Why? Well, my dear curl friends the reason is simple:
Michaela angela Davis is the foremost advocate for all things kinky, curly, and coily.
If you have ever been in the presence of greatness, you know what it feels like to be in genuine awe. Like the I-think-they-can-see-that-I've-stopped-breathing kind of awe. The she-just-hit-the-world-with-a-Grand-Slam kind of awe. The I-just-listened-to-Lemonade-and-life-has-been-given kind of awe.
That kind of awe happens to almost everyone that listens to Cultural Critic and Image Activist Michaela angela Davis speak, especially at live events.
And if you don't know who Michaela angela Davis is, you best sit down and learn summthin' right now: With her firm stance, unwavering voice, and direct truths, Michaela angela Davis is the GOAT. For real.
By rallying behind and with powerful Black voices, Davis is changing our natural hair community through The Hair Tales: An Appropriation Conversation.
She's also created a conversation project, MAD FREE, that features Black female icons that we all have modeled our hair and a few life goals after: Regina King, Tasha Smith, Kim Coles, Mara Brock Akil, and many more women of color. The individual conversations that make up the MAD FREE project highlight the beauty and power of Black women, all of them tied together by that single, unbreakable bond we all share: our kinky, curly, coily hair.
In this NaturallyCurly exclusive, Michaela angela Davis reveals what makes Black women's hair so beautiful, awe-inspiring, transcendent, and culturally relevant and why we need to talk about it.
GERILYN HAYES: Will you please share the origin story of MAD FREE?
MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS: MAD FREE is simply described as “Liberating Conversations with Revolutionary Women about Beauty, Image and Power”. It began as a Salon series in NY loft in Brooklyn as a salve to my broken heart after Honey Magazine folded. It was not because of the readership or because the market wasn’t there; the company that held it collapsed, which I was the last editor in chief of. I couldn’t bare the idea of not being in regular communication with the audience I LOVE - young women of color.
So I would have a monthly gathering at my loft with about 20 fly young women and a bad ass bawse women of color in various industries, film, medicine, tech, art. We would have a conversation about career, identity, beauty, and leadership. The gathering got too big, so I moved it into art institutions and other public spaces. It’s been growing ever since.
HAYES: MAD FREE exists to spark conversations that change negative perceptions of women. What successes has the organization seen since initiating these conversations?
DAVIS: I would more accurately say I seek to widen, narrow narratives of women of color. MAD FREE is a conversation project, not an organization, but I’ve literally have seen women have breakthroughs in real time. They learn and connect. I’ve had more women I could count say one of our conversations inspired them to be bold and wonderful things like getting PHD’s or traveling to the continent. I am certainly far more inspired by the community of women than they are inspired.
HAYES: It’s exciting that MAD FREE continues to go offline and into the community! Will you please give us a little preview of what to expect at your conversation with Franchesca Ramsey at AFROPUNK'S The Takeover - Harlem?
DAVIS: I’ve been waiting years to have a conversation with Franchesa! She’s so funny and wicked smart. So that’s really going to be the experience it’s going to intelligent, layered, and hilarious. It will also be Grown Ass.
HAYES: The MAD FREE conversationalists are icons in the Black community. What other icons can we expect to hear from in upcoming MAD FREE TV conversations?
DAVIS: Well, we’re working towards having the ultimate “Appropriation Conversation” with the women who wrote the anthem “Don’t Touch My Hair”.
[Interjection by your friend G*: Yes, curl friend. It's okay to freak out right about now because you read that correctly... Please continue.]
The Hair Tales: An Appropriation Conversation
DAVIS: The project that I LOVE working on the most is “The Hair Tales”. It’s like the Vagina Monologues but about Black hair; a gathering of stories about Black women’s identity and humanity through the lens of hair. Hair is what connects women in Dakar and Detroit, Oprah and Opal the #BlackLivesMatter activist. There’s a story in every kink, curl, and coil.
HAYES: Depending on the participants, conversations about cultural appropriation can become emotionally taxing in a matter of seconds. I can personally attest to this. That is why I find your positive, all-sides-examined approach to the conversation a relief. Will you please explain how you determined that this was the best approach to the cultural appropriation conversation?
DAVIS: The Appropriation Conversation will be a series, an ongoing conversation. You know we can’t get generations of damage “handled” in one event. My approach is to be honest-really honest-and consistent. That is what any growth will take. It is an issue I think this generation can be courageous enough to comb through (pun intended).
Image activism 101 for the Courageous Generation
HAYES: You discovered that image was everything at the age of seven. Since then, you’ve shaped the diaspora with your writing and activism. For those of us that are also focused on sharing positive images and stories of Black and brown women in the media, will you please share how one can become an Image Activist?
DAVIS: Being an Image Activist simply means to be in action of supporting, celebrating and creating honest images of a group you care about, or yourself.
HAYES: Outside the NaturallyCurly community, there are girls and women of color struggling with issues surrounding their natural texture and curls. They straighten and blowout and wild out. And although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think that it’s problematic when these girls and women use straightening and smoothing techniques because they think their hair isn’t “good” and is inherently “bad.” What advice or words of encouragement can you provide to help them relinquish their hold on the idea that straight, textureless hair is ‘good hair’?
As a woman of color you are a textured person, you have layers and dimension your hair is a reflection of that. You were not made to be flat and take life lying down. Only textured hair can shapeshift-it is special, magical and real, as are you.
HAYES: Now, I’m not trying to get all up in your ‘fro but I have to ask: How do you keep your Afro in “legendary” mode? I’m certain that NaturallyCurly readers are curious, as am I.
DAVIS: I am SO impressed with all the energy so kinky, coily and curly girls put into the maintenance and enhancement of their hair. As a busy, grown ass woman, I don’t have the time. What I do is I keep myself and my hair hydrated - I drink lots of water and wet my hair frequently. I also keep it highly moisturized. I’m currently LOVING the Madam CJ Walker Beauty Culture products, especially the butter cream and coconut oil shine. I will always come back to the leave-in conditioner by Hair Rules, I also keep it trimmed by Dickey at Hair Rules. And I just love it. I have #HappyHair!
Indeed, she does!
And so do you!
As a NaturallyCurly community member, you're familiar with the conversations on our platform about texture positivity and appropriated Black hairstyles. That's why it's so important that you join us on Friday, February 24, 2017 in Harlem to participate in The Hair Tales: An Appropriation Conversation. This conversation can't happen without you! And I know that you're going to feel inspired by Michaela angela Davis and Franchesca Ramsey.
This is your moment of greatness, my dearest curl friends. Let's bask in each other's presence, shall we? Let's listen when Michaela speaks. Let's listen when Franchesca speaks. Let's listen to each other when we lift our collective voices in praise of our crowns and culture!
I can't wait to see you all in Harlem!