IconAfro Iconic Afros throughout time and culture

Young Malachi as RZA

Why IconAfro?

My son takes after me. He has a head full of thick, untamable, unruly natural hair. It’s beautiful, it’s healthy but it’s got a stubborn streak as long as he is tall. Left to its own devices, it coils up tight to his head and dares me to bring the ruckus (read: comb).

I didn’t know what to do with it. I could barely even do my own hair, after all, that’s what they make salons for. So, that’s where I would take him too. Twists, braids, cornrows, every other week, his hair would be bound up. But on wash days, we could see the growth and the fullness of his afro and I would wish that he could rock that too. Alas, that was always a hard pass from the kid.

He’d refuse, saying his hair was too big, and the other kids would make fun of him. It made me sad that he was afraid of standing out, of being himself. Was this my fault for always wearing my natural hair straight? Our fault, as parents, for not encouraging him to love the skin (and hair) he’s in? Our fault, as a society, for not valuing, not celebrating, the inherent (and beautiful) differences of young people of color?

So, I thought, better than just showing him photos of amazing cultural icons, wearing their natural hair in afros, that he could actually become these heady heroes. Walk a mile in their shoes, as the saying goes. I want him to experience the beauty in who God chose him to follow behind and to see a reflection of himself that he cannot deny.

Introducing: IconAfros. Iconic afros throughout time and culture.

"Don't remove the kinks from your hair. Remove them from your brain." - Marcus Garvey

This photo essay will feature Young Malachi doing his best impressions of beloved icons alongside videos of him highlighting their contributions to culture. From Fredrick Douglass to Colin Kaepernick, Oscar Gamble to Bruno Mars, Questlove to Bob Ross, the afro has been an indelible part of lives of activists, artists, educators, athletes and rock stars for generations.

And, in the process of this project, we've both learned so much! He's learned about my idols, the heroes I've celebrated along my life's journey. And I've learned how to style and take better care of his natural hair.

RZA, Producer/Rapper/Founder - Wu-Tang Clan

Don King, Boxing Promoter

Ludacris, Rapper/Actor, Disturbing tha Peace

Kendrick Lamar, Rapper, Songwriter, Record Producer, Pulitzer Prize winner

Don Cornelius, Television Producer, Host, Soul Train

Bob Ross, Painter/TV Show Host, Painting with Bob Ross

Cornel West, Educator, Activist, Princeton University

Some say natural hair isn't for everyone. It's attached to your head! It don't get more "for you" than that.

Taking care of your hair isn't just a "girl thing" either. There isn't enough attention paid to young boys of color and their hair maintenance. When I take my son to kid salons, they are almost exclusively female-centered so he's forced to wait it out in pink rooms with dolls, books and videos catering to little girls.

When speaking about natural hair and hair care, the conversation centers around the Black woman. The only time boys' hair is discussed is when we are outraged by school systems suspending them over wearing their hair too long.

Now, with IconAfro, we celebrate the culture of the Afro in all its iterations. We celebrate it alongside this beautiful dark-skinned, African-American young man, who is learning about himself and his rich heritage.

Won't you join us on this journey?

Monique Younger, Producer