It’s cervical cancer prevention week and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is raising awareness with the #SmearForSmear 2019 campaign. To get involved all you have to do is post a #SmearForSmear selfie smearing your lipstick. I know it’s a beauty fax pas you would never dream of doing intentionally, but your selfie with tip or word of support encouraging women to go for cervical screening (also known as a smear test), could actually save a life!
Cervical screening is free but is not a test for cancer. It identifies cell changes (abnormalities) on your cervix (the entrance to the womb) caused by high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). These abnormal cells can be removed, helping to prevent cancer. For those old enough to remember, Big Brother / reality TV star Jade Goody sadly died from cervical cancer 10 years ago on 22 March 2009, aged 27. Her death coined the term, the ‘Jade Goody effect’ when screening rates increased following her death. According to reports, the number of women aged 25 to 49 in England who went for screening increased from 69.3% in March 2008 to 72.5% in March 2009.
Flash forward a few years and NHS Digital say the number of eligible women (aged 25-64) going for cervical screening in England has fallen for the fourth year running. Public Health England (PHE) also say that women from ethnic minority groups and women between ages 25-29 are ‘frequent non-attenders’ of screening; but you can help change all this.
It’s not always easy finding complimentary lipstick shades for darker skin tones, but over the past couple of years ranges have expanded.
The ‘blogosphere’ can be all-consuming; as bloggers we’re told that consistency is key but sometimes I don’t have time to reflect on how my blog has evolved. A recent Twitter thread forced me to think of why I started blogging in the first place and the importance of so-called ‘niche’ stories.
Many bloggers/vloggers/content creators want to develop content that will be consumed by the masses. There is a perception that black and ethnic minority stories can’t resonate in the mainstream, wth Western audiences. Black Panther shut down that theory, but a few years earlier in 2013, Fruitvale Station made a significant dent in this theory too (along with other films).
The film recounts the murder of Oscar Grant (a 22-year-old unarmed African-American man) by police. Michael B Jordan starred as the lead character, in director Ryan Coogler’s first, critically acclaimed film. The poignant portrayal of the events leading up to Oscar Grant’s death, were preceded by Coogler showing Oscar Grant’s life and struggles. Dealing with life after prison, looking for a job, balancing his relationship with his girlfriend and daughter.
Following a fight on a train, Oscar Grant was killed by police on New Year’s Day 2009. He was shot at point blank range in the back. The officers used an unnecessary amount of force, which I don’t think would have been used if Oscar Grant was white.
But Oscar Grant was not white; if he was, even with the same socio-economic status and lifestyle, he probably would have lived to tell the tale.
On a small budget, the cinematography of the film contributed to gripping viewing. All the accolades the film received were well deserved, especially on a debut directing role for Coogler.
‘Justice’ is not a word I would use to describe the verdict on the murder of Oscar Grant. If anyone else killed Oscar Grant in the same manner, I think the verdict would have been different.
Whether you love or hate social media, its presence allows us to consume and share stories which would have been marginalised or erased. Oscar Grant’s murder was captured on mobile phones by various witnesses. In the moments leading up to when Oscar was shot, the film showed the witnesses who, regardless of race were all united in their emotions at what unfolded before their eyes.
When we share ‘niche’ stories we think may not directly relate to us, we humanise these stories. What we may think is un-relatable, can resonate with us on a human level. We may come from different backgrounds and cultures, but we have one thing in common – we are all human and can relate to each other emotionally on that and understand each other through that gaze. When you authentically explore your own narrative and execute it intelligently, as Ryan Coolger did in Fruitvale Station, it can have global appeal.
I started blogging because I wanted to share the stories that are important to me but often marginalised by the mainstream media. We all benefit from telling and sharing ‘niche’ stories and that’s why it important for all creatives to tell them. Content creators are doing so through various outlets, including Block Party Cinema who hosted the screening of Fruitvale Station that I watched on a sunny May Bank Holiday weekend.
“As cinema loving Londoners, we’d grown disenchanted with the lack of access to black and multicultural films either through mainstream or pop up cinemas. Our ambition with Block Party Cinema is to help rejuvenate, and make these films even more accessible, whilst adding our own special ingredients to the mix. Community spirit has always been the soul of the best block parties and that’s the feeling we’ve harnessed to create this unique cinema experience.” – Block Party Cinema
While colourism extends to many cultures, this post will focus on colourism within the black (of African descent) community
That Tweet (and all the others that have come before it) A few days ago, another anti-dark skin black girl tweet from 2012 resurfaced. UK TV personality, Maya Jama (a teenager at the time) girlfriend to Stormzy (a British-Ghanaian), one of the biggest grime artists in the UK, was exposed for tweeting this tweet – a quote from a comedian:
To top it off, Maya had to apologise twice because her initial apology was addressed to ‘all women’ and not specifically to dark skin black women.
Yes, Maya was young when she tweeted this quote from a comedian. However, black women have been brutalised physically and mentally for hundreds of years due to their skin tone, I don’t have sympathy for anyone who encourages this type of abuse (including the comedian who apparently said it initially).
Some were not best please with Maya Jama’s quoted tweet.
What also makes it worse is that, Maya has a black fan base and makes money from black culture (she hosted the UK MOBO awards last year). Now she is not the only celebrity ‘of colour’ (apparently, she is of Somali/Swedish descent) that has allied with the abuse of dark skin black women, that is why this post is not about her, but a more pressing problem.
What’s funny about the Maya Jama tweet from 2012 is that, AFRICAN women have been shaving their heads for decades! So, it’s funny that some believe dark skin black women should not wear a hairstyle that has been passed down the generations!
Colourism The negative connotations that come with having darker skin (especially as a woman) are palpable.
Stemming from slavery and colonisation the roots of colourism run deep, along with the global narrative that lighter skin (especially for women) = beauty, this isn’t a light-hearted issue and like racism ignites similar emotions.
What’s depressing about this whole colourism issue is that it’s perpetuated by US! Yes, black people. If black people abuse dark skin black women, then the flood gates are open for others to do the same, thinking it’s totally acceptable behaviour. The psychological abuse of dark skin black must stop, and this must start within the black community.
Slavery and colonisation were strategic in their psychological carving away of black self-worth. Many black people have internalised and perpetuate this self-hate as a fierce emotional a weapon.
It’s been noted on Twitter that celebrities who get the most attention for speaking out against racial discrimination have a ‘similar look’. Like Beyoncé (who is an amazing singer – #beychella), the perception is they are the ‘acceptable (more palatable) faces of black’.
Actress, Zendaya recently admitted that ‘light skin privilege’ within the black community does exist, when many choose to be coy about the subject. Zendaya frequently speaks about racial disparities and is applauded for doing so. However, If someone of a darker hue, e.g. Serena Williams were to do the same, more often than not would be crowned with the ‘angry black woman’ slur.
It’s about time we have honest conversations, acknowledging the ‘light skin privilege’ many black and mixed-race people posses. Allowing dark skin women to say how they feel, without being dismissed as jealous and angry of their light skin counterparts is important too.
“Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers”.
“Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot.” – Zendaya in a 2016 Cosmopolitan interview
Even in the black entertainment industry the bias towards dark skin black women is evident. This beauty legacy, means that ‘the struggle’ is harder for dark skin black women. Along with everything else that was great about Black Panther, the concept of having a dark skin love interest (one which had a darker complexion than her male protagonist), played by Lupita N’yongo is not something we are used to, even in 2018.
Having powerful gate keepers like Shonda Rhimes, has given us characters like Anaalise Keating in ‘How to get Away with Murder’, played by Viola Davis. Nate Moore who works for Marvel Studios was instrumental in placing the Dora Milage via Black Panther on the big screen, which definitely had a billion-dollar impact! Despite this (and other exposures of dark skin black women) and hundreds of years post slavery, I’m still here in 2018 writing a post about colourism!
Maybe we need more representation in our local communities, professional and creative industries? But I’m not sure if this will shift the negative narrative around dark skin black women either. Are these perceptions actually changing? It’s hard to overcome the battle of the mind and like most psychological illnesses, I guess colourism requires some sort of ‘therapy’. The first step in this process is to admit there is a problem, so maybe we start there?
Any other suggestions on how we can move past colourism? Comment below.
Not just for chocolate lovers, Dark Sugars is a nice spot on the famous stretch of road, know as Brick Lane, East London.
When I saw how Dark Sugars do their hot chocolate on Twitter, I made a point to go out of my way and visit them. I was keen to see if this could rival my usual Starbucks hot chocolate. To be honest, with the infectious spread of gentrification spreading through London’s urban dwellings, I’m all for independent businesses stirring up the coffee shop industry. I went down to Dark Sugars with another willing chocolate-loving accomplice :-), for the hot chocolate but was side tracked by the chocolates and ‘choctails’ (chocolate cocktails)!
This was a prime example of always being ready when you’re a blogger as you never know who you will meet on your little adventures.
After taking my own tour, buying chocolate and having some cocktails, we bumped into Paul aka ‘The Chocolate Man’, who gave us a little history of Dark Sugars – a true (African) chocolate story.
Using cocoa beans sourced from Ghana, Dark Sugars is the perfect place to chill over some quality hot chocolate or turn up the vibes with a delicious range of chocolate treats and cocktails. There are 2 locations both on Brick Lane, Dark Sugars Chocolate Shop opened in 2013 with the Cocoa House opening 2 years later.
For tasty chocolates, cocktails and indulgent hot drinks Dark Sugars is the place!
Women History Month would not be complete without mentioning this Ghanaian heroine. When Queen Mother of Ejusi, Yaa Asantwaa fought against British colonisers she did it in boldness and not fear, with pride and not an inferiority complex. In 1900, a time without ‘womens movements’ and social media, Yaa Asantewaa was determined to fight for her people, for the Asante kingdom (of modern day Ghana) to keep what was rightfully theirs and stop the British from stealing the Golden Stool. Described as embodying the soul of the Asante people, the golden stool is very sacred.
History documents that the War of the Golden Stool aka the Yaa AsantewaaWar took place on 28th March 1900. It was the last war between modern day Ghana and her British colonial oppressors. The British were asserting their control and were determined to capture the Asante kingdom along with all it’s riches. The Asante people had fiercely fought the British in previous wars to maintain their sovereignty (as they should have) but the British were persistent in their oppression.
Photo: source unknown via Google
The Treaty of Formena (1874) paralysed the Asante Kingdom economically. Historical accounts state the British took advantage of and insinuated internal fights among the Asante people. Multiple successions of the Asantehene (King of Asante) weakened the throne, but in 1888 Kwaku Dua III ascended and later became known as ‘Prempeh I’. By 1891 Prempeh I was able to unite the Asante kingdom, something which the British feared as they were wanted to expand their control before the French and Germans encroached on their plans.
Through various means the British weakened the Asante Kingdom, in 1896 they demanded the Asantehene, Prempe I to pay them in large amounts of Gold as stipulated in the Treaty of Formena. Prempe I could not pay and was exiled by the British from his own kingdom with his family and other important royal members, to Sierra Leone and later to the Seychelles.
The British were not done, they wanted to strip the Asante kingdom of any dignity and demanded the Golden Stool. Before being exiled the chiefs hid the golden, but in 1899 British governor Fredrick Hodgson went to Kumasi to get it but failed. After this latest attempt, in a kingdom that was unravelling from various assaults by the British intent on stealing all the wealth of the Asante kingdom, the remaining despondent chiefs met to decide what to do. It was during that sombre meeting where the famous words of Yaa Asantewaawere spoken and why she has to be remembered in history as one of the greatest heroines of all time
“Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king…in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Yaa Asentewaa became the leader and mobilising her troops, fought in what was the last war against British colonialism; the war ended in 1901.
Did Yaa Asentewaa’s army win the war?
No. But she stood and fought, in a time when there were no women liberation movements etc. Yaa Asentewaa didn’t just let things happen to her she boldly fought for the freedom of her people in their own land. After defeat she too was also exiled to the Seychelles, where she died in 1921.
Ghana remained under British rule until March 1957 when she became (as commonly documented) the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European rule
Because of her bravery, the Yaa Asantewaa legacy lives on, documented in history books and critically acclaimed fictional novels. This Women’s History Month let’s remember women who fought for something greater than themselves and even in ‘defeat’ were still Queens.
The term ‘African designer’ can be ambiguous and reductive. Synonymous with tribal prints; the artistry and craftsmanship of traditional African techniques can often languish in the shadows of the fashion world. We caught up with London based luxury knitwear designer, Korlekie, to find out how she’s bringing these traditional techniques to the fashion forefront.
Why the name Korlekie? I was born in the UK to Ghanaian parents. Korlekie comes from my father’s tribe, the Ga-Adangbe and means ‘Queen of Eagles’.
Is your African heritage expressed in your designs? Being African is an intrinsic part of me, and I’m also inspired by other things. So, I wouldn’t say my designs are ‘African-inspired’ they just reflect who I am.
Is there an expectation to use prints in your designs? Some people have a narrow view on what ‘African’ is and expect to see printed fabrics in my collections. When they don’t, they ask, ‘so what’s African about your collection?’ African textiles are more than just wax prints, which originally came from Asia and were exported by the Dutch who brought them to Africa.
A white designer born in the UK wouldn’t be asked, “so what’s British about your collection?”
Why knitwear? I’m an artist and like to create my own fabrics; that’s how my passion for knitwear came about. Wax print fabrics can be restrictive; as they are repetitive, when you cut the fabric it’s difficult to get the prints to align. Through making my own fabrics I understand how the fabric works and have the creative freedom to make timeless, sustainable pieces.
Knitwear encompasses many things, including embroidery and beading. I also use new technologies such as 3D printing.
You describe yourself as a luxury knitwear clothing brand. What does luxury mean to you? Luxury is about quality more than wealth. It’s craftsmanship skills, paying close attention to intricate details that enhance and maintain the quality of design.
I use a range of fabrics to complement the theme of a collection. It can be anything from teddy bear fur to hand woven Kente cloth.
Your latest Pure Red collection symbolises “boldness and sensuality”, why did you go for this theme? The collection is called ‘Pure Red’because of what the colour signifies, power, passion, love, danger. Red is empowering and bold; Korlekie designs are statement pieces and celebrate the female body; they are not for the faint-hearted!
How did you source the Kente fabric used in the collection? We worked with a social enterprise called Nubuke Foundation in Ghana. We sent them our own unique colour ways and patterns to create artisan Kente cloths that were designed into kimono style jackets.
What’s the process you undertake when designing a garment? Depending on the garment, it can be a long process. A tailored blazer can take around three days if the fabric has already been made and dresses can take around a week.
When a customer requires a bespoke outfit, it’s good for them to know what they want to express through their outfit, then I’ll do the rest.
What is the ethos of Korlekie? Cutting-edge design celebrating sensuality with a traditional British and bold Ghanaian flair.
What are some of the signature designs, within your garments? These range from leather braiding to expressive sensual knots. We also have accessories including head warmers, bags, belts and chokers.
You’ve dressed a range of celebrities including, actress Esosa from web series ‘An African City’ and singer/presenter Alesha Dixon, how did this come about? Being in the right place at the right time and word of mouth, enabled those connections to happen. Alesha Dixon wore a sample of an emerald dress I made for her music video, which she also wore to the Brit Awards and ended up buying it because she liked it so much!
I’d love to make a dress for Solange; she’s really come into her own and has a distinctive style.
Where can people get Korlekie garments? We are online and do private consultations, when making bespoke pieces.
Any exciting developments on the horizon? There are some new projects in the pipeline, so watch this space!
It’s been a ground-breaking week in the fashion industry.
After being described as “an influential figure in the communities of fashion, Hollywood and music which shape the cultural zeitgeist”, Ghanaian, Edward Enninful was confirmed as the new editor-in-chief (EIC) of British Vogue. The first man to hold the position. With the help of his predecessor Alexandra Shulman who ran British Vogue for 25 years, Edward will officially start his role on 1st August.
“Edward is an exceptionally talented stylist who will no doubt bring an exciting new creative aesthetic to the magazine. Every Vogue editor arrives with their own range of talents and experience and Edward is very known, respected and liked within the fashion industry” Alexandra Shulman, British Vogue incumbent EIC
Edward Enninful timeline, starting from the top!
2017 – The first man to be the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, aged 45.
2016 – Awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), in honour of services to diversity in fashion.
Throughout his career, Enninful has been recognised for this contribution and influence on the fashion industry.
2014 – Received Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator at the British Fashion Awards.
2011 – Style director of American fashion publication, W Magazine, where he was credited with improving the publication’s relevance and finances.
Edward was pivotal in Vogue Italia’s July 2008 ‘All Black’ issue, featuring only black models (styled by Edward), which sold out in hours.
2006-2011 – Worked for American Vogue.
1998-2001 – Worked for Vogue Italia
1990 – Fashion director of British youth culture magazine i-D. Becoming the youngest director of an international fashion publication, aged 18.
Worked as an assistant with stylists Simon Foxton (who scouted Edward) and Beth Summers on fashion shoots.
1988 – Model-scouted on the London Underground tube system, aged 16.
Moved to Ladbroke Grove, West London as a child with his family.
1972 – Born in Ghana, West Africa
The Vogue Italia issue was monumental; having a visceral effect on readers disillusioned with an industry perceived as being endemically racist. According to Time Magazine, the original run of the issue (which had four different covers) sold out in the U.S. and U.K. in 72 hours. An extra, 30,000, 10,000 and 20,000 copies were reprinted in the U.S., U.K. and Italy, respectively. Not just featuring black models, the issue had interviews with Film Director Spike Lee and former editor of Vogue Paris, Edmonde Charles-Roux, who allegedly resigned in 1966 when he wasn’t not allowed to put a black model on the front cover. Although heavily air-brushed as all magazines are, the impact of the 2008 issue cannot be trivialized.
Photos: Steven Meisel
While Enninful’s appointment is very important and his impact on the fashion industry poignant, we can’t expect things to shift dramatically. It will take time.
He is one man, a very influential man, but one man. I hope he’ll be able to withstand the pressure of being the first non-white editor of British Vogueand the expectation that follows, if he is to take the publication in a new direction.
“By virtue of his talent and experience, Edward is supremely prepared to assume the responsibility of British Vogue.” Jonathan Newhouse Condé Nast International, CEO
We know Enninful isn’t shy about displaying black beauty in fashion. In 2015 as the Style Director of W magazine, he styled an all-black spread, shot by renowned Australian fashion photographer Emma Summerton. The aptly named “Natural Selection” spread showcased models with natural hair, featuring Ajak Deng, Amilna Estevao, Anais Mali, Aya Jones, Binx Walton and Tami Williams.
“If you put one [non-white] model in a show or in an ad campaign, that doesn’t solve the problem. “We need teachers in universities, we need internships, we need people of different ethnic backgrounds in all parts of the industry. That really is the solution.” – Edward Enninful
According to a report by The Fashion Spot, covering diversity across New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion shows in all four cities for the Autumn 2017 collections, 72% of models cast in shows where white and 28% women of colour. This is an improvement on previous years, so things are slowly progressing. London came second out of the four cities, behind New York with an increase in its ‘diversity score’.
You could argue that in 2017, black models on the front of magazines and black professionals appointed to top positions within the fashion industry shouldn’t be headline news. But it is headline news, indicating there are still strides to take and work to be done.
I’m routing for Edward and British Vogue to pleasantly surprise us.