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July 3, 2014

CurlyNikki Responds to Ebony.com


For those that haven’t been following the natural hair drama (and I hope you haven’t, really), let me explain. About once or twice a year, I receive submissions from non-black readers. If you look back in the annals of the site, you’ll see that I’ve always chosen inclusion over exclusion and aired the ones that contributed meaningfully to the discussion. These ‘looser curly’ pieces were met with little opposition, but nevertheless, sometimes sparked a healthy debate. But a recent interview which featured Sarah, was met with much resistance. My good friends at Ebony.com published an editorial that weighed in on the debate. Since I found the article bogus and hypocritical, I felt compelled to respond. 

Read On!>>>

Dear Ebony.com,

Or should I say, Dear Jamilah, whose article "does not reflect the views of Ebony.com". The controversy concerning the definition of the term 'natural' is one that is charged with emotion and often goes hand in hand with the issue of protecting 'the sanctity of black spaces.' 

Many women sincerely feel that we must keep these spaces to ourselves in order to maintain a sense of self and security. You know what, they’re right. On the other hand, a lot of non-black women identify strongly with the self-esteem issues black women face as the result of cultural and institutionalized racism. If they feel this way, then they’re right too. I believe that the most important part of my job is to provide a space for all women to enjoy the security they deserve while living in a society that openly questions their legitimacy.  Jamilah, if I am only providing enough space for my readers to feel comfortable in a room (or a blog) full of women similar to me, then I haven’t provided my readers any security at all. 

Now, unless you’ve been in the natural hair game for less than 15 minutes, you know this whole argument is old as hell. I’ve come down clearly on the side of inclusion before.  The reasons are simple, but I’ll state them again. Success in the natural hair movement is defined by the total acceptance of our hair by ourselves, and then ultimately, others.  I and other bloggers have been working hard to make the natural hair movement popular. It’s obvious now that our impact on the hair care industry and popular culture has been tremendous. Generally, this has led to good outcomes like a crap load more product options, and a warmer reception among friends, family and colleagues. Without popularity, none of this would have been possible. However, we can't have popularity without sacrificing privacy. Is it worth the trade? Hmmm...who knows. As a practical matter, what I do know, is that it is difficult to try to make something popular and accepted by not sharing it with others. #WhereTheyDoThatAt

There are other advantages, too. If women from other cultures are inspired by our stories, I'm cool with that. This means that it will become easier for black women to display their blackness outside of our ‘safe’ black spaces. As far as I’m concerned, the site is doing exactly what I designed it to do- promote the natural hair movement. As for the decision to run the article, it was mine alone. I’m a dope black chick, and so I made the site in my image. This is the main reason why it mostly features other dope black chicks. But, I never gave any thought to excluding anyone.  The site is for black women, and whoever else finds it useful. If you would have bothered to contact me, I could have told you that.  For those that do feel a certain way, I don’t think that those views make them racist or somehow wrong. But, I do believe that we need to learn to have this conversation without attacking each other. If you're concerned about the integrity of this 'black space', I would direct you to the thousands of black women that have been featured elsewhere on this site. No really, all you have to do is scroll down. 

What I found intriguing about your decision to speak on this matter was the strong sense of entitlement you must have felt to discuss the meaning and purpose of the blog I created. I mean if I understand you correctly, you’re on my side, but only because the site was never for black women anyway? Well, damn...with friends like that, who needs trolls? So, first things first, Jamilah, it’s obvious that you’re mistaken. As it turns out, featuring other ethnic groups does not mean that my blog is not for black women. Just like Ebony.com’s failure to show up for one of my charity promotions doesn’t make Ebony.com any less qualified to promote charities. Put a pin in that.  But I’ve been thinking, who really is “here for black women?” Is CN dedicated to serving black women or not? Is Ebony.com dedicated to serving black women or not? 

I must admit, I like the folks at Ebony (and Essence, too), especially since you've become more natural hair friendly. I do always wonder, however, why our biggest black publications didn’t lead the natural hair charge. 

*pours Kermit tea*

At any rate, I have a good relationship with the folks at Ebony Online and I try to support your initiatives. Unfortunately, your article reminded me of an incident I had working with your team last December. 


Last Christmas I went to South Africa for a service mission/vacation. I began doing these culture trips a while back...let's call them Curly Culture Missions. When I go, I usually serve my readership by telling them interesting stories about women like them around the world. On this particular trip, we found a great non-profit organization, Metro Kids South Africa that works with young black women (and children) in Cape Town. We knew this would be a great opportunity to help the organization with their mission and so we went to work. We looked for media outlets with wide distribution. We figured Ebony.com was an online publication that could (let’s face it), use some interesting features and perhaps some more traffic. We reached out and were happy to find that you all were excited about the project. So we get to Africa and start emailing you stories, only to find out that all of Ebony.com was on vacation. So here I am in Africa, trying to promote a charitable cause, and with ‘Christmas vacation’ on your horizon, several excuses and a few automated email responses later, the only thing that ran was the intro article which is still on your website, here.  Just saying, what would Santa have to say about that? No really, let me reiterate. This would have done good for a lot of black women and children and would’ve cost Ebony.com nothing. 


We had a very successful trip, raised some money for our charity and personally sponsored one of the young ladies who acts as a mentor to the younger children (pictured above). Still, we were disappointed that y'all dropped punted the ball. We saw for ourselves that the folks of Metro Kids South Africa really needed help and I tried my best to convey that to my audience. What was equally disappointing is that you all missed the story which ultimately led to THIS, and I can’t help but wonder how many women have been encouraged by seeing such a public figure show her natural beauty in such a public way.

I do appreciate your (and Ebony.com's) attempt to get a few extra pageviews bring attention to this important issue. Ultimately, it is a legitimate question. Must we do this natural hair thing ourselves in order to preserve a black space, or should we popularize and push our movement to the broader public?  Both sides have legitimate points. To those that want to define the term natural for me, I've discussed it here, here and here.  

Jamilah, I would like to thank you for bringing to light a very controversial and provoking topic. But, you’ll forgive me if I don’t, right?  I and the rest of the community that I fight tooth and nail to represent, would very much appreciate it if you and your contemporaries would talk less and show up more.  When you write about subjects that tear down a sense of community while ignoring the work I do to build them up, you remind me of the Pharisees who prayed loud, with many words, not to be holy, but just to be heard. 

And the church said…

Later gators,
Nik

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