Tag: African-American hairstyles

University Department Chair and Artist Sonya Clark Uses Her Head to Win Top Prize in Art Competition

SonyaClarkSonya Clark, chair of the Department of Craft and Material studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, shared the first prize at ArtPrize, an international competition held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She will split the $200,000 first place cash award.

HairArtClark enlisted 12 hairstylists to craft her head into a work of art for the judges consideration.

Clark is a native of Washington, D.C. Both of her parents are from the Caribbean. She is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at the Art Institute of Chicago and a master of fine arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Before joining the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, Clark was the Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

article via jbhe.com

Pentagon Reverses Course: Black Soldiers won’t be Punished for Popular Hairstyles

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement that “conservative” hairstyles popular among black female soldiers will be acceptable according to military grooming standards, Army Times reports.

Last March, the Department of Defense issued new regulations that many African-American servicemen and women claimed were racially biased, especially against black women, who would be forced to use heat or chemical straighteners to achieve an acceptable hairstyle. A number of black women wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus urging them to put pressure on the Department of Defense to change the regulations — and three months later, that is what Chuck Hagel has done.

In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus notifying them of the changes, Hagel wrote that “[e]ach service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting military requirements. These reviews were informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force. Additionally, each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”

The review concluded that the terms “matted and unkempt” when used in reference to African-American hair were “offensive” and eliminated them from the guidelines. The Air Force also determined that the word “dreadlocks” was offensive, and changed the prohibited hairstyle to “locs” in official grooming literature.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) responded to Hagel’s decision to expand the range of acceptable hairstyles for black female soldiers by saying that “[t]hese changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces.”

“Secretary Hagel and the Department of Defense not only show they are responsive to the individuals who serve within our military, but that he and his leadership respect them as well,” she continued. “The Congressional Black Caucus commends Secretary Hagel for his leadership in addressing this issue.”

article by Scott Kaufman via rawstory.com

The Afro Makes a Comeback as a Natural Expression of Self

From left: Dante de Blasio and his family on primary election night in September; Eldridge Cleaver at the trial of Huey Newton in 1968; Magazine covers featuring Oprah Winfrey, right, and Prince; Angela Davis at a news conference in 1972. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; Jeffrey Scales, 1968; Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Dante de Blasio’s towering Afro, a supporting player in his father’s mayoral campaign, riveted attention once more last week when it caught the eye of President Obama. Introducing Bill de Blasio at a Democratic fund-raiser in Midtown, Mr. Obama digressed to point out, “Dante has the same hairdo as I had in 1978. Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good.”

Nor was it as voluminous, or as apparently devoid of a political charge. As 16-year-old Dante implied in an interview with DNAInfo.com, an online local news source, hair is just hair. “Some people want to take photos and I’m really just happy,” he said. Others want to reach out and touch it, and some did at last week’s fund-raiser, their enthusiastic petting prompting the elder de Blasio to joke that he might have to call security.

The mayoral candidate was doubtless aware that Dante’s outsize hair placed him in a league with a current generation that has adopted what once was a badge of revolt as an emblem of style’s cutting edge. Resurgent in films and television and the streets, inspired by a galaxy of pop culture idols, the Afro today seems friendly enough, even downright disarming — a kinder, gentler “natural” pretty much shorn of its militancy.

Images like those of Halle Berry’s tightly coiled halo or Nicki Minaj’s poodly pink Glamfro on the cover of Allure last year have played a part in resurrecting the hallmark style. Hoping to stand apart from her more famous sister, Solange Knowles last year chopped her chemically processed hair to reveal the wedge-shaped Afro that has since become her signature. And the actress Viola Davis showed off her natural curls at the Oscar ceremonies a year ago after walking most of the red carpet season in a wig; Prince poses regally in his Afro on the August issue of V magazine.

Even the customarily conventional Oprah Winfrey stepped out to front the September issue of O, the Oprah magazine, in a 3.5-pound wig that spanned its cover nearly edge to edge above the cover line: “Let’s talk about HAIR!”

The style’s current iteration bears little kinship to the anti-gravity hair flaunted in the late 1960s by Angela Davis, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver and other icons of the Black Power movement. “In the ’60s the Afro was looked upon as ‘Wow, you’re stepping out there, you’re really going against the grain,’ ” said Andre Walker, the man who fluffed Ms. Winfrey’s wig into its umbrella-size proportions. In contrast, “When I talk to a lot of the kids from this generation,” he said, “the whole civil rights movement, it’s very vague to them.

“I don’t think they really know the meaning of how radical an Afro was in the day,” Mr. Walker added. “It’s a different time now.”

Though his father wore an Afro in the 1970s and ’80s, 16-year-old Noah Negron, a high school senior in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, was not bowing to family tradition or the politics of a bygone era when he decided to grow out his hair. “I’m an environmentalist,” he said. “That’s where the locks come in. It’s like all natural.”

Reluctant to treat her hair with potentially damaging lye, another Brooklyn resident who identified herself only as Tamar A., declared: “This is just how my hair grows out of my head. I’m not trying to make a statement. I’m just more comfortable being who I am.”

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