afrodrops: a Black-owned shop for Afro hair care

afrodrops logo

“Dad, I really don’t like how my afro hair grows, I hate it.”

That’s the opening quote on the afrodrops about us page. It came from the 5-year-old son of Luke Carthy, founder of afrodrops, who felt compelled to make a change in Afro hair care.

afrodrops is a Black-owned shop for natural and Afro hair care products. As Luke mentioned on the site, the products exist in abundance (afro hair care is worth $2.5bn in the US alone) but not many people (can) go to the specialist stores that sell them for various reasons.

Stores like Boots, The Body Shop, Lush, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s should stock Afro hair care products and reflect the needs of all their customers. afrodrops aims to restore that balance.

Stocked brands include:

  • Mielle
  • African Pride
  • Cantu
  • Palmer’s
  • Shea Moisture
  • Curly Kids

Also, if you subscribe to the afrodrops newsletter, you can get 10% off your first order. Head on over to their site today!

A UK Black History Month Post (2020)

Black people in a crowd

It’s been a challenging year to navigate and, needless to say, Black people are tired. Because of that tiredness, it’s meant that I’ve not been able to write as much about Black History Month this year. But rather than let it go without making the effort, I’ve decided to compile a list of articles about BHM and Black British people for you to read and people to follow.

From the Internet

From the Cultrface archives

People to follow

Stephanie Yeboah

Jason Okundaye

Bolu Babalola

Tobi Kyeremateng

Josh Rivers

Munroe Bergdorf

Isaac Eloi

Nicole Ocran

Kayela “LaLa Love” Damaze

Shahira Allen

Chanté Joseph

La California: Italy's home of unofficial US polling stations

In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.

With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.

There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.

Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.

There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:

Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.

Whatever the origin, the genesis of the unofficial polling stations started in 2004 and they’ve been going ever since. I wonder whether Las Californians will vote for Trump or Biden.

Conflict in Literature (with Daffy Duck)

Twitter is a dumpster fire but sometimes it can provide humour and escapism.

Conflict in Literature is a meme that started as a comic in 2014:

On May 22nd, 2014, Grant Snider of Incidental Comics published a comic entitled “Conflicts in Literature.” In the comic, stick figures act out the classic conflict scenarios present in narrative art, such as “man vs. nature” and “man vs. technology,” as well as the movement in literature (“modernism,” “post-modernism,” etc.)

From there, a series of unique versions were made including one starring Daffy Duck. The original creator, Instagram user @rad_shiba, posted it on their page but has since been taken down.

I like the concept but adding Daffy Duck to each one is a masterstroke. I wonder what a Nancy version would look like.

(via @johnarmenta)

Jenn Nkiru on her work and Afro-surrealism

Jenn Nkiru

As part of the Jarman Award Touring Programme 2020, Black filmmaker Jenn Nkiru spoke with Sofia Lemos in conjunction with the Nottingham Contemporary.

They discussed her film Black to Techno (2019), Black musical histories and how the afro-surrealism in her work.

Jenn Nkiru is an artist and filmmaker. Pushed through an Afro-surrealist lens, her practice is grounded in the history of Black music and the aesthetics of experimental film and international art cinema. Her work draws on the Black arts movement and the rich and variegated tradition of cinemas of the Black diaspora and their distinct experimentation with the politics of form. Her work blends elements of history, identity, politics, music, documentary and dance.

Check out Jenn’s website for more of her work.

Love from a Black perspective

My Dad has always been full of wisdom. He once described love to me as a pure and positive force that could not take any other form but itself. He said that actions that were jealous, angry, or otherwise ego-driven weren’t in the name of love. And that stuck with me ever since.

I look back at how I’ve received love and a lot of them were in forms my father decried as false. I’ve tried my best to love as purely and openly as possible. It has backfired a lot but I don’t regret what I did or how.

And that got me thinking about how love has been discussed by some of the great Black scholars and thinkers of our times and in this article, I’d like to share some with you.

“Love is divine only, and difficult always.”

Toni Morrison

“Love is where you find it. And you don’t know here it will carry you. And it is a terrifying thing [love]. It’s the only human possibility but it’s terrifying. And a man can fall in love with a man, a woman can fall in love with a woman. There’s nothing that anybody can do about it.”

James Baldwin

“Love is space. It is developing our own capacity for spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be as they are. That is love. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hopes or wishes that things are changed or shifted, but that to come from a place of love is to be in acceptance of what is, even in the face of moving it towards something that is more whole, more just, more spacious for all of us.”

Angel Kyodo Williams

“Some people forget that love is
tucking you in and kissing you
“Good night”
no matter how young or old you are”

Nikki Giovanni

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

Zora Neale Hurston

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Dr Maya Angelou

“Love quiets fear.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Sir David Adjaye’s best projects

Sir David Adjaye

Last week, Sir David Adjaye became the first Black architect to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by RIBA in its 173-year history. This was even more remarkable since less than 2% of registered architects are Black.

To honour the occasion, The Spaces picked 8 of the most iconic projects from his career.

Adjaye has worked tirelessly for the last 27 years, taking on projects that range from monumental public scales to intimate domestic spaces, each with an instantly recognisable aesthetic.

Amongst the chosen projects were The Stephen Lawrence Centre in South London and The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Check the slideshow on The Spaces website.

The Uganda Skateboard Union

The Uganda Skateboard Union started as an organisation for Ugandans to skate and “have a positive impact on the youth’s development and growth.” Back in 2006, Jackson Mubiru and Shael Swart built the nation’s first skateboard ramp out of bricks and cement. Later, a Canadian filmmaker named Brian Lye worked with them to build a small course beside the ramp and fundraised to create a skateboard park.

The skatepark featured in the music video for Naughty Boy, Kyla & Popcaan’s “Should’ve Been Me” (although the video description says the park was built in 2004).

Stream it below.

The photography of Kennedi Carter

Kennedi Carter is an African-American photographer from North Carolina who specialises in photography and creative direction of Black subjects.

Her work highlights the aesthetics & sociopolitical aspects of Blackness as well as the overlooked beauties of the Black experience: skin, texture, trauma, peace, love and community. Her work aims to reinvent notions of creativity and confidence in the realm of Blackness.

Jacqui Palumbo profiled her latest works for Artsy where Carter depicted expressions of Black love:

Drawn from her series “East Durham Love” (2019), the works on view at Rosegallery feature images of Black love that Carter shot as her own relationship underwent a significant transition. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ending; it was just the reforming of a relationship,” she said. “It was the first time I had truly experienced love. And I think part of the project was trying to unpack what [it] meant to me as well as what I’d like to think it meant for them.”

Carter’s series contrasts the oversaturation of Black trauma we’ve seen in the press this year and, in her words, “manifested the type of love” she thought she deserved. “There was this sense of longing and truly experiencing what it means to miss someone.”

Val & Shaq, from The Soloist, 2019
Lovely Boys, from The Ganzy, 2020

For more, read the Artsy article and check out Carter’s collection on her website.

What if Batman was Black?

Wayne Williams as Batman

Of all the Black superheroes I asked for on Twitter, one that caught my eye was Batman. When was Batman Black? Once, 19 years ago.

In September 2001, Stan Lee and Joe Kubert created Just Imagine Stan Lee with Joe Kubert Creating Batman with Bruce Wayne replaced with Wayne Williams, an African-American man.

Like the original Batman/Bruce Wayne, he had no superpowers, was an expert detective, skilled fighter, and super-rich. But Wayne Williams’s backstory differed from Bruce Wayne’s. Williams’ father, a cop, was killed in an ambush and he was then framed for a crime by a gang leader called “Handz”. While in prison, he made friends with a scientist called Frederick Grant and started bodybuilding. He got a full pardon after rescuing the warden during a prison riot and sought revenge on Handz who had also killed Williams’s mother while he was incarcerated.

To earn money, Williams becomes a wrestler, under the name of Batman, and became a wealthy celebrity. He found Grant and they became partners and turn to fighting crime. Batman finally found Handz and fought him which lead to Handz’s accidental death from a fall. He then vowed to protect innocent people.

However, not everyone enjoyed the story arc.

Stan’s Batman operates out in the open, and his goal is only to get payback. But the major crime is how Stan basically just repurposed old ideas into something that came off like a polished turd. It’s kinda like if you submitted old homework to fulfill (sic) a new assignment, and still only managed to get a C.

William B. West for The Nerds of Color

And this from Tim Webber of CBR.com, who ranked it #12 (last) in his ‘Just Imagine…’ Stories list:

While other Elseworlds tales have twisted and stretched the concept of Batman into fantastic new shapes, Lee delivers a perfunctory take on Batman that doesn’t feel compellingly different from anything that’s been done before. His attempts to write street-level dialogue come across as clumsy and dated, and do little to define one-note characters. Kubert’s art looks fine, but Lee’s script just feels disappointing. A lot of the hype for the “Just Imagine…” project rested on this first book, and the squandered potential here casts a shadow over the rest of the line.

If those reviews don’t deter you, you can buy the full novel on Amazon or stream the video below where someone has kindly displayed every page to read.

Just Imagine Stan Lee With Joe Kubert Creating Batman v2001 #001 #comics

Albert Murray on race, jazz, and modernism

albert murray

Tim Keane wrote an essay on jazz writer Albert Murray for Hyperallergic. He touched on Murray’s life and his work examining modernist art and jazz:

In Murray’s view, jazz converts psychological pain and its vernacular offshoots into ritualized, polytonal, integrated music and dance. Jazz adapts and expands the written scores that the musician follows and ultimately surpasses; its best improvisers are extemporizing formalists learning from and competing with the innovations of peers, collaborators, and forerunners. Its refinements universalize the particular, dissolving personal history and psychosocial baggage, and call participants into the mythic dimension — an aesthetic realm that involves getting on the dusty dance floor.

There was also a brief critique of Murray’s 1970 essay collection, The Omni-Americans:

The book dismantles American Black separatism as a regressive, escapist fantasy that cedes the premise of white supremacy — the Balkanization of the country by race — to the nation’s bigots. Though he necessarily deploys them to make his points, misleading or reductive labels infuriate Murray, who believes that being American involves being neither wholly Black nor wholly white, while insisting that Blackness be defined as a characteristic as primarily American as whiteness has been since the country’s founding.

Fifty years on, such liberal hypocrisy is endemic to hyper-gentrified gluten-free neighborhoods, where Black Lives Matter posters hang in the windows of pricey condos, boutiques, and galleries — stretches of real estate that once housed working-class Black families and businesses.

Grab a copy of The Omni-Americans on Amazon and read Tablet Magazine’s review of the book on its 50th anniversary.

The super realistic art of Arinze Stanley

PAINFUL CONVERSATIONS

Arinze Stanley Egbengwu is a hyperrealist artist from Lagos, Nigeria.

Starting at an early age of 6, Arinze had always been enthusiastic about drawing realistic portraits on paper. Being exposed to his family’s paper conversion business, Arinze grew to love paper and pencils as his toys at a very tender age. Over the years He gradually taught himself how to master both Pencils and Paper in harmony as a medium to express himself through what he calls his three P’s namely Patience, Practice and Persistence. These have guided him throughout his journey as an artist.

His work has featured in exhibitions around the world including Lagos, Los Angeles, London, Miami, New York, and New Jersey.

Whenever I see photorealist art on Twitter, I quote tweet it with something like “DRAWING?!” or “PAINTING?!” and this is no different. The detail is incredible and shows Black people as Black people. No special lighting, just Blackness in art.

See also: Charles Bierk’s photorealism

Toni Morrison on "Jazz" (1993)

Toni Morrison

When Toni Morrison spoke, you listened. When she wrote, you read. And we still do even after her death on 5th August 2019.

In her famous 1993 interview with Charlie Rose, she discussed her novel Jazz, how she won Pulitzer Prize, and her encounters with racism. But it’s with the latter that most people remember this interview and a particular section I listen to over and over.

White People Have a Very Very Serious Problem - Toni Morrison on Charlie Rose

If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem, and my feeling is White people have a very, very serious problem and they should start thinking about what they can do about it. Take me out of it.

Between Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, I could listen to their speeches until I die.

Stream her interview below.

Toni Morrison interview on "Jazz" (1993)