SEVEN PRINCIPLED CONSIDERATIONS FOR NATURAL HAIR, PAN AFRICAN FASHION AND DESIGN INDUSTRY
It has been seven years since the Congress of African People first launched a promotion of Pan African Natural Hair, Fashion and Design Movement. One of the things which initiated interest in promoting such a movement was a line I came across while writing a paper on African Centered Sustainable Development. It was a line by the Honorable Marcus Garvey which essentially stated, African people "must seek to build and control every industry which affects our daily life and destiny". This phrase had a very prophetic effect on me in many ways and was a guiding influence in much of my work since. It gave a practical dimension to much of what I had heretofore considered an ideological imperative of Nationalism and Pan Africanism. It also taught me that the ideological tenets which may have brought me to certain conclusions, were less important than the practical programs and projects which give such ideas manifest in the real world, and which affect the quality of life of the maximum number of African people. It is an old revolutionary Maxim which says, that in the end, practice proves the validity of our theoretical assumptions. The ways in which we measure practice is in the change of the conditions and quality of peoples lives. In order for this degree of change to occur, a key element and gauge of this process is how African Descendant People gain control and build the productive apparatus and resources in our respective communities. The question which African people must raise and address, iz how, with Africa being the most resourceful continent on the globe, does it's people not benefit from this fact, and alien peoples can come in and plunder the wealth of our land and people? Thus, we arrive at Garvey's admonition to build and control industries in our own communities in order to gain control of the productive apparatus. If Africa and its Diaspora are to become a Sustainable Global Community it must embark on a transformative process which changes it from being consumer oriented to becoming producer grounded.
Seven Considerations for a Pan African Natural Hair, Fashion and Design Industry
1. The Congress of African People's (CAP) approach to Pan African Fashion and Design is basically two-fold; to look at the industry from a Comprehensive and Multi-dimensional perspective. By Comprehensive we mean looking at the industry from a holistic view, from farm where the raw materials are grown for textiles, to design, manufacturing and then to marketing and advertising. By Multi-dimensional we mean to look at each of these categories and develop them according to local and specific needs, for example, wearing of certain jewelry accessories in certain climates, or the wearing of certain hair styles for work, play or formal. In this manner of viewing the industry, we feel it presents a more holistic view for the serious industry builder.
2. Another principle is how labor is viewed in this process. The African way is to view everyone in the Community and/or Village as equal partners, with each sharing their particular and/or unique role and function in the best interests of the collective group. The principles of Ujima an Ujamaa are instructive here, and provide a value oriented standard for wages, working conditions, unionization, and quality of work product. The environment where these principles are practiced, also allow for expanded creativity.
4. One view we have seen emerge by some European influenced Designers, is that traditional African styles and textiles are not as marketable as some adaptive style. The CAP position is, that if African traditional styles are not the standard, then whose style is? European Designers have dominated the Global Market, due mostly to European domination, White Supremacy, Colonialism and the Slave Trade. It is exactly because of these factors that we now, find it necessary to rebuild a Pan African Productive apparatus. Therefore, we as a Global Community, establish our own industry standards based on the traditions which our ancestors have passed on to us. This is a trust we must hold inviolate, and those who choose to negate this trust should not receive benefit from the collective nature Village.
5. Communications, Education and Marketing must all be coordinated in this process as many of our people have been programmed not to appreciate our own, and therefore we must take advantage of all communicative mediums to educate and re-educate our people regarding African centered Style and Design and how in turn they help in the Economic and Cultural Development of the Global African Community. In this regard, we must demand access to our people in the Netherlands and Denmark who celebrate a self depreciating holiday, and our people in Dominica, who consider "straight" hair and bleaching cream the norm. These are challenges our Marketing professionals must work to overcome, in creating our own markets.