What is Happily Natural Day

‎”Natural hair has its place in the discussion of identity for people of African descent. As does love for ones inherent African features such as skin tone, body type and bone structure. But these ideals are only details in a much bigger picture that in panoramic view is more inclusive of living an authentic and sustainable lifestyle. During Happily Natural Day, one is immersed in the myriad of ways that people of African and indigenous descent experience authentic and sustainable lifestyles in a modern contemporary context. Through Happily Natural Day one becomes more aware of lifestyles that compliment a disengagement from the plastic inorganic life continuum that is forced upon us as people of color living in societies that circumscribed our cultures as savage and uncivilized. Through Happily Natural Day and events like it we seek reclamation of our sacred whether it be through food, adornment, commerce, education or performance art.”

Duron Chavis – Founder of Happily Natural Day Feb 29th, 2012

Happily Natural is a grassroots festival dedicated to holistic health and social change. The purpose of Happily Natural is to educate and inspire. By using music, lectures and workshops as tools for learning and upliftment, the festival reaches a wide audience because of it’s socially conscious approach. The festival brings together artists, musicians, vendors, activists and scholars whose focus is on social change and holistic health & wellness from all across the country.

Social Movement versus Trend Follow

Founded at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond Virginia in 2003, the festival has grown from a one day festival founded in Richmond Virginia to a three day celebration held in Richmond Virginia and Atlanta Georgia. Through community partnerships and the support of socially responsible individuals and organizations, Happily Natural has become one of the most anticipated annual grassroot events in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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In 2008 Happily Natural Day partnered with FTP Movement to annual celebrate Black August; a tradition established during the 1970’s in the California prison system by men and women of the Black/New Afrikan Liberation Movement as a means of acknowledging and studying the legacy of Afrikan resistance in the Americas and honoring fallen freedom fighters like George and Jonathan Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, Williams Christmas and Fred Hampton.

17440215Happily Natural focuses on social change and holistic health & wellness. Since inception it has placed a specific focus on natural haircare, cultural heritage, and naturopathic medicine. Workshops are held annually on modalities for holistic healing, natural haircare & naturopathic medicine. Lectures on history, culture and heritage as it relates to Africans in America & throughout the Diapora are presented by scholars of wide & diverse backgrounds and specialties.

Its Bigger Than Your Afro

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Happily Natural initially focused on natural hair, which resulted in being called a natural hair “show”. However; it has a deeper significance and does not simply show patrons the latest in natural hair styles. Happily Natural tackles the tough discussion of “nappy” hair in the African community. Issues of self-esteem, identity, inferiority complexes, health and socio-psychological wellness are dealt with through informative sessions and presentations throughout the program.

How much does the ideal of white supremacy affect us today? How does the acceptance of European standards of beauty as universal reverberate through the African Diaspora? In South Africa, there are large numbers of our black brothers & sisters who are so discomforted by their dark skin that they go to extremes to bleach their skins causing illness in the quest to get light, “fair” skin. In adherence to the social mores, status quo, and in conformity to an ideal of beauty characterized by European culture & Western society, African’s in America and throughout the world attempt to lighten their skin tone, straighten their hair texture, and through plastic surgery, thin both nose & lips at serious risk to physical health, not to mention the psychological ramifications of not being able to accept the inherent beauty of one’s ethnicity.

IMG_0925Happily Natural also places a high emphasis on social change. Hosted annually through the collective efforts of a wide array of institutions, businesses and dedicated individuals; Happily Natural is a vehicle through which grassroots organizations, cultural activists and community advocates can network and interact in a festive atmosphere while promoting upliftment of the African community. During the festival, patrons are given the opportunity to talk with scholars, vendors & musicians who promote social change and holistic health & wellness. Community oriented poets, visual artists, and socially responsible business owners work together to make to inspire, illustrate and network to create cooperative socio-economic realities throughout the Diaspora. In the community Happily Natural Day stays active throughout the year with events and initatives addressing issues of culture, health and wellness and social change throughout the Richmond Region.

 

The Historical Imperative

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During the Black Arts Movement Elombe Brath and Kwame Brathwaite and the African Jazz Art Society & Studio cultivated the slogan “Black is Beautiful” via their “Naturally” shows in the early 60′s up through the late 70′s. Inspired by the “Miss Natural Standard of Beauty” contests hosted by pan-african Carlos Cooks on Garvey Day in Harlem; the Naturally shows incorporated musicans such as Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln into their productions and launched the “Grandassa Models” promoting the natural beauty of women of African descent throughout the Northeast. AJASS is considered to have pioneered the “natural look” and considerable credit is due to them for it is on the shoulders of such giants that Happily Natural Day stands proudly.

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50 years ago, psychologist Kenneth Clark’s work with black children became pertinent evidence in the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education. The now infamous doll test found that black children were identifying with white dolls more so than black dolls showing that segregation of public schools were detrimental to black children. The black children identifying with white dolls was attributed to an inferiority complex that was reasoned to be a by-product of segregation. The findings of that study helped to desegregate the schools, an event we are celebrate throughout the United States. In the 1980’s the same test was done with the same results, showing that the inferiority complex of black children runs deeper than school segregation. The test has been repeated in many different places since repeatedly yielding the same results showing that the inferiority complex of black children runs deeper than school. It stands to reason that it was not the segregation of the schools that caused the inferiority complex; it was ideals of white supremacy & the disparity between whites & blacks throughout society caused by white supremacy that bred this syndrome of self-discontent.

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The black community has dealt with the myth of good hair vs. bad hair since slavery. Though the hair texture of people of African descent is prone to be curly, the majority of black women often seek a remedy for their “bad hair”. The “good hair” by definition is straight, long and flowing and easy to get a comb through. “Bad hair” as defined by popular culture is just the opposite, unmanageable, extremely curly, and “nappy”. By definition the hair that our Creator blessed us with at birth should be appreciated and looked upon as beautiful, however in the black community for a large majority of women & men, unlike other ethnic groups that take pride in their natural hair, many in the black community look at their natural, “nappy hair” as a burden of disgrace and socially unacceptable.

Why the Natural Hair Focus?

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As natural hair styles are resurgent in popularity it is important that we dig beneath the surface, and tap into the minds of the masses and wake up the collective mental potential of our African brethren & sisters, for this purpose a significant portion of Happily Natural Day is dedicated to presentations by renowned scholars in the fields of black consciousness, health, & spirit. Also, spoken word poets, musicians, and visual artists from all over the globe are provided a forum to present socially conscious presentations for our patrons to vibe to, be inspired by and meditate on.

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Happily Natural Day as a vehicle was created to uplift the cultural and ethnic pride of Africans worldwide and do away with the idea that the natural characteristics of African culture and ethnicity are socially unacceptable. There is a legacy that the black community confronts daily due to its unique history in America, the fact that for decades anything having to do with black people was considered the object of ridicule and looked upon in disdain by mainstream European culture. This phenomenon gave birth to an intense inferiority complex in the Black community and can be identified around the world as a characteristic response to white supremacy, a response in which many begin to negate themselves in an attempt to assimilate into European culture. Though it would be an over generalization to say that all black women straighten their hair to look like white women; many do so because they simply are not knowledgeable of the easy, cost effective ways in which to take care of their natural hair, it must be noted that for the majority of print & cinematic media especially lifestyle magazines, network television, and the fashion industry the model for beauty is consistently a white woman. These areas of media are referenced everyday by the general public for what is considered socially acceptable in terms of beauty.

The Bigger Picture

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How much do the ideals of white supremacy affect us today? How does the acceptance of European standards of beauty as universal reverberate through the African Diaspora? In South Africa, there are large numbers of our black brothers & sisters who are so discomforted by their dark skin that they go to extremes to bleach their skins causing illness in the quest to get light, “fair” skin. In adherence to the social mores, status quo, and in conformity to an ideal of beauty characterized by European culture & Western society, African’s in America and throughout the world attempt to lighten their skin tone, straighten their hair texture, and through plastic surgery, thin both nose & lips at serious risk to physical health, not to mention the psychological ramifications of not being able to accept the inherent beauty of one’s ethnicity.

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Natural hair has its place in the discussion of identity for people of African descent. As does love for ones inherent African features such as skin tone, body type and bone structure. But these ideals are only details in a much bigger picture that in a panoramic view is more inclusive of living an authentic and sustainable lifestyle. During Happily Natural Day, one is immersed in the myriad of ways that people of African and indigenous descent experience authentic and sustainable lifestyles in a modern contemporary context. Through Happily Natural Day one becomes more aware of lifestyles that complement a disengagement from the plastic inorganic life continuum that is forced upon us as people of color living in societies that circumscribed our cultures as savage and uncivilized. Through Happily Natural Day and events like it we seek reclamation of our sacred whether it be through food, adornment, commerce, education or performance art.

The Social Change Imperative

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The evolution of Happily Natural from its inception to now; reflects the growth and maturity of an holistic understanding of freedom and liberation. Holistic wellness, cultural identity and self-esteem are the core from which radiate essentially what it means for all humans to experience freedom. Its only natural. Recognizing the interconnectedness of humanity; Happily Natural places a heavy imperative on social change – it is not sufficient for individuals to content themselves in their own wellness and liberation solely as individuals. As a result the festival has engaged in numerous campaigns and initiatives designed to build community from Richmond Noir Market; our work in raising awareness of political prisoners via Black August, to our current push for urban agriculture in low income communities; our efforts regarding social change are of paramount importance and what sets Happily Natural Day apart from its peers. The work we do is more than about how to style hair – our effort is to restyle how we live our lives for the betterment of humanity.

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