The Huffington Post Jumps on the Natural Hair Bandwagon

One of the country’s favorite liberal news websites has wasted little time jumping on the Natural Hair bandwagon. It was only a matter of time, considering the fact that they recently introduced a “Black Voices” section. This section includes all of the usual predictable banter – HIV rates, gay black men, and now, hair care (yawn).

A recent article, entitled YouTube’s Top 5 Natural Hair Care Vlogs, showcases 5 black women who have channels focused on natural (relaxer-free) hair care for black women. Like any and everything related to natural hair, this article has been emailed around and praised by many black women. While I was happy to see these women getting positive attention, which will  inevitably increase the value of their individual brands, I get the sinking feeling that this is one more step towards the commercialization and, to some extent, exploitation, of the natural hair movement.

I won’t get into a detailed discussion of the individual women who were profiled. I have watched videos by all of them, and I am probably subscribed to all of them. I am curious about how they chose these particular women, considering the fact that there are other natural hair vloggers with more subscribers and page views, but nevertheless, these ladies were chosen. They all make pretty good videos and, if you’re interested, you should check them out.

I’ve been watching hair care videos on YouTube since 2008. I’ve seen at least several hundred of them. I’ve learned a thing or two here and there, but what I have found is that the way YouTube works, there is a continual need to provide new content in order to make money (yes, YouTube partners make money). At some point, there is only so much that one can say about hair. What happens is that, once a hair vlogger has covered her basic hair routine, along with a few hair tutorials, she has to look elsewhere to provide new content. She also usually begins receiving product endorsement deals. She will either endorse those products or start pushing her own product lines, neither of which actually contributed to her hair’s health and/or growth. Now, I’m not knocking capitalism. I’m just explaining how it works and why I’m careful about doting too much praise on hair vloggers. Many of the ones that are most highly praised are making a lot of money. Some who just as or more dedicated to healthy hair practices and not so into making money and “branding” themselves, get little to no credit for their contributions.

I would love to see the day when “natural hair” or “black hair” is not really a topic that needs to be discussed. I would love to see “black beauty” simply labeled “beauty.” It would be great if women didn’t get pushed into buying hair products they don’t need in order to support a YouTuber’s part time income. In the meantime, these ladies are helping (some) women gain insight on how to achieve healthy hair. I just hope that viewers don’t get too caught up in buying what these ladies are selling.

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Book Review | By Any Greens Necessary by Tracye Lynn McQuirter, MPH

I’m just going to jump right into this review. This book is too preachy, bottom line. I picked it up while I was looking for raw food books and general vegan books in Barnes & Noble. A picture of a black woman on the cover jumped out at me because I had never seen a vegan lifestyle book by a black author (not to say they don’t exist, but this author claims that hers is the first).

Secondly, I’m a little embarrassed at the title…a play on Malcolm X…that’s a stretch. I had a guy friend who saw the book lying around my house and he immediately started making fun of the black nationalist-esque title.

As implied by the title, the book is targeted towards African-American females. I think that the references to traditional soul food cooking and the urban euphemisms limit the audience to that one group. Other readers might be distracted by the sister-girl talk. On the other hand, anyone with strong feelings about animal rights and may be looking to go vegan for ethical reasons, may actually be drawn to this book.

By Any Greens Necessary is broken down into 10 easy-to-read chapters.

INTRO & PROTEIN

The intro is typical “how I became a vegan” stuff, but it’s well-written and interesting. I would actually enjoy reading an autobiography about the author written in this style. She has a pet pieve about people asking about protein and a vegan diet, so chapter two debunks that “you can’t get enough protein” myth. I think she covered the topic well, and I learned a thing or two.

PREACHING AGAINST MEAT

Unfortunately, chapters 3, 4, and 5 are full of boring, slightly dramatic information about how disgusting the animal slaugterhouse is. While the information is true, the author underrates the intelligence of her audience by assuming that we don’t know that the way chickens, pigs, and even fish, are caught and killed is inhumane. The simple truth is that I, and most other readers, aren’t picking up the book for information on why we shouldn’t eat meat. We’re looking for information on why we should be vegan. (Essentially, why would she restrain from eating all meat products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and cheese.)

In other words, putting in more positive information and a more detailed how-to guide on the vegan lifestyle would have been much more effective. I forced myself to read those three chapters and yawned all the way through them. The author talks about feces mixed in with chickens. I read that whole section….it honestly reminded me of how much I like to eat chicken. Speaking of chicken, the author portrayed black women as a bunch of lip-smacking chicken eaters who are dying while dining on chicken wings. The author was perfectly healthy and happy eating meat when she decided to make the lifestyle change to become a vegan. I don’t understand why she assumes that the rest of us are a bunch of greasy-lipped, chicken-smacking dummies.

PREACHING AGAINST DAIRY

I actually found this information to be useful. McQuirter breaks down some little-known information about “lactose intolerance” and it’s prevalence. She also explains why the term itself is a misnomer. I think this chapter is worth reading.

CARBS (yawn)

Okay, I skipped this chapter. I think talking about carbs is a little dull. Most of us know about good carbs versus bad carbs. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this chapter.

TRANSITIONING

I usually don’t comment on an author’s appearance but with a chapter entitled, “Lose the Weight, Keep the Curves,” I would expect the author to be curvy. Judging from the cover page, she’s not. I also did not like the assumption that her target audience had weight to lose. Again, there was too much of a focus on the negative. There’s plenty of black women with no curves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Why couldn’t she just say “have a healthy body?”

The chapter on how to transition to vegan foods will likely be healthful to those who are completely new to the lifestyle. The author shared her story, as well as the story of her sister and mother in earlier chapters. Here, she provides anecdotes from different people who have made the change to vegan foods. If anything, there should have been more advice like this in the book.

RECIPES

I’ll give rave reviews to this section, especially considering that the first recipe that I tried, Strawberry Cheesecake (a raw recipe!) turned out great. If McQuirter put out a vegan cookbook, I would purchase it.

Should You Buy It???

In conclusion, I’m not sure if I would purchase this book again. While the recipe section was good, I yawned through the animal rights stuff. I feel as if I could have gotten all of that information from PETA’s website….seriously. I would have liked a book that was focused more on transitioning to the vegan lifestyle and the unique challenges faced by African-American women. I would also have liked the book to be lighter on the sister-girl talk. I think the author is a strong writer, and clearly well-educated. If she put out another book, maybe a cookbook, I would pick it up – I’m just not sure if I would purchase this book all over again.

Book Review | Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora

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ManjaniManjani is a new and riveting novel by an author by the name of Freedom Speaks Diaspora. From the beginning of the novel, the heroine, Manjani, springs to life as she describes how she was “born conscious.” From that point on, it is clear that Manjani is not your average teen girl.

She’s a rather fierce character. On one hand, she’s wise beyond her years. On the other hand, this young lady has a lot to learn about life, love, family, happiness, and her purpose in life. From birth, she has had a militant belief that blacks have been and continued to be oppressed in “Amerikka” and that she will be a leader who will lead her people to The Revolution. The novel is bursting with vibrant themes such as adolescent challenges, sexuality, spirituality, and race relations. At the same time, the novel centers around a young girl’s coming of age, and her struggle to save not only her own family, but also the world. Manjani wants to see change – in her own life and in society. However, Manjani discovers that not everything in life is as black and white as it appears.

After her family faces a tragedy, things begin to fall apart for Manjani. Problems in school and at home force her out into the world and she has to make some very difficult choices about who she is and what she has become a part of in her quest to lead her people to The Revolution.

The style of the book is captivating. After an initial shock at the blunt truthfulness of the language, the book instantly became a page turner. Crucial issues facing communities across America are discussed in a meaningful way, throughout the dialogue of the characters and in each situation that Manjani faces. This book will make you challenge your own attitudes about sexuality, spirituality, and race relations.

From the publisher:

“Manjani Jackson is a mouthy New York teenager who believes her life’s purpose is to lead her “deaf, dumb, and blind” brothas and sistahs into The Revolution. On one of the worst days of her life, tragedy strikes, landing her at an all white school. Although she is working on getting along, the racist students make it impossible, and before long, the administration crosses the line, forcing Manjani into political action. Then one of her events gets out of hand, sending Manjani on the run. Her journey leads to a place where bittersweet lessons about liberation are learned as her comrades turn against her. Only tough love, spiritual revelations, and self-determination will help her find her place in the struggle.”

Suncycle Publishing

For more information, and to purchase this title, please visit:

Suncylepublishing.com

www.myspace.com/manjani_novel