Black History Fun Facts: Hair Story

Today’s Post is part of a weekly series on The PBS Blog that will take place from now on through February: Black History Fun Facts. During this series, I will post some fun facts about a portion of African American History, ranging from Archaeological, Cultural, Biblical, and Historical facts every Friday.

PublicationbhffI will also extend this open invitation to anyone who would like to take part in Black History Fun Facts. All you have to do is use the #BHFF badge in your post, tag Black History Fun Facts, and pingback. And of course, make sure your post is about something, well….Black.

My pick for today’s BHFF is Hair Story: Untangling the roots of Black Hair in America:

hair-storyHair style and texture has been just as life changing and connected to the Black experience as racism and discrimination. Every movement in the history of the so-called African American people has had its own hairstyle. From the Afros of the 60’s & 70’s to the Jehri Curl of the 80’s, you can guarantee to spark conversation whenever black hair is involved.

revhair-story-coverIn Hair Story, authors Ayana D. Byrd, and Lori L. Thraps takes us through a chronological timeline of how Black hair has changed over the years. From Africa to present-day America, Hair Story is not just an exciting read but a great source of research. I enjoyed the blast from the past the ladies took us on and the pictures and hair recipes that complimented the document well. Every stage and every situation presented a physical manifestation of that era in the form of hair for Black people. While I do not agree with every account mentioned, Hair Story is definitely a book to have in your home library (you do have a library…right??).

Good Hair

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In 2009 Chris Rock reanimated the Hair debate in his comedy release Good Hair. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2009, Good Hair was released to select theaters in the United States by Roadside Attractions. According to Rock, he was inspired to make the movie after his then 3-year-old daughter Lola asked him, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” She has curly, wiry hair typical of many people of African descent. He realized she had already absorbed the perception among some blacks that curly hair was not “good”. As a result, Rock delves into the $9 billion hair industry, and visits such places as beauty salons, barbershops, and hair styling conventions to explore popular approaches to styling. He visits scientific laboratories to learn the science behind chemical relaxers that straighten hair. It is from this documentary that I went forward to do my own research on Hair. Interestingly enough, it is the same year I went natural.

The only thing this film lost cool points for in my book is that there were so many valid points that seemed to have to be hidden under the concept of comedy in order to have it mentioned on air. It appeared to me, that if given the chance, Rock could have explored more deeply the state of Black Hair. It is for this reason that I went in depth on my very own research in order to discover the missing pieces. However, I’m not throwing any stones because what Chris Rock and HBO produced was sufficient enough to jump start anyone’s thirst for understanding of Black Hair and it is a movie worth having in your collection.

And who can’t forget Tyra Banks show on Good Hair?

hqdefaultAlso inspired by Chris Rock, Tyra launched a show in May of 2009 that spoke about African American women’s hair. It featured a variety of women (some with permed hair some with natural hair) who engaged in hot debate over what is considered good hair and bad hair. Children of the women also got involved, turning it into an emotional roller coaster of history and identity.

For my natural hair, I use Amaziyah Loc Products:

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And so do most of your favorite artist and sports players:

For me locs are much more than just a fad. They represent our culture.  We have worn our hair in these styles for thousands of years. Amaziyah Locs- pronounced (Ah-ma-zi-yah) is a Hebrew name that means “Made Strong by Yah.” I knew that the meaning was perfect for a natural hair care company specializing in Locs. It immediately reminded me of the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson was granted super natural strength by Yah in order to wage war against his enemies, such as destroying an entire army with only the jawbone of a donkey! However, Samson had a weakness: his hair, and without it he was powerless. When they were cut by Delilah, he lost all of his strength. Makes you wonder why there is a barber shop on every corner in predominantly “African-American” communities.

My favorite is the Loc N Butter but Amaziyah’s got plenty of variety to go around. Get the Loc N Twist, Loc N Oil or Loc in Butter:

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Why not close out with a little music? Here’s India Arie, I am Not My Hair:

Black History Fun Facts: Ray Charles

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Starting tonight, I am launching a new Blog Series:

Black History Fun Facts

…that will come to you every Friday from now on through February. This post will be a list of Fun Facts about the cultural, archeological, biblical, or historical identity of African Americans. Sometimes it will be a bio, sometimes it will be an amazing invention, and sometimes it will be a book or movie recommendation.

My Black History Fun Fact for today is Ray Charles and the movie Ray starring Jamie Fox on the life of Ray Charles. Released in 2004, this is one of my favorite movies. The story is about the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven after the death of his little brother, to his rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s. I like it more because of his talent and life than his rise to fame; the musical genius of Ray and the emotional complexity of the story, which is hard not to love. Here are some fun facts:

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Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. His father, a mechanic, and his mother, a sharecropper, moved the family to Florida when he was an infant. One of the most traumatic events of his childhood was witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother.

Soon after his brother’s death, Charles gradually began to lose his sight. He was blind by the age of 7, and his mother sent him to a state-sponsored school, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida—where he learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille. He also learned to play piano, organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet. The breadth of his musical interests ranged widely, from gospel to country, to blues.

Charles’s mother died when he was 15, and for a year he toured on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” in the South. While on the road, he picked up a love for heroin.

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At the age of 16, Charles moved to Seattle. There, he met a young Quincy Jones, a friend and collaborator he would keep for the rest of his life. Charles performed with the McSon Trio in 1940s. His early playing style closely resembled the work of his two major influences—Charles Brown and Nat King Cole. Charles later developed his distinctive sound.

By 1953, Charles landed a deal with Atlantic Records. He celebrated his first R&B hit single with the label, “Mess Around.”

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The year 1960 brought Charles his first Grammy Award for “Georgia on My Mind,” followed by another Grammy for the single “Hit the Road, Jack.” For his day, he maintained a rare level of creative control over his own music. Charles broke down the boundaries of music genres in 1962 with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. On this album, he gave his own soulful interpretations of many country classics. While thriving creatively, Charles struggled in his personal life. He continued to battle with heroin addiction. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession.

In 2003, Charles had to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years. He underwent hip replacement surgery. While that operation was successful, Charles soon learned he was suffering from liver disease. He died on June 10, 2004, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. During his lifetime, Charles recorded more than 60 albums and performed more than 10,000 concerts.

Ray Charles was a pioneer of soul music, integrating R&B, gospel, pop and country to create hits like “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “Georgia on My Mind.” A blind genius, he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.