News Brief

Oromo Ethiopian Runner Claims Discrimination Ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games

Long-distance runner Mohamed Kemal explains to NPR how his Oromo ethnicity has allegedly made him a target of discrimination.

Despite the Oromo people comprising nearly 50 percent of Ethiopia’s population, they have been the target of discrimination in many facets of lifefrom education to employment to land seizures and arrests. Tensions reached a boiling last November when the country’s largest ethnic group took to the streets to protest their mistreatment led by the ruling party Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.


It’s against this backdrop of the Oromo protests that NPR reports that 23-year-old Mohamed Kemal, who is Oromo, alleges he has been discriminated against ahead of the 2016 summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Ethiopia also announced its national team will be minus its three-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, which means the country could cede victories in the five and 10K contests to Kenya (both countries usually win medals in these middle-distance races). Some have considered Bekele’s exclusion as another example of the Oromo people’s systematic marginalization.

Kemal tells NPR that before a half marathon in 2014 where he finished 86th—placing him in Ethiopia’s top 100 runners for that year—one of the coaches of his running club suggested fixing the race.

“We have been told to make others too tired, but, at the finishing, to give the chance for the Tigrinya,” the Ethiopian runner explains through an interpreter.

Unable to stomach that his Oromo ethnicity means paying bribes and missing out on international sponsorships, Kemal refused to throw the race. The coach was furious, and threatened to ban Kemal from future contention.

Once the Oromo protests erupted, Kemal found himself among the thousands arrested. After his release from jail, he fled to neighboring Kenya, giving up his promising running career.

Kemal’s exile makes watching this summer’s Olympic games complicated. On one hand, he wishes to root for friends and familiar faces from home. But on the other, doing so, means validating what he suggests is Ethiopia’s corrupt running program.

Have a listen to NPR’s story about Oromo Ethiopian long-distance runner Mohamed Kemal below.

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Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Freddie Harrel Is Building Conscious Beauty For and With the African Diaspora

Formerly known as "Big Hair Don't Care", creator Freddie Harrel and her team have released 3 new wig shapes called the "RadShapes" available now.


Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


The normalising of Black and brown women in wigs of various styles has certainly been welcomed by the community, as it has opened up so many creative avenues for Black women to take on leadership roles and make room for themselves in the industry.

Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don't Care), is a lifestyle brand "bringing a new perspective on Blackness through hair, by disrupting the synthetic market with innovative and sustainable products." Through their rebrand, Radswan aims to, "upscale the direct-to-consumer experience holistically, by having connected conversations around culture and identity, in order to remove the roots of stigma."

The latest from French-Cameroonian founder and creator Freddie Harrel - who was featured on our list of 100 women of 2020 - has built her career in digital marketing and reputation as an outspoken advocate for women's empowerment. On top of her business ventures, the 2018 'Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year' uses her platform to advocate for women's empowerment with 'SHE Unleashed,' a workshop series where women of all ages come together to discuss the issues that impact the female experience, including the feeling of otherness, identity politics, unconscious bias, racism and sexism.

And hair is clearly one of her many passions, as Freddie says, "Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self expression, and as a shapeshifter, I'm never done. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles, tell all my stories to this world that often feels constrained and biased."

Armed with a committee of Black women, Freddie has cultivated Radswan and the aesthetic that comes with the synthetic but luxurious wigs. The wigs are designed to look like as though the hair is growing out of her own head, with matching lace that compliments your own skin colour.

By being the first brand to use recycled fibres, Radswan is truly here to change the game. The team has somehow figured out how to make their products look and feel like the real thing, while using 0% human hair and not negotiating on the price, quality or persona.

In 2019, the company secured £1.5m of investment led by BBG Ventures with Female Founders Fund and Pritzker Private Capital participating, along with angelic contributions from Hannah Bronfman, Nashilu Mouen Makoua, and Sonja Perkins.

On the importance of representation and telling Black stories through the products we create, Freddie says, "Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mothers or aunties legs, it's your cousin or newly made friend combing lovingly through your hair, whilst you detangle your life out loud. Our constant shapeshifting teaches us to see ourselves in each other, the hands braiding always intimately touching our head more often than not laying someone's lap."

"Big Hair No Care took off in ways we couldn't keep up with," she continues, "RadSwan is our comeback.It's a lifestyle brand, it's the hair game getting an upgrade, becoming fairer and cleaner. It's the platform that recognises and celebrates your identity as a shapeshifter, your individuality and your right to be black like you."


Check out your next hairstyle from Radswan here.

Radswan's RadShape 01Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 02Photo: Courtesy of Radswan


Radswan's RadShape 03Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

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