What is hair? Is it just a follicle on the top of one’s head? Or is it a piece of you that evokes certain feelings? The natural hair journey is a unique experience for anyone who goes through it. For some it’s a straightforward journey and for others there’s a lot to unpack.
This project allowed 11 people to relieve and share their natural hair journeys-from their struggles to their triumphs. Below is four of the 11 for part one of the natural hair stories series.
Uju Onochie went to a predominantly white school for part of her childhood and she hated it. Being one of the few black kids in class, she remembered seeing the white girls’ hair and she’d play with it. Thoughts of “why can’t my hair be like this?” would circle her head as her fingers brushed through the girls’ hair. (Click the image above to read her full story)
AMHERST – On Thursday, Mar. 7, the University of Massachusetts Amherst celebrated women around the world with an “International Women’s Day Celebration.” The event, coordinated by the Center for Women & Community, was held in New Africa House, with special food, speakers, and performances from 4 to 6 p.m.
“It’s empowerment in a positive sense,” said Sarah Danforth, educator advocate for CWC, when discussing how the event brings connections between women through networking. She discussed that she’s attended the event to have first hand “meaningful work [to be] connected on this campus.”
Open to all, the event hosted around 60 persons, including women of all ethnicities, a few men, and even children – most took turns coloring in pictures of their favorite inspirational women, such as Frida Kahlo.
On Friday, Mar. 1, the Latinx American Cultural Center hosted graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez for a talk about La Borinqueña, a comic book series he created that features one of the few Afro-Latina superheroes.
La Borinqueña stars Marisol Rios De La Luz, a Nuyorican (New York-born Puerto Rican) and Columbia University student who studies abroad for a semester at the University of Puerto Rico. While there, she explores the caves on the island and finds five crystals, all of which give La Luz individual powers such as superhuman strength, the power of flight, and control of the storms. With her newfound powers, La Luz adopts the superhero name La Borinquena, inspired by Puerto Rico’s national anthem, and works alongside the community to create social change.
As students walked into the LACC, they were greeted with a Puerto Rican flag and the alluring smell of Puerto Rican food prior to the talk. Later during his speech, Miranda-Rodriguez talked about the reasoning for hanging up the flag and serving food was to bring a home feeling to the event.
Yung Baby Tate is an impressive rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Her newest album, GIRLS (released on Feb. 5), celebrates the different angles of her own womanhood and self in an empowering, fun, and expressive way. In her self-produced album, Yung Baby Tate’s sound is unique and bouncy, matching her vibrant and impeccable fashion style. The album features other talented rappers and singers including Bbymutha, Killumanti, Mulatto, Kari Faux, and Baby Rose.
Her sound and style is reminiscent of 90s video games, mixed with a dreamy feeling and bouncy beats. It sounds like glitter is sprinkled through every song. Her playful flow adds to this feeling along with her synthy beeps. Each song is a completely different mood, but are all tied together with her fun style.
The album cover is Yung Baby Tate in a silver leotard with women behind her in pink leotards, all standing on bleachers with their hands above their heads and eyes closed, in a majestic stance. This image represents a squad of girls who are practicing to perform for homecoming (as exemplified through her short film for the album). Each has a different personality and name which coincide with the album song titles.
Initially looking through the song names and album cover, one may assume it is solely about different types of girls: “New Girl,” “That Girl,” “Pretty Girl,” “Cozy Girl.” However, they simultaneously represent different girls and herself. The different girls and personalities are represented visually, through different models embodying the personalities on her Instagram posts and short film, while lyrically Yung Baby Tate is speaking in the first person throughout the album. The fluidity between and within women’s experiences is tied through this double representation.
This expression shows the different facets of her womanhood and experiences, including vulnerability, confidence, hurt, feeling herself, and being cozy. This is what really draws the listener in, because rather than expressing one consistent persona, it gives a glimpse into her layered personality, but is still easily relatable and empowering to others. The narrative of the album seems to represent not only herself, but collective experiences and moods that women (or anyone) can have.
As stated before, each song represents a different persona. They are confident, or confidently vulnerable, but each one embraces a different set of emotions. Discussing the different moods is empowering because Yung Baby Tate is not afraid to express emotions that many women get shamed for, such as being “too sexual” or being “too cocky”. She describes the different personas within the following Twitter thread:
This album is important because not only does it empower the cocky, confident, sexual, and vulnerable sides of Yung Baby Tate’s womanhood, it is also easily relatable for a wide variety of audience. The whole album is extremely emotive and evokes a feeling of walking on a cloud of confidence.
The album GIRLS by Yung Baby Tate is available on all streaming services
Outside of the Greater Boston area or gateways cities, such as Springfield or Pittsfield, few may expect to find large numbers of black people in Massachusetts. It’s surprising, then, to hear that Florence, Mass., a village tucked in the northwest corner of the city of Northampton, had 10 percent black residents in 1850, higher than major hubs like New Bedford and Boston.
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, in light of Black History Month and in partnership with the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, the Malcolm X Cultural Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted a two-part event on the impact of slavery in the Pioneer Valley.
Ruggles Center director Steve Scrimer was invited to speak at the MXCC, presenting the history of African Americans that arrived to Florence in the middle 19th century via the Underground Railroad, and quickly made the mill town their home and site of radical organizing.