Queen Nzingha Lectures- Featuring Crystal Afro & Kandace Chimbiri

Hello My Cakers Bakers and Beauties!

This one is for the Londoners or those that can travel to London easily…

For about the last six months I have been attending the Queen Nzingha Lectures at Birkberk college University of London.

The lectures are organised by A National Association of Black Saturday Schools www.nabss.org.uk  and www.blackhistorywalks.co.ukproduction.

This is the description of the lectures from the Black History Walks website.

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Queen Nzinga was an African Queen who fought against the European invasion of southern Africa (Congo/Angola).

The Queen Nzinga lecture series features African/Caribbean female academics / holders of expert knowledge, speaking on topics of their choice on a monthly basis. The Nzinga lecture series provides a regular platform for women of African descent to highlight important issues in  an academic setting. 

I have really been enjoying these FREE lectures and have learned so much more about my history and culture. On Saturday 12th April the Queen Nzingha lecture was entitled:

African Hair Police : Death and Discrimination on your head

Obviously that caught my attention and I was even more excited to hear that UK Natural Hair Blogger Crystal Afro was one of the Queens  speaking at this lecture. The other Queen was Kandace Chimbiri, the founder of Golden Destiny publishing house and author of the book “Secrets Of The Afro Comb“.

The Lecture was opened by Tony Warner who talked about how hair texture and curl patterns were also used along with skin tone to discriminate and segregate people of colour around the world by their oppressors.

Tony’s introduction really brought the topic into context and as always I learned a bit more about Black History. Tony’s introduction covered:

  • The Pencil Test
  • The Haarfarbentel ‘racial value’ test
  • Africans in Germany during World War 2
  • Genocide by sex. Australia vs Brazil
  • How and why African hair became devalued
  • Hair vs skin as a tool of discrimination

Tony then introduced Ms Chimbiri who gave us an amazing audio-visual talk which linked the seemingly unrelated topics of colonialism in Southern Africa, World War 1,The Stolen Generation, Hitler’s Germany, the Black Power movement, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lupita Nyongo and everyday life for women of African descent in England in the present day.

We had a short break and were able to actually look at a genuine historical artefact the “Haarfarbentafel” owned by UCL Museums and Collections this rare Haarfarbentafel (hair colour chart) which was manufactured in the early 20th century as a ‘standard’ scale for hair hierarchy, people were killed if their hair did match up to the samples in the “right” end of the scale. Looking at this object both fascinated and disgusted simultaneously.

The Haararbentafel

The Haararbentafel

Crystal Afro spoke next and she first challenged us to come up with a list of 5 well known celebrated British women of African Descent first from different decades in history then in 2014  once we had shouted out our answers she then asked the same question but added “with natural hair”, we actually could not come up with 5 well known and celebrated “Black British” women with natural hair, if you can please add your list in the comments below, and by well known I mean the average person on the street would know who the women are.

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Crystal explained that when she first decided to stop chemically straightening her hair, she struggled to find examples of well known Black British women who didn’t chemically straighten their hair, in fact even the Sisters on the internet who were going through their “Natural Hair Journeys” were almost exclusively American. That was one of the reasons that Crystal set up her blog The United Kinkdom. In fact The United Kinkdom was my best source of support and knowledge in my first days of going natural and I still follow the blog today.

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Crystal delivered her part of the lecture with intellectual style and aplomb, unlike a few of the Natural Hair Bloggers I’ve met, Crystal is not style over substance, she cares deeply about the health not just the looks of our Sisters and takes her passion for natural hair beyond the scalp . Crystal actually stayed for almost two hours after the talk and had one-on-one conversations with every single one of the ladies in the audience who wanted to speak with her, I might sound a bit like a fan and I guess in a way I am, I really support what Crystal is trying to do and it helps that she is so sweet and humble as well.

After the Lecture we watched an exclusive ten minute  advance preview  of the new film from Toyin Agbetu “Beauty Is”  and then we had extended Q and A  with Ms Chimbiri, Crystal and Mr Agbetu on the Panel.

The Panel from  L-R Ms Chimbiri, Crystal Afro, Mr Agbetu

The Panel from L-R Ms Chimbiri, Crystal Afro, Mr Agbetu

The Q and A was mainly about hair of course and the panellists were all asked some quite confrontational and challenging questions by members of the audience, but they all  answered the questions honestly, tactfully and professionally even though they still put some people in their place when they were asking questions that showed they were not listening properly to some of the information that had been shared earlier. Crystal even admitted that she cried for 2 weeks when she first went natural and I think that type of information is important to share because not everyone is immediately  in love with their natural hair when they big chop, but you wouldn’t know that from the way that most Naturalistas present themselves and their hair stories. I certainly was not in love with my TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) in the beginning and that is why there are no photos of me with my hair like that. I wish I had taken the pics then because it would have been nice to look back on them, but oh well I do not have a time machine…

Here is a clip from the Q and A session please forgive the quality of pics and video in this post, I was using my phone:

Thanks for reading

Luv

Sian

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