What's Nappy Hair author Carolivia Herron been up to lately?

It’s time for my occasional “Whatever Nappened to . . .” column, where I provide updates on people who made headlines for daring to deal with nappiness and things related.

My last update was about Ruth Sherman McCloskey, the white school teacher in Brooklyn who got African-American parents all worked up back in 1998 when she read the children’s book Nappy Hair to her class of predominately African-American and Latino third graders. McCloskey’s intent was to teach her students about diversity, but the parents, most of who had never even read the book, accused her of racism. Their threats drove her away from the school. While McCloskey is still teaching, she is no longer teaching from that book.

To satisfy the curiosity of readers who want to know the whereabouts of the person who wrote that critically-acclaimed and highly controversial picture book, I am devoting this “Whatever Nappened to . . .” column to the author, Carolivia Herron.

Carolivia Herron

Carolivia Herron

I am pleased to report that Herron is alive and well and living in D.C.

“I still love my nappy hair and I love my book,” she tells me in no uncertain terms.

Herron, an educator who specializes in African-American studies, comparative literature and epic storytelling, recently completed writing the libretto for the opera “Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson,” which opened in D.C. in March.

She is still teaching and writing and is also busy developing a neighborhood EpicCenter, which will have programs that will teach youth the art of epic storytelling and will also include nappy hair-themed cultural enrichment workshops.

Last year, Herron formed a “Nappy Advisory Board,” of educators, writers and other kinky kindred spirits who share the same “twisted” purpose of dispelling negative stereotypes in creative and sometimes unconventional ways.

Guess who was among those tapped to serve on her esteemed board? Yours truly, yes, indeed. My nappy-minded colleagues on the board are McCloskey (the Brooklyn schoolteacher); Neal Lester, professor of English at Arizona State University who has written and lectured extensively on black hair issues; Andrea Wilder, a literacy professional affiliated with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and D.C- area educators Georgia Herron, Louise Kelley and Jessica Weissman, who specialize in digital education.

Herron took her dream to another level in March when she purchased property where she plans to house EpicCenter. It will be located in the residential community of Kenilworth in northeast D.C.

“It’s going to happen eventually,” she says.

What many readers of Nappy Hair don’t know is that although Herron’s book was packaged for children, it was actually written when she was teaching at Harvard to show her graduate students how African-Americans use call and response to create narrative and poetic stories.

“This cultural form of art is not only an expression of great joy, but it’s also a way of giving back talk to misconceptions,” she told me by way of explaining what motivated her to write her book in call-and-response style.

When asked why she chose the subject of nappy hair, she said, “Nappy hair talks back. It won’t accept the status quo and it won’t press itself out in order to fit in.”

It’s good to hear that Herron is still keeping it kinky!

Contact Linda or read her bio.