‘Grandmother of Hip Hop’ reflects on ban of her book ‘Nappy Hair’

Carolivia Herron displays her children’s book “Nappy Hair.” PHOTO BY MATT HOOKECarolivia Herron displays her children’s book “Nappy Hair.” PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  TAKOMA PARK — Washington, D.C. resident Carolivia Herron, clad all in purple, carefully leans into the microphone at Takoma Radio. One moment the 71-year-old Howard University professor praises the 17th-century writer John Milton; at another, she laments the loss two years earlier to gun violence of young local rapper Douglas Brooks, known by his stage name “Swipey.”

Unfortunately, this year is a dubious one for Herron, as it marks the 20th anniversary of her children’s book “Nappy Hair” being banned by New York City Public Schools.

The ban occurred in 1998, after a white teacher taught the book to her third-grade class. Although the students enjoyed the book, protests broke out, as some considered the book racially insensitive. According to Herron, the majority of parents who complained about the book did not have children in the class.

“They felt a white teacher had no business teaching about black hair,” said Herron. “Because the word nappy had been used as an insult in their families, but it was never used that way in mine.”

The book itself is an uplifting story, telling African American girls to take pride in their natural hair. Nappy Hair is written entirely in call and response form, giving the book a unique rhythm, and paying tribute to African American traditions.

“It’s an important issue for black girls and women that many other people don’t understand. People who say ‘everyone wants to change their hair’ … have no idea what black woman go through when it comes to their hair,” said Herron. “It’s hours of time, lots of money, and, for many people, self-esteem troubles. They don’t believe they can get a job if their hair is in a natural state.”


Things my father taught me

nips wild turkeyMy dad taught me a lot of things growing up. Some I can share, but some would be best left to late night conversations after imbibing some Wild Turkey.
One of the things that sticks in my addled, aging mind is that it is best to “shut the Hell up and let everyone think you’re an idiot, rather than opening your mouth and getting your butt beat because everyone found out you’re an idiot.”
I know, there are plenty of other interpretations of that particular saying from dear old dad - but his sticks with me.
Obviously Kanye West, Donald Trump and several county candidates for council and county executive could’ve used the services of Dear Old Dad.


NIH studies cancer in African Americans

  • Published in News

BETHESDA – The National Institutes of Health has launched a study to examine incidence rates among African-American cancer survivors.

“What we saw was that African-Americans were experiencing higher cancer incidents than any other racial/ethnic group,” said Dr. Joanne Elena, a program director overseeing the study at NIH’s National Cancer Institute.


Remembering a bridge to the past

  • Published in Local

Talbot Avenue BridgeThe Talbot Avenue bridge has a history - and despite its condition some want it saved. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  

A one-lane bridge in the western part of Silver Spring that enables Talbot Avenue to cross over CSX Railroad tracks hardly seems worth saving, according to some. The rickety structure has deteriorated and is scheduled to be demolished when the Purple Line is built.

But while the neglected bridge has yet to make it onto the National Register of Historic Places, its historic significance in Montgomery County is enough for the County Council to try to save it.


Historic Howard U. hospital recognized at Twinbrook talk

  • Published in Local

Of the 12,000 surgeons who served during the Civil War, only 14 were African-Americans. Seven worked in The Contraband Hospital, which is now a teaching hospital at Howard University.

During the Civil War, some 40,000 slaves sought freedom in D.C., according to Jill Newmark, exhibition specialist for the National Library of Medicine. She spoke last week at Twinbrook Library as part of a Black History Month program sponsored in cooperation with Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries and the Montgomery County Historical Society.

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