Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Was Blind, But Now I See.

How many of us don't think twice about where the money we spend on our hair supplies ends up? Probably most.

In an article about "Taking Back the Black Hair Care Industry", Mika Pettigrew talks candidly about our responsibility, as consumers , for letting the now Korean dominated black hair care industry slip through our hands. She writes:

"In 2004, sales of black hair care products exceeded $1.7 billion, as reported by Mintel International Group, a consumer research company. This figure does not include the synthetic and human hair additions that have gained tremendous popularity in recent years... Korean immigrants “get it” and have gotten it for decades, and now have almost complete control of the industry in 2007. They are sizing us up, assessing our needs, crafting and passing out the products. We, in turn, loyally tithe our dollars to strengthen their communities. It is time to consider the roll we play in the crisis within the Black hair care industry, by examining the choices we are making as it relates to us individually, the Black hair care industry specifically, as well as strengthening our communities and preserving our culture in general."

---When I think about that money going towards the employment of their family, to educate their children and to strengthen their communities it makes me angry-not at them, but at us (including myself) for so blindly spending our hard earned dollars and at the few black-owned beauty supply store owners who I've come into contact with whose service and product selection were less than stellar. You know, the communities where these stores are prevalent sure could use that money. African-Americans can surely benefit from controlling the black hair care industry. Mika continues:

"In the early 1900s, Black-Americans controlled the industry with the likes of Madam C.J. Walker, a manufacture and distributor of Black hair care products, and Anthony Overton, a manufacturer of Black beauty aids as well as a magazine publisher and president of a Black-owned bank...The period between the Great Depression and the civil rights movement was vital, as the industry proved its resilience to economic and social turmoil growing out of racial discord. This was critical since Black manufacturers in the Black hair care industry managed to emerge from the Great Depression while other institutions disappeared. The industries staying power did not go unnoticed. Manufacturers of Black hair care products became the focus of public discourse during the civil rights movement.
The years from the civil rights movement to the early 1990s proved to be pivotal for the industry. Black manufacturers began to lose ground to large white conglomerates prior to the Korean take over, and economic barriers were reproduced for Black professionals in the industry."

---Now, Ive never been a racially sensitive militant conspiracy theorist but to me this sounds like something was stolen from us.

Fun Fact: Madame C. J. Walker, touted for inventing the relaxer, made history as the first female American self-made millionaire. She created thousands of well-paying jobs for African-American women, promoted giving back to African-American communities and she was a major financial contributor to many charities and black initiatives. She was the pioneer of the, then African-American controlled, black hair care industry and I'm sure she's rolling over in her grave at the state of the industry today. SMH. Hopefully, in the near future, products by black owned businesses like Oyin Handmade and Karen's Body Beautiful will become more accessible.