News Brief

Students at a Second South African High School Are Protesting the Policing of Natural Hair

One senior alleged she has been told her hair is “disgusting and smelly.”

It’s 2016, people. Can we stop policing black people’s bodies and their natural hair? Please for the love of God. If you have a problem with either, look the other way. Or better yet, work on yourself.


Students at a second school, Lawson Brown High School, in Eastern Cape are railing against anti-black policies that aim to police their beautiful natural hair on Monday, according to The Citizen.

This follows protests that began over the weekend led by students at Pretoria High School in response to allegedly racist and out of turn remarks from teachers about the “untidiness” of their natural hair.

Lawson Brown High School senior Unathi Gongxeka, who prefers to wear her hair in an Afro, says she felt “violated and victimized” when teachers allegedly issued an ultimatum that she either straighten or tie up her hair or be barred from taking the matric trial exam.

“He told me to go to the teacher who is in charge of the hair committee to ask if my hair is appropriate. I was told to neaten it,” Gonxeka says according to Herald Live. “On Friday again I was sent to the same teacher who told me to tie it into a ponytail or push it back somehow. The teacher then told me to relax my hair to make it more beautiful. The teacher then started putting her hands into my hair, saying she will make it pretty.”

Gongxeka has refused to chemically straighten or alter her hair and is determined to sit for her English exam.

Another senior Sihle Zinganto reportedly has alleged that teachers said her hair is “disgusting and smelly.”

Lawson Brown High School principal Donovan Cairncross has denied racism is at play in Gongxeka being targeted, and has gone as far as denying that she was advised to straighten her hair, maintaining that the school’s code of conduct regarding hair is a longstanding one and applies to all students.

“Children can be defiant and are always wanting to push the boundaries. If [Gongxeka] comes to school with her hair in the same way we will have to see what the code of conduct states,” Cairncross explains. “We are looking at every aspect of the school uniform, from hair to clothing to nails.”

Students in support of Gongxeka, some donning Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) uniforms, sung a freedom song and have demanded an apology from the school.

The incident has spilled over to social media under hashtag #LawsonBrownHighSchool with many, including a number of African men, expressing outrage and posting videos of the student rally.

Watch the video below to learn more about what's happening at #LawsonBrownHighSchool:

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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