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Curlfest Atlanta Was As Magical As You Thought It Would Be

The empowering celebration of black beauty is a magical experience everyone should feel.

Human Interest

Over the weekend, Curlfest (stylized as CURLFEST) had their first visit to Atlanta and the experience was nothing short of magical. There was a lot of excitement around how Atlanta's festival would compare to New York but to many of the attendees' pleasure, it surpassed every expectation. If you don't know by now, Curlfest was created by five founders: Charisse Higgins, Simone Mair, Tracey Coleman, Gia Lowe, and Melody Henderson, cleverly called the Curly Girl Collective in 2014.

However, the beginnings can be traced back to 2010, when a chance meeting after an email thread led all these women to meet. In that first meeting, these ladies found a community where they could be seen when it comes to sharing haircare tips, products, and what a natural hair journey means in today's world. They knew immediately that this experience needed to be shared on a larger scale. Since then, the Curly Girl Collective has grown and hosted many events to include Curl Crush: A Speed Hair Event, All Dolled Up Holiday Charity Event, and their most notable Curlfest.

Curlfest itself has grown to host over 75,000 of not only women of color, but all people of color over the last five years. Through its five-year exponential growth, the machine behind the event remains 100% black women-owned and the largest natural beauty festival in America. Their mission is simple, to create a space where women of color can feel affirmed and empowered through in the space of beauty. As stated on their website, "Curlfest is an empowering and uniquely magical experience where women and girls of every shade, shape, and size can come and be celebrated for who they are, unconditionally."

If this is not enough black girl magic to attend Curlfest, here are 5 more reasons to go:

It’s a true celebration of every hair type, style, expression, and community.

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

The moment you walk through the gates into the park the atmosphere immediately invites you in. There are women of all shapes and sizes walking around in their own confidence with their hair on display. It is a sea of long hair, short hair, curls, afros, braids, faux locs, dread locs, twits, short cuts, undercuts, afro puff, twists outs, braid outs, wash n go's, frohawks, pink hair, blue hair, yellow hair, flower crowns, butterfly clips, pigtails, ponytails -- the list goes on. Each man, woman, and child proudly walking around in a freedom that they can share with the community that looks like them. The best part is the warm voices humming, "Can I take a picture of your hair?", "Oh, girl!! I love your hair!!", "Your haircut is dope, sis." It was a true space for the celebration of people in their natural state celebrating one another. Where else in the world could make you feel like magic?

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

It is a family affair.

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

Curlfest is not only space for people of color to celebrate their hair but for them to do it as a family as well. There are plenty of stories out there where people felt the most opposition from their families while transitioning their hair. This can be attributed to this society's rejection of hair for people of color. We are living in a time where laws are still being passed to protect the rights of those who choose to wear their natural hair. Seeing families celebrate each other as a unit is sign of changing times. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters all sharing similar hairstyles or sporting different looks is a sign of breaking generational curses. Not only was hair acceptance in full force but so were positive images of black love and black families.

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

Representation matters.

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

So, there are several things we know to be true: being black is not monolithic and we have buying power somewhere north of the trillions. However, we are not always represented in the marketplace, a lot of times we are overlooked. Curlfest curated the perfect vendors for their guests, who not only sell products for us but they are made by us. The list of vendors includes Aunt Jackie's Curls and Coils, Yelle Skincare, Creme of Nature, Cantu, Suave, Target, Puff Cuff and many more. The swag bag alone is unmatched by any other beauty festival, boasting products from the festival vendors as well as SheaMoisture, Palmers, Aveda, Dove, Urban Skin Rx, etc. The Curly Girl Collective didn't forget about the local black-owned businesses in the area either. They were provided a market area to sell homemade items as well as expand their reach to a bigger audience.

The fashion. PERIODT!

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

If there was any festival for you to dress as you want, this is the one to show off your creative fashion sense. From homemade flower crowns to tulle gowns, any type of fashion statement was possible. Everyone joined in on the spirit of expression and came to show off their most authentic fashions. So many cultures were represented among the attendees. The men who attended the festival even showed off their best fashion with t-shirts boldly stating, "The Black Woman is God" and wearing brightly colored printed pants, shirts, and hats while sporting various natural hairstyles.

Photo by Amer-Marie for xoNecole

Every person is welcomed.

This festival shows the best parts of a community who share a common experience in this world. They also are inclusive of the entire African diaspora. Every culture is represented, every country is acknowledged, and every person is recognized. The full picture of what it means to be a person of color comes into focus at Curlfest. The music, the food, the vendors, the fashion, the hair are all for the culture. Curlfest is for the culture.

If you missed Curlfest in New York or Atlanta, no worries, they will be coming back in 2020 with even more festivals. At the Atlanta Curlfest, the Curly Girl Collective made an announcement that they will be returning to Atlanta and adding a few more cities. Most exciting though, is they will be taking Curlfest international.

So, stay updated on details by following them on Instagram @curlygirlcollective or join their email list for next year's 2020 lineup!

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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