Arts + Culture

A Love Letter to Shea Butter

A heartfelt love note to a vital component of black hair and self care—raw shea butter. Light the candles. Cue the violins.

Dear Sista Shea,


You’ve been apart of my heritage and household for longer than I’ve known, yet I’ve only become truly acquainted with you about six years ago. It was when I went natural, and I suddenly became more aware of what goes in and on my body and how my body reacts to it. It was when I started to consciously practice self love and self care.

Self care. It’s one of many buzzwords that rose in popularity in recent years. Simply put, it is the act of caring, catering to and comforting oneself in times of emotional and mental need. I’ve needed to do this more often lately because sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart: police brutality against black people, the acquittal of offenders in controversial cases, and, most recently, the presidency of Donald Trump. We have to take care of our minds, hearts, and bodies, and thus, one another.

For me, self care varies from cooking myself a delicious, healthy meal to reading a good book to going on a mindful walk and treating myself to a cup of tea. It means logging off of social media, meditating, stretching or calling a friend.

It means buying all natural soaps and hair products because it eases my senses and my body. It also means washing and styling my hair, which, as a natural hair mama, can take several hours, but I find it exciting because I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my hair. It is an intimate, personal activity filled with aromatic essential oils, scalp massages and creamy conditioners.

And you, shea butter, have played a key role in my self care routines. As you know, I care a lot about maintaining smooth, clear skin and growing strong, healthy hair. You’ve been helping me get closer to these goals.

Growing up, I’ve suffered from all kinds of skin issues. Eczema has plagued my body, ranging from itchy, scaly spots to more severe symptoms. I am susceptible to boils in the winter (I know, gross!) and essentially, I have dry, sensitive skin. But with you, shea butter, I’ve found a cure to these dilemmas.

You smooth the cracks of my heels, you appease the ash on my elbows. My lips drink your moisture, my curls cuddle with your softness. With you, my body awakens: glowing, glad, grateful.

And when you meet the likes of coconut, almond, avocado, extra virgin or vitamin E oil, your benefits multiply in number. With the whip of my wand (a long spoon) and the addition of these essential oils, you transform into a supple, buttery cream that glides easily between my fingers and kisses the grooves of my curls. You become a still, golden river.

No more stark white lotions with ingredients I can’t pronounce—I’m on my DIY body creme flow, and you’re the star. No more overpriced lip balms—err, wait! I still like those! But I make sure you’re the main ingredient. And my soap bars contain you as well. You are with me all day, in many ways.

Yet, there is another reason why I feel connected to you. You are the treasure from my family’s homeland, Ghana. And although I haven’t been home yet, I feel like I have a piece of my roots every time my grandmother returns to the States with hunky globes of you. You are the bridge that connects me to the land I dream of.

And it’s not only I you've touched. There’s natural haired people far and wide who have been blessed by your wonder. They do tutorials about you, have started skin and hair care lines in your honor. You’ve helped us realize a new level of our potential, have empowered us to embrace our kinks, our melanin, our now unchapped lips.

Because when your skin is smooth, your hair is poppin, your mind and body softened, you can go about your day with more confidence and stride. Then you can focus on other important things as well: like work, creativity and social justice. You bring out the best in me, and thus I can walk into the world as my best self.

Love always,

Sista boo

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Image courtesy of the artist.

Sarkodie Releases New Album 'Black Love'

The album features Stonebwoy, Tekno, Maleek Berry, Efya, and more.

Sarkodie returns with the release of his highly-anticipated new album Black Love.

The star Ghanaian rapper has been releasing singles from the album throughout the year, including the tracks "Party & Bullshit." featuring Donae'o and Idris Elba, "Saara" with Efya, "Do You" featuring Mr Eazi, "Can't Let Go," and more.

Black Love also boasts features from Stonebwoy, Tekno, Maleek Berry, King Promise, Kizz Daniel and several other artists. The album is the artist's first release since 2017's Highest.

After a log wait, the artist released the album unannounced on Friday morning.

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This Black Hairstyle Collective Is Embracing the Beauty of Natural Hair in Colombia

Chontudas wants to strengthen natural hair knowledge among young black girls in Colombia.

In 2012, a champeta duo from Santa Marta, a Caribbean town in Colombia, dedicated their song "Pelo Malo" to all women that have a "bad," "weird" or "disorganized" hair. The song suggested that all these women have to use "liser" – a product to straighten their hair to make it look cool. The song neatly illustrates the stigma of wearing natural hair in Afro-Colombian communities. But these offensive categories don't represent the growing movement of Afro-Colombian women who are embracing their natural hair and all of its beautiful complexity.

During the American Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the 60s and 70s, there was a revolt in favor of wearing natural hair. The second wave of the natural hair movement has reached a global audience through social media and Colombia is not an exception. It's been five years since Mallé Beleño, an educator, and other black women created a hair collective called Chontudas—the name refers to a kind of palm tree whose presence evokes the hair of black women. The group was initially founded to discuss how to wear natural black hairstyles as well as to spread ancestral traditional hair knowledge.

This collective came to life as a Facebook group with 70 black women in 2014. Since then, it has become a place to share the experiences of making the transition to natural hair, and a place to showcase a more diverse standard of beauty as well as a place to trade hair care advice.

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In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

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Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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