News Brief

Unread Letters from Barack Obama’s Kenyan Father Have Been Discovered in Harlem

Nearly two dozen letters unearthed three years ago are still waiting to be read by the 44th U.S. president.

Considering Sunday marked Father’s Day, it would have been the perfect occasion for U.S. President Barack Obama to have read through the nearly two dozen letters his Kenyan father, the man to whom he owes his birth name, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., penned from 1958 to 1964.

But as the New York Times reports, Obama has already waited three years to read them. That’s when the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, where the letters are currently stored, first invited the 44th American president to peruse through the stacks of missives that “tell a fascinating, traditional, self-made man’s story,” according to Director of the Schomburg Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

Barack Obama with his father, Barack Obama Sr., in an undated family photo from the 1960s released by Obama’s presidential campaign.

Obama Sr.’s correspondence, which includes his transcripts from University of Hawaii and Harvard University as well as references, paints a picture of the elusive father-figure that Obama recounts in his first book Dreams from My Father, which helped launch his political career.

“It has been my long cherished ambition to further my studies in America,” writes the 22-year-old from Kenya, who was fluent in Swahili and a proficient typist at 75 wpm, in 1958, as the NYTimes reports.

The uncovered handwritten letters would help the elder Obama receive the scholarship assistance he needed to propel him from Kenya to the United States where he pursued his studies at University of Hawaii, met and married the first U.S. black president’s mother, Ann Dunham, after she became pregnant.

Perhaps the reason why President Obama hasn’t read through the letters is because he hadn’t been “made aware of the collection until recently,” though administration officials have declined to explain why they haven’t responded to the initial discovery or any follow-ups.

Obama will have much to look forward to in his post-presidency, considering a senior White House official says he would be interested in reading through his father's communication at that time. And it sounds like he won’t be disappointed as Muhammad discloses, “there’s a reason to bear witness to the personal legacy that is there.”

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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