Sunday, 27 March 2011

My Nappy ROOTS

On 26th March I was invited to participate in a panel discussion after the screening of My Nappy Roots, A Journey Through Black Hair-itage, shown at the Rio Cinema in Hackney, East London. The event was organised by Sylviane Rano, Co-founder and festival Director of Images of Black Women Film Festival

My Nappy ROOTS tells its story largely through the voices of people who were, and are, instrumental in the changes that have influenced the cultural images, aesthetics and behaviour of Black Americans. Filmmakers Regina Kimbell and Jay Bluemke assemble a world-class line-up of celebrities such as Vivica A. Fox, Patti LaBelle, Ella Joyce and Malcolm-Jamal Warner to name but a few.

I found it particularly interesting watching the history of how the black hair industry, which includes the massive market for products such as 'human' hair and the hundreds of hair sheens and relaxer creams that saturate the high street shops, has developed and how those fast-selling products have slipped out of the control of the black folks who created them into the hands of anyone and everyone who seizes a business opportunity. There is no colour bar when it comes to making money!

The post-screening discussion panel included Margot Rodway-Brown, of Adornment, a natural hair care business and explored how black women adjust their self-images to the world they live in faced with the dominant messages they are bombarded with from the media and beauty industry.

I talked about my work as an Independent Publisher of Shangwe Press and my motivation behind the publication of my latest anthology of poems and personal essays, Hair Power Skin Revolution. Members of the audience shared their concerns about the sometimes lack of care at the receiving end of a hairdressing visit and I emphasised how important and essential it is that we as consumers take control of our hair and question hairdressers about the products they use, as there is often ignorance as to how risky these products may be and how one size doesn't fit all when it comes to the wide and varied textures of our hair.

There then followed a networking opportunity at the Open the gate cultural cafe a few hundred yards distance from the Rio Cinema, which is definitely a comfortable place to relax and chill.

Photo left to right: Nicole Moore, Margot Rodway-Brown & Sylviane Rano at Open the Gate cultural cafe

Friday, 11 March 2011

Hair Celebration

On 10th March I was invited to speak at Hair Celebration, an International Women's Day event inspired by my anthology Hair Power Skin Revolution. Over forty people attended the event, which was hosted and supported by John Egbo, Arc Artistic Director and his team and was held at the Art Arc in North London.

The event started with me reading a short extract from Hair Power Skin Revolution's Introduction, so as to give a little history and context of my ideas before the book was conceived. I spoke about the Black History Month project I initiated in October 2008, which involved establishing a Hair Stories Blog of short pieces during that month and how that evolved into widening the scope of the project and independently publishing an anthology of poems and personal essays (with the support of a Grants for the Arts Award).

Three of the anthology's contributors read their hair stories: Colette Machado read Naturally Relaxed, Patsy Antoine read Growing Roots and Brenda White read Hair to Stay. I read my poem called My Hair. Interwoven with the readings was a lively discussion with a wonderfully dynamic and talented audience and although us women outnumbered the men, the men's voices were welcomed and expressed and felt like a breath of fresh air. John Egbo's hosting skills created a well balanced atmosphere and ensured the event's celebration and humour stayed throughout some occasional intense discussion and was much appreciated by us all.

Leeto Thale, a talented male poet from the audience, shared his poetic perspective on black women and hair and his improvised and inspiring performance was well received judging by the cheering and loud applause. The event also featured "Miss Nappy-Head" sculptures by Jackie Mwanza.

Many thanks must go to John Egbo who supported the event and provided wine and light refreshments and to the contributors Colette Machado, Patsy Antoine and Brenda White who read their hair stories.

Arc is a centre dedicated to the appreciation of the arts, with a specialist interest and knowledge of promoting modern and contemporary African and Diaspora Art. For more information visit:

Photos courtesy of Chris (Arc Team) in ascending order L-R:

Nicole Moore, Brenda White (seated) Leeto Thale (standing)
Brenda White, Nicole Moore & Patsy Antoine
Colette Machado & Audience Members - John Egbo far right