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Archive for May, 2011

Black Hair Care and Culture

This date is Hairstylist Appreciation Day and The Registry looks briefly at African-American hair.

The history of “Black Hair and Beauty Culture” mirrors the intricacy of both African and American cultures. Over the years, African American hair has been associated with the ideology of white visual conception. Some people say that blacks have embraced hairstyles and beauty methods that reflect popular European standards of beauty. However, Blacks have used their West African roots and their own artistry to create styles and standards that reflect a unique black culture.

Around 1441 when African slaves were brought west to the “New World,” they were confronted with their first loss of identity. It was then that the one and only identity they had, was stripped from them. The standards of beauty that they encountered were the privilege of fair skin, straight hair, and thin features, in contrast to “African” dark skin, curly hair, and wider noses and mouths. Some slaves had to get accustomed to the European beauty styles to survive (literally). Often times they would serve as barbers and/or beauticians for their white owners. Other slaves attempted to stay with their traditional African hair customs like braiding hair using African patterns and using natural herbs from trees for their hair and skin care.

Officially, the root of a hair fiber sticks into something like a bag in the skin. The fiber is pushed out of this bag about 0.35mm per day growing about 1cm, or half of an inch, per month. The growth rate relates to the individual, his/her age, diet etc. Healthy hair has an average lifetime of 2-6 years. Though there are exceptions, the hair of blacks is usually coarser in texture, tighter in curl pattern, more naturally delicate, and more vulnerable to damage from chemical treatments. Because of our multicultural heritage there really isn’t any one typical “type” of African-American hair. Its texture can vary from fine to medium to coarse; its curl pattern from straight to softly wavy to excessively tight; its colors from blonde to red, to all sorts of browns, to black.

There is no chemical difference in the makeup of African-American hair in comparison with any other hair type. It has a cuticle (the outer layer), a cortex (the middle layer, composed primarily of keratin and moisture, plus melanin, which gives our hair its color), and a medulla (the center of the hair shaft). All these parts are identical to those of Caucasian hair. What is different is our wave, curl or kink and bonding pattern. (Bonding speaks to the structure of hair: the tighter the bond, the curlier the hair.) Our hair color can vary from a very light, sandy blonde to dark black. Universally ethnic women do tend to have rich-brown complexions and deep-brown hair.

There are many different tonal qualities to African-American hair, from medium browns and reddish mahogany to darkest blue-black. When slavery ended, there was an overabundance of blacks who were knowledgeable in European hair care. The need for blacks that were knowledgeable in black hair care began to grow. It was then that the kitchen beauty shops began. There was a growing number in black beauty shops everywhere. As the number of commercial establishments grew, barber shops and beauty parlors became increasingly important in the economic and social structure of black communities.

Beauty salons and barber shops became places not only to get your hair done but locations where blacks could talk about their community. In the barber shops you could usually find a couple of men playing a game of chess, cards, or dominoes while talking about what is going on in the black community. In the beauty salons you usually could jump into a conversation about the town gossip. Many film adaptations of African American themes use these businesses to show black culture in the United States. Coming to America, 1988, Malcolm X, 1992, and Barber Shop, 2002 are examples. Over the years, beauty salons and barber shops have come to provide a unique social function.

Regarding the structure of “Black Hair,” the reason why kinky hair breaks so easily is that every twist in African American hair represents a potential stress point, which means the curlier your hair, the more prone it is to breakage. Cornrows left in too long can cause traction that may result in breakage. Our kinky hair is also prone to catching onto one another, which causes fragmentation. What makes the color of hair different? Whether it be black, blond, and brown, the answer lies in melanophore. The hair roots contain pigment cells called melanin, which creates a black pigment. Melanophore is a chromatophore that sends pigment to new hair. The greater the amount of pigment sent to the hair, the darker the hair becomes. On the contrary, as the amount of pigment sent is reduced, the hair color turns brown and then blond.

Some people believe that differences in hair color are caused by the differences in the intensity of ultraviolet rays contained in the sunlight, to which the hair is exposed. A baby’s hair begins to grow around the third month after conception. Trichocysts are first hairs formed. They develop into hair follicles as the fetus grows, then they become downy hairs several centimeters long when the baby is born. The total number of hairs is determined before the baby is born. After that, the number of hairs never increases, they only decrease. There are about four hundred and fifty thousand of them to be found above the neck. These hairs include about one hundred thousand hairs on the head and about thirty thousand hairs taken up by mustaches, beards, or facial hair. Hair grows at a faster rate in the spring and summer than in autumn and winter.

On a normal scalp there are about 100 to 150 thousand hair fibers. A blond head of hair has usually much more fibers than red or dark haired heads. Hair consists mainly of keratin, which is also responsible for the elasticity of fingernails. A single hair has a thickness of 0.02-0.04mm, so that 20 to 50 hair fibers next to each other make one millimeter. Hair is strong as a wire of iron. It rips after applying a force equivalent to 60kg, after it is stretched to 70%. Regarding hairstyles and how general American culture affects black hairstyles, there are a number of opinions.

Many blacks argue that imitating European standards of beauty and grooming was necessary for blacks to be accepted by white culture, especially by potential white masters and employers. For generations hairstyles have reflected the history of American race relations and the way blacks wore their hair reflected the dominant white culture. African-American hair was straightened, combed, or parted to mimic Western coiffures. In response to the propaganda in black communities to accept the European standards of beauty, the black hair care market expanded.

Madam C.J. Walker is one of the pioneers in the black hair care market with her Walker System. However over the years African Americans have thrown away the European standards of beauty. During the 1960’s the “Afro” debuted and with it the concept of Black is Beautiful. During the 80’s and the 90’s West African traditional hairstyles began to resurface in the black community. Many people were getting braids with the traditional West African patterns. There are many beauty shops that are designed to create only West African traditional hairstyles.

Near the end of the twentieth century, relaxed hair became popular again in a wide range of short and long styles, while the new jheri curl used a different chemical to create loose, wet curls for both men and women. Women and men chose dreadlocks, twist, corkscrews, fades, and other styles that used the benefits of black hair’s natural texture. Despite the economic depression in many black neighborhoods, hair salons remain among the most successful Black business in urban communities, and even African Americans who move to predominantly white suburbs often return to black urban neighborhoods to get their hair done.

Still, blacks are losing control over the black hair care market. Business by business, mergers and acquisitions are taking apart black-owned hair care endeavours. A moment of truth came when L’Oreal acquired Carson. The result was the top two-black owned hair care companies (Johnson Products and Soft Sheen) were joined under L’Oreal’s ownership. Many white business people know what kind of money black people put into their hair care and want a part of that market.

The popularity of natural African American hairstyles has also developed an Internet following. There are many websites with information, products, and tips for African American hair care. Websites devoted to natural styles, braids and dreadlocks are growing too. Black Hair Media is one of the more comprehensive sites online. Nappy Hair is another online resource for anyone who needs guidance managing natural hair. Offline, many books have been published on the topic. Among the most recent is the 2003-released, “Hair Rules: The Ultimate Hair-Care Guide for Women with Kinky, Curly, or Wavy Hair,” by New York City stylist, Anthony Dickey.

Further Reference:
LYO Spa

REPRINTED FROM African American Registry

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War-Bob Marley

Redemption song

Blacks In Latin America

On this date of Cinco de Mayo, we look briefly at the history of Africans in Latin (Central and South) America and the Caribbean.

In world history these two western regions were the first areas of the Americas to be populated by African immigrants. Yet wherever possible, they prepared and accepted reality with t African immigration to the Americas may have begun before European exploration of the area. African slave trading began before Columbus 1492, and the earliest Spanish and Portuguese explorers were likewise accompanied by Black Africans who had been born and reared in Iberia. In the following four centuries millions of immigrants from Africa were brought to the New World in servitude.

Today, their descendants form significant ethnic minorities in several Latin American countries, and they are the dominant element in many of the Caribbean nations. Over the centuries, Black people have added their original contributions to the cultural mix of their respective societies and thus exerted a deep influence on all facets of life in Latin America. A strong African influence saturates music, dance, the arts, literature, speech forms, and religious practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. Africans, whether as slaves or free immigrants, brought a variety of African cultural influences to the New World. They came from so many places in Africa and were too scattered throughout the Americas to reestablish all the conditions of their homelands.

Like all other immigrant groups, they discarded some aspects of their culture, modified others, and created new forms. This African adaptation to local American conditions is called creolization. The percentage of Africans in local society and the time they spent in any one place played in the development of an African (central or south) American culture in Latin America. In countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, African immigrants were the minority. They had to deal with a significant and dynamic form of European society and culture. The African communities survived, and in some instances grew against the stiff and relentless competition of the majority, or “high,” culture. Pieces of the African ethnic subculture were eventually adopted by the mainstream. Nonetheless, the African character of the African American culture is less pronounced than in societies where Blacks were the majority of the people.

In the plantation societies of the Caribbean islands, people of African ancestry held substantial control over their daily lives, despite the efforts of the politically dominant minority group to restrain and oppress them. The lack of cultural homogeneity as well as the laziness of the plantation elites provided an almost unique opportunity for the African masses to create their own society and influence the “high” culture. Caribbean people speak variants of the standard European languages, which always reflect West African speech patterns regardless of whether the spoken language is English, Spanish, French, or Dutch. The French spoken in Haiti constitutes a language of its own. In Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire, Papiamento, a blend of Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese, is one of the official languages. None of these Creole languages is limited to the poorer, uneducated classes. Creole has now been given greater respect in the literature and political life of the Caribbean islands.

As a distinct minority the beginnings for African people in the Americas, brought on cultural change in their lives. Official acceptance modifies some forms of culture and for Blacks in Central and Latin America life was no different. The carnival is an example. Until the 19th century, the annual celebration of carnival was confined to the Black population; the upper classes condemned carnival and tried to end it as a public festival. By the early 20th century, however, it had attracted all classes and races. Currently it has official government support in the Bahamas, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. Although carnival has become highly regarded, and its festivities are open to all races and classes, the chief participants of these carnivals are still Black. The same remains true for other folk festivals such as the Jonkonnu in Jamaica.

In some cases, however, the transition from low to high culture buried the African origin and influence. An example is Argentina where the tango (dance) was developed from dual African ancestries. One source is undoubtedly the Spanish fandango, but the fandango is really Moorish. The other source is a Black dance called the candombe, the feature attraction of Afro-Argentine festivals during and after the period of slavery. Latin American music has always been deeply influenced by the vibrant rhythms and melodies that Blacks brought with them from their African homeland.

This is particularly true of Brazil; in fact, the first real music school in that country was founded by a Black priest. Brazilian music is thoroughly filled with African themes, and well-known composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos have long found inspiration in the Black musical heritage. Many Caribbean musical styles have become widely known, including the mambo from Cuba, salsa from Puerto Rico, reggae from Jamaica, and calypso from Trinidad.

As is expected, spirituality and religious practices were distinct factors in the cultural adjustment for Blacks in Central and Latin America, and the Caribbean. Regarding religion, African immigrants to Latin America and the Caribbean not only retained some of their original beliefs but also borrowed and modified religious rituals from the various European Christian churches they encountered there. Religious affiliation, however, is no longer restricted by race or color.

A number of Christian groups such as the Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Churches of God are predominantly Black. However, religious sects of African origin—such as the vodun in Haiti (see Voodoo); Shango in Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Brazil; Santería in Cuba and Puerto Rico; Kumina, Myal, Revivalist, and Ras Tafari in Jamaica; and Umbanda, Macounda, and others in Brazil—are no longer only Black. Black people have left a deep impression on the teachings and literature of the Caribbean, Central and South America. In some parts of Latin America, such as Brazil, well-liked tales and legends are to a great extent of African origin. Themes dealing with slavery have always been popular with Black writers. Some, such as the Brazilian poet Luis Gama, were also active in the abolitionist movement. Antonio de Castro Alves was identified as the “poet of the slaves” for his treatment of slavery in his writings.

João da Cruz e Sousa, the son of emancipated slaves, is considered one of Brazil’s greatest poets. As nationalism intensified during the 20th century, even more attention was given to African origins. The Haitian poet Jacques Roumain stressed the value of his native (African) culture, while expressing the pride and bitterness of his Black ancestry. Nicolás Guillén, one of Cuba’s most eminent poets, wrote some of his best works as “Black” poetry based on the rhythms of Afro-Cuban music. Many novels, poems, dance, and mime of Latin America and the Caribbean incorporate African speech patterns, styles, or concepts trying to express the spirit of the Black cultural heritage.

In the Nobel Prize-winning poetry of Derek Walcott and the autobiographical short stories of Jamaica Kincaid, one can read reconciliation with the differences between the writers’ native West Indian and adoptive white environment. Geopolitical migration still remains a pillar of African presence in western hemisphere below the United States. The Maroon settlements in the days of slavery were (in reality) Black states. They had communities in North, Central, and South America. They were, in effect, states within states. Haitian slaves led by Jean Jacques Dessalines captured the governing apparatus in 1804.

This was only the second independent country in the western hemisphere (at the time, the first being the United States) and the first one ruled by Blacks. Haiti became a symbol of Black independence and a catalyst for 19th century Black Nationalism. Blacks in many other countries were involved in politics but in some nations such activities were restricted. After 1911, Cuba, for example censored the organization of political parties based on race or color. The Cuban government also suppressed the military efforts of the Afro-Cuban leaders Pedro Ivonet and Evaristo Estenoz to reverse that political decision which ended in tragedy in 1912. Government troops killed 3000 Afro-Cubans in Oriente Province, putting an end to Black political resistance in Cuba.

In São Paulo Brazil, the Frente Negra Brazileira (Brazilian Black Front) was founded in 1931. It served as the national political voice of Afro-Brazilians, but ended along with other political parties during the Vargas dictatorship of the 1930s and ‘40s. In the British, French, and Dutch Caribbean, Blacks have participated in politics for more than a century, and today hold local political power. Governments controlled by people of African ancestry have been in power in the Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Jamaica. The Marxist government of Cuba has acknowledged Cubans an Afro-Latin American people and has formed close relationships with Angola, Ethiopia, and other African states.

Other Caribbean countries have also established contacts with the free nations of Africa directly and through United Nations agencies and other international organizations. These Caribbean-African collaborations have been based on shared ideology than on race or color. Today throughout Latin America, Black communities are asserting themselves after years of marginalization and apparent invisibility. In Brazil, where Black and mixed-race people make up more than half the population, two breakthroughs are indicative: the election of the first Black mayor of Sao Paulo and the appointment of Pele, the beloved former soccer star, as minister of sports.

Blacks in other Latin nations are making their presence felt. Colombia recently elected to Congress politicians who emphasize their African heritage rather than deny it, as in the past. Blacks from Costa Rica to Peru to Uruguay are increasingly active in politics and new organizations that promote Black culture. The rise in activism results partly from economic and political stability, which allows the social order to concern themselves with the disadvantaged and the disadvantaged to press their demands. The progress of African Americans in the United States also has influenced Afro-Latins through the media.

In one of the few regional studies of its kind, the Inter-American Development Bank published a report in 1996 estimating that as many as 150 million Latin Americans, about a third of the region’s population, are descendants of African slaves. Other estimates are lower because many people of mixed race do not define themselves as Black.

Reference:
Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1999
ISBN 0-465-0071-1

REPRINTED FROM African American Registry

Aliko Dangote-One of Africa’s black billionaires

Africa’s richest

The state of world black enterprise

From my perspective the state of global black enterprise needs to speed up or we will be left behind. Around the world, the only place I see blacks taking hold of their own future in business are the United States and parts of Africa, such as South Africa and Nigeria.  My intention with this blog is to investigate places and people around the world that are working on behalf to bring up the standards of living for black people. We seems to be the people that is always left in the back ground when progress is taking hold of the world.  The Chinese and Indian in their respective countries are making progress towards up lifting their people, but Africa, the continent is in turmoil and its people are sinking more into poverty, while its raw material are being handed out to the Chinese and any other countries that come with money and trinkets. Africa was once raped for its raw material by the Europeans, and now by the Chinese.

Armed with my MBA in Global Business and love for global business, I plan to dig into the causes and effects of why  and how blacks around the world can come together and uplift us all to the level of other races in the quest of making all live a better life in the 21 century.