than cute. It would be powerful.
     Next, there is Viola Davis.  She has been one to make a statement about her natural hair.  She graced us with the "Big Chop" which was awesome and she said all kinds of lovely things about being natural. 

     These are photos that are very proud moments.  They just express "Look at me, I am naturally beautiful and proud."  Here is an article, which provides a glimpse of how she tackled this issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/viola-davis-hair-oscars_n_1302789.html  

But now with her new role, in which Shonda Rhimes is NOT the creator but one of the Executive Producers of the Show "How To Get Away With Murder, what we will be seeing, so it seems in terms of Davis's hair is this:

     Lastly, there is Chandra Wilson when she was on Grey's Anatomy and Audra McDonald, when she was on Private Practice.  Now honestly, I have not watched either of these two shows, so I can't say what actually took place with their hair  but from the images I see this:

     If it didn't happen I think it would have been nice to see Chandra Wilson in her white coat with her hair like this:
     As for Audra McDonald, what a statement it would have made if she was on Private Practice playing a doctor and instead of wearing her  her hair like this: 

She wore it like this:
  Imagine the powerful message that would have sent!

     So Shonda Rhimes, I'm glad that you stood up fervently, along with all of your supporters, and let the world know that you are not an "Angry Black Woman" and that being called such was totally inappropriate.  I also enjoy your work and you are indeed a phenomenal woman. But, for those shows that you create or are involved in executive producing, can the sisters show a little kink from a natural hair vantage point?  Imagine what those promo pictures would look like if they weren't like this:


But were like this...

The bottom line is that Natural IS Cool enough and sometimes an image of the beauty of our natural hair, exhibited within the context of strength and courage, is worth a billion words of power!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Protective Style: Seriously, What Does It Mean?

   Is Protective Style merely a Euphemism (a mild or indirect word of expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing) to avoid using the real words to describe weave, extensions other techniques used to change our natural hair as it grows out of our scalp? What does it mean? Protecting our hair from what? I know some of you are saying, oh no, she didn't go there, but yes, I'm going all the way there. Let's begin with weave. What is it really? I won't be sharing any news here. Weave is hair from the heads of Indian women primarily, sold in stores for purchase and then added in to Black women's hair to make it appear that they have straighter and longer hair than is actually the case.  My question is therefore, a weave is protection from what? Perhaps the elements or is it from the environment in which one has to work and her natural tresses may not be considered to be "professional." Or, is it protection from someone walking up to you and asking if they can touch your hair because it is so "interesting" to them? Or perhaps it is protection from feeling like your nappy, kinky hair as it grows from your scalp is not beautiful and so it makes it easier to look in the mirror at long straight hair that is not your own but better places you in the "mainstream" of society in terms of the "dominant" group.  The reality of weave is this: 

Glue---really?  A copolymer adhesive? What does that mean? If you are curious, here is an explanation: http://www.anticorrosion-tape.com/Copolymer-Adhesive.html.  So how is this protective?  Protective of what?  Also, for some, the cost of weave is not a big deal because they can afford it.  But truly, others cannot and struggle to be able to afford it, neglecting other necessities to acquire their weave.  The last thing that I want to do is judge because clearly, everyone has the right to make their own decisions on how to style their hair and spend their money but I am merely asking the question regarding protective style and what this means? If one really wants to protect her hair, why not a beautiful silk scarf to brave the elements or whatever one is protecting her hair from?  The glue used for weaves can actually be quite harmful.  Here is an explanation of some of the major concerns: http://blackdoctor.org/4089/is-hair-glue-hazardous-to-your-health/  This article points out the following, amongst other concerns: 

"Glue extensions, or double sided tape, are often used with popular lace wigs. Unfortunately, they can cause damage that is often permanent. The glue can block your scalp pores and damage your hair follicles as well as burn and dry out your hair. Heavy extensions pull on your scalp resulting in thinning hair. It is difficult to clean your scalp with glue extensions in it creating unhealthy hair. Sometimes hair extensions can cause headaches and bald spots.Hair bonding glue contains high concentrations of soluble latex antigen and may cause anaphylaxis without mucosal contact. Repeated glue exposure may potentially sensitize consumers. Physicians, cosmetologists, and latex-allergic patients should be aware of bonding glue-induced immunoglobulin E-mediated reactions associated with hair alterations.Probably because the products made from latex are increasing in number, reactions to latex have become more common. Latex is found in balloons, rubber bands, condoms, elastic bands, bathing suits, underwear, waistbands, and rubber toys. The reactions to these items go beyond contact dermatitis, and may cause asthma, or even anaphylactic shock."

     Personally, wearing my hair naturally has led to phenomenal growth and thickness without the need for a "protective style."  When I had straightened hair and perms, many, many years ago, my hair was always thin and short.  As soon as I proceeded with wearing my hair naturally, it grew so much that honestly, I couldn't stop it from doing so.  I swim, walk in the rain without an umbrella, if I don't have one with me, wet my hair and sleep with or without a scarf and I don't need a "protective style" to make it grow or keep it from breaking or whatever the rationale that is indicated for such.  

    As for braided extensions, although there is an application of hair that is other than one's own, I don't think the purpose is "protective" either, although I hear this term in regard to it.  There is a notion by some that if their hair is in braids, with extensions, it will grow as there is less aggravation of one's hair.  With this I may agree but the extensions are not necessary to protect one's hair. Nevertheless, amongst African people, extensions were always present in a braided form.  Examples are presented  in the images below:

    So I remain unclear about the notion of a "protective style", hence the question, what does it mean? But one thing that I know without a doubt is that above all, Natural Is Cool Enough.  There is no greater protection for the mind, body and soul, inside and out than one's natural state of being. Ozzie Davis seemed to know this and spoke of it in a lovely poem that I think is definitely N.I.C.E.!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Natural Hair Is Not A Trend But The "New Normal" for Black Women: The Proof Is In the Dollars!

    If you walk into stores now and laser in on Black hair care products, you will find something interesting.  The fact is that  an increased number of natural hair care rather than perming products are rapidly becoming available.  More Black women are opting to be chemically free, in terms of relaxers, and are moving towards more natural approaches. In an interesting Boston Globe article,  the following quote speaks volumes: "A look at expenditures from 2008 to 2013 shows steady growth in the black hair care category for all categories except relaxers and perms." Further detail about this good news is found here:  http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2014/05/28/chemical-free-black-hair-not-simply-trend/kLVdugv5MChUejSkDXoO3J/story.html
Photo by Dina Rudick/Globe Staff
I am pleased to read that sales are going down in terms of perms and relaxers because this is a true indicator that a change is taking place in the minds of Black women about their hair and how they are willing to spend their dollars.  When I decided to go natural many, many years ago, in addition to freeing up my money that was used to go to hair salons, and utilizing my time more effectively instead of sitting in hair salons for hours on end, something else happened that is more valuable than time and money, which is the belief in the beauty of my own natural hair.  I also came to appreciate the feel and touch of my hair and I absolute love it.  The notion of having straight hair, knowing that it does not grow out of my scalp that way, doesn't appeal to me at all.  As stated, in the article mentioned above by a woman named Modjossorica Elysee, head of Boston Naturals when confronted by those who ask her about her natural hair, "There's a lot of ignorance around the fact that women gain a new sense of confidence when they go natural."  "What better thing than to tell everyone I love my hair?"

The truth of the matter is that the market will follow the dollars.  So since natural hair is becoming the "New Normal" for black women, we will begin to see advertisements, products and a general direction of entrepreneurship in terms of natural hair as Black women and society at large come to terms with and value the fact that Natural Is Cool Enough and that's N.I.C.E.!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alicia Keys: Radiantly Expressing To The World That Natural Is Cool Enough

I was so pleased to see Alicia Keys on the Today Show recently, with her head adorned with beautiful braids.  She is pregnant again and shared that she feels radiant! Her new song expresses her commitment to helping the world focus on figuring out why "We Are Here,", which it is aptly named. The quote below shows the sense of inspiration that led her to move in this direction. N.I.C.E. appreciates that you are asking this question Alicia, because it is definitely a valid one. While you are doing this meaningful work it is also wonderful that simultaneously, through your hairstyle, you are showing the world that Natural IS Cool Enough...that's N.I.C.E.!

 "With the backdrop of everything that’s goin’ on in the world, and that frustration that I think we’re all feeling as people, we’re wondering what we can do about it. We all have a voice, but how can it be used? I want this song to be the dialogue that starts to ask ourselves: why are we here?"

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Natural Is Cool Enough, New Blue, V-Neck or Crew, T-Shirt Contest!

The Natural Is Cool Enough new, t-shirt contest!  Once again, we want to read your hair story.  Have you had a problem with people touching your hair or questions about it at work/school/on the street/anywhere?  Are you a parent who is criticized because your child's hair is naturally styled?  Have you found amazing techniques for styling your hair or you just don't know how to manage your natural hair?  Tell us whatever you want to say (by responding to this post in the comment section in one paragraph or more) about your natural hair and you could win, for free (incuding shipping and handling), a new, blue, V-Neck or Crew (whichever is your preference) T-Shirt (valued at $25.00 each).

The Natural Is Cool Enough, Blue, V-neck t-shirt (It also comes in a crew style)
The Back of the N.I.C.E. T-shirt (You can also get
the t-shirt without words on the back of it)

The bali gift, will also be offered as that contest date has been extended (information is here:
http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-nice-labor-day-unofficial-end-of.html). All contests are open to N.I.C.E. members only, so feel free to join this blog.   The deadline date for this contest is September 20th so act fast! T-shirts will only be shipped to a winner in the Continental United States.

After September 20, all t-shirts will be for sale at a price of $25.00 each, with 10% of each sale to be donated to homeless organizations. Details will be posted about how to purchase N.I.C.E. T-shirts soon, so stay tuned.

Stay Strong Viola Davis: For Your Child Genesis, Natural IS Cool Enough!

Apparently, the lovely actress, Viola Davis is getting flack for making the decision to keep her child's hair naturally beautiful. She has a beautiful daughter named Genesis and she has decided to let her child be free in regard to her hair.

“There’s not one woman in America who does not care about her hair. But we give it way too much value,”said Davis. “We deprive ourselves of things, we use it to destroy each other. We’ll look at a child and judge a mother and her sense of motherhood by the way the child’s hair looks. I am not going to traumatize my child about her hair. I want her to love her hair.”

It says a lot about folks, who criticize mothers and their children (Beyonce and baby Blue also get a lot of negative critiques) because a decision is made to let their hair be naturally wonderful and free as it grows out of their scalps rather than kiddie perms, straightening and other techniques that may be harmful to the hair follicles, scalp and beyond.  It reminds me of that profound question that Malcolm X once asked which was "Who taught you to hate yourself? Within this lecture, he asks, who taught you to hate the texture of your hair along with other key questions.  It is really interesting that in 2014, this question still needs to be asked.

Viola, Stay Strong and Teach your baby to love herself and to love the texture of her hair. Always know that Natural Is Cool Enough and that's N.I.C.E.!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's In My/Your Hands from the Ancestors: Natural Is Cool Enough Braiding Skills!

  When I was a young woman, I decided to braid my own hair, adding extensions no less.  I had gone to a place in Harlem to get my hair braided and returned home and told my mother that I thought next time I could do it myself.  She said to me with great ease and confidence that I could do it and she provided one reason.  She looked at me and said "It's in your hands baby." When she said that to me, I knew instantly what she meant.   The referral to my ancestry as a woman of African descent was clear in her statement.  I was so excited, and to make a long story short, I found some of my dolls that were in storage, got some hair and started braiding with a little guidance from my mother.  It came to me so naturally.  From that day on, I never went to anyone else to braid my hair, I braided hair for others and to this day, I continue to braid my daughter's hair.  She is an adult, in a Doctoral program and cares for her own hair,  but when it comes to braids, I am happy to say that she comes to me, and that deep down inside she knows that the process of doing so is also in her hands.

    Now as for braids, using extensions, I feel very strongly that the approach is natural.  Some disagree and find this surprising because of my adamant views about weaves and wigs and unnatural hairstyles in general.  But I differ when it comes to braided extensions.  The reason is because I know that the process of braiding, using extensions, goes back to early African history and was a key approach to hair styling for African people for many reasons.  So in this post, I am not going to get into the historical facts, but will simply state that in terms of braids and Black people, including the use of extensions, the approach is an embracement of  Natural Is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.).  So below, are pictures of the process of doing so with my beautiful daughters hair, naturally!

Dangling the braids in Hot Water to seal the ends...

The lovely finished product!  That's N.I.C.E!
Check out her blog at:  http://www.ivyrosejourney.blogspot.com/2014/09/stepping-up-to-mic.html