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Marsha Ambrosius’ Black hair magic

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — Marsha Ambrosius has been serving vocal magic and hair goals for nearly two decades. She first hit the scene as one-half of the R&B/poetry duo Floetry in 2003, reigning as a natural hair icon before it was even a thing.

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By Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

Marsha Ambrosius has been serving vocal magic and hair goals for nearly two decades. She first hit the scene as one-half of the R&B/poetry duo Floetry in 2003, reigning as a natural hair icon before it was even a thing.

Now, the singer/songwriter is repping a brand new flow. In late 2018, she dropped Nyla, her first studio album in four years, rocked an amazing tour with Maxwell that included a fall stop in Minneapolis and headlined her own tour this spring.

As far as her album, when you press play, you know it’s Ambrosius.” I feel like not a lot of artists have that identity,” she shares. “I made it a point to always create and make you feel like [that]. This entire album has a signature Marsha ‘thing’ and that’s lovely.”

The same holds true for the songstress’ hair. Whether relaxing, big chopping or bleaching to get a hair fix, the naturalista has always celebrated the kinks, curls, and magic of her hair. We caught up with Ambrosius for a quick chat about her journey and love for hair.

MSR: Throughout your career, you’ve been known as much for your hair as your sound — what’s that like?

Marsha Ambrosius: Oh, that’s a whole other animal! You could google Marsha Ambrosius hair’ and you will see a million and five changes [laughs]. I’ve never been attached to hair where I needed that length or I needed that style. I’ve been like, “I’m bored, let’s do this.” I’ve had everything from an entire rainbow to just blonde to it falling out because I stripped it down too much and then chopped it all off again and started over. But I think what remained consistent was a giant fro and my natural curls.

MSR: With all these different moments, when did you fall in love with your hair?

MA: From the beginning! This little girl from Liverpool (England) with light skin, green eyes, had the most 4C textured, thick, Black afro you’ve ever seen — and I took pride in that.

As a kid, when I realized that if I put my hair in an updo, if I took it out the ponytail holder, it would stay like that — I thought that was amazing!  I told this White girl to her face, “Your hair can’t do this… I am magic!” To anyone else, that’s jokes, but for me that was pride.

MSR: What’s one thing you wish you knew earlier?

MA: I love my hair journey. I love being able to do anything, but I wish someone would have told me sooner about protective styles and not having this stigma on Black women having to wear weaves or sew-ins or lace fronts or whatever it is. Now, I’m like, “Oh your hair is purple. I love this color! I lost my own hair because I stripped my hair down to the bone blonde so I could dye it purple and it all fell out.”

[I thought] people used to wear these things because you didn’t have any hair. I didn’t realize it was because all these women didn’t have the time and you can just get up and go and put one fly wig on! I hate myself right now for even thinking of it that way because what we do to each other is we judge.

MSR: With so many looks must come a ton of products/ how do you go about choosing what to try?

MA: For every Black woman or man anywhere, we’ll try a product when someone says try whatever. You’re going to try the product cause something is going to work for somebody. Not only that, we’ll use five of them at the same time and claim that that’s the magic and that’s okay, too! It can never be one thing, [more like]well actually I use this and this at the same time, but this at night.

MSR: Why is it so important for Black women to celebrate their hair and know that it’s magic.

MA: Because I know what it did for me and ultimately as small as that thing will be for anybody else, how it enabled my confidence in life, period. It was as simple as my hair being my crown.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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Activism

IN MEMORIAM: Oakland’s Own Bill Russell, 88, Greatest Athlete/Civil Rights Activist Ever (Part 1)

NNPA NEWSWIRE — William Felton Russell was born on Feb. 12, 1934, in Monroe, La., and his family moved to West Oakland in 1942 when he was 8. His father found work on the waterfront and in the Bay Area shipyards in the middle of World War II. They instilled in him a history of racial and family pride that helped him survive in a racially discriminatory Boston environment while playing for the Boston Celtics.

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As the first-ranked and highest respected Black sportsman, Bill Russell used his status to lead the nation’s leading Black athletes which included Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and many others to support Muhammad Ali’s stance against the Vietnam War.
As the first-ranked and highest respected Black sportsman, Bill Russell used his status to lead the nation’s leading Black athletes which included Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and many others to support Muhammad Ali’s stance against the Vietnam War.

By Paul Cobb, Post News Group Publisher

Bill Russell, the center of attention in professional basketball, died at 88 after becoming the most decorated athlete in all of the team sports in the United States.

The star of the Boston Celtics from 1956-1969, he changed the way basketball was played by applying his rare combination of basketball and track and field athleticism to fashion a defense-centered dominance. In a sport where one’s ability to score points was prized, he reversed the focus by making defensive thinking to prevent others from scoring.

He died on July 31, after more than 70 years of basketball and civil rights activism.

William Felton Russell was born on Feb. 12, 1934, in Monroe, La., and his family moved to West Oakland in 1942 when he was 8. His father found work on the waterfront and in the Bay Area shipyards in the middle of World War II. They instilled in him a history of racial and family pride that helped him survive in a racially discriminatory Boston environment while playing for the Boston Celtics.

In his early years his home was only three blocks east from Ron Dellums, Oakland’s first Black congressman, and just three blocks west from Frank Robinson, Oakland’s first Black Major League Baseball coach.

While living near Ninth and Center streets, he learned early on that one must fight for honor, dignity, and respect by never backing down from any challenge whether through fisticuffs or verbal slights.

He was mentored at Defremery Park and Recreation Center by the late Dorothy Seale Pitts and George Scotlan along with Bill Patterson, who now serves as an EBMUD Director, to stay centered on what mattered.

Even though he pioneered greatness as an athlete and as a scholar/athlete/civil rights activist who fought to achieve dignity and respect for African Americans, his path to recognition and honor was not easy because was not considered good enough to crack the starting five basketball Warriors lineup at McClymonds High School in West Oakland.

He never stopped trying and practicing with his teammates who were better shooters and scorers. But, at 6-foot 10 inches, he was taller and could jump higher and played defense above the rim. He even became the Warriors’ mascot who created a stunning nimble artistic dance routine as the team’s mascot.

(His achievements attracted many who sought to follow in his footsteps with stylized dance routines that were featured during halftime breaks.)

His mother died when he was 12, never seeing Bill win two state prep titles and two national college crowns at the University of San Francisco after being ignored by many colleges because he was Black.

He was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and captain of the 1956 U.S. Gold Medal team at the Melbourne Olympics. He drastically altered defensive play by excelling in rebounding, shot-blocking, and passing to ignite a fast-paced style of play.

He won eight consecutive NBA titles from 1959-1966. As a player-coach in his final three seasons, Russell was the first Black coach in North American sports and the first to win a title, doing so in 1968 and again in his 1969 farewell campaign.

He was the first Black player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, for his civil rights and basketball achievements.

Russell was first among Oakland’s and the country’s athletic achievers. His USF team was the first major college to start three Black players. His Celtics team was the first to start five Black players. He was the first to become a player-coach. And he was the first player-coach to win an NBA title. He was first to be invited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the first athlete to utilize his celebrity by traveling to Mississippi to use sports to bring racial healing after the KKK killed NAACP leader Medgar Evers.

As the first-ranked and highest respected Black sportsman, he used his status to lead the nation’s leading Black athletes which included Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and many others to support Muhammad Ali’s stance against the Vietnam War.

He always remembered his friends and mentors here in Oakland. Whenever he traveled to Oakland, he would often check in with Maxine Willis Ussery and reminisce about the days when his family would visit her family’s cleaning establishment.

She said he was protective of her and wanted to meet and give his approval to any of her dates and he insisted that he go to dinner with her and fiance Wilfred Ussery to give his approval. Maxine is now the office manager at the Post News Group (Oakland Post).

He paid one of his highest compliments to Bill Patterson for guiding and counseling him since his high school days. He said Patterson helped him understand that he must never allow himself to be a victim. He was proud of Coach Ben Tapscott, the McClymonds’ basketball coach, who not only continued to maintain the school’s tradition as the winningest high school in the country with an emphasis on academic achievements.

He invited Tapscott to share the glory with him when he was inducted and honored by the University of San Francisco.

In an interview with Russell and former WNBA Coach Nancy Lieberman, just months before his passing, he was making plans to donate a jointly signed basketball to salute the achievement of Oakland’s African American Sports and Entertainment Group for purchasing the Oakland Coliseum.

Bill Patterson, Geoffrey Pete, Ben Tapscott, Joe Ellis, Jumoke Hinton, Rev. Gerald Agee, Ray Bobbitt, Arif Khatib, Virtual Murrell, Gary Reeves, Nancy Lieberman, Jonathan Jones, Al Attles, Jr. and many others have asked The Post to put them on the task force to gather the list and honor the Bay Area’s historic cavalcade of Athlete/Activists who also became “firsts” in their respective sports. For those who want to volunteer to be included, please contact Maxine Ussery @510-287-8200 or mussery@postnewsgroup.com.

“We must find a way to honor our highest achievers,” said Bill Patterson and Ben Tapscott

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Black History

COMMENTARY: New Las Vegas Raiders President is Female, Black, AND Asian

We have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

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Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.
Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.

By Emil Guillermo

I confess to being a Raiders fan from a very early age.

Even though I was born and raised in San Francisco, as a young boy I cheered Clem Daniels at Frank Youell Field. Old School. Then Daryl Lamonica. Then Kenny Stabler. Warren Wells. Gene Upshaw. Hewritt Dixon. George Atkinson. George Blanda. I loved them all. When they left Oakland the first time, they broke my heart. When they came back, I bought season tickets and broke my bank. And then they left again and broke my heart for good.

I started rooting for the 49ers. I know, blasphemy.

But I always keep an eye on the Las Vegas Raiders. And on July 7, 2022, when they announced a new president, I took a double take.

She looked like a Filipina. To me, she clearly had some Asian blood.

But then they announced her, Sandra Douglas Morgan, and all the stories had some variation of this line: “Morgan becomes the first Black woman in NFL history to ascend to the title of team president.”

Almost every story I found heralded her Blackness. Hooray.

Only it was partially true. From what I found, only NBC News with California homeboy Lester Holt had the story with all the facts.

Morgan was Black. But as my Asian radar suggested, she was also Asian. Not Filipino, but Korean. NBC showed a picture of her mother.

We’ve been here before.

When something great happens to a mixed-race person, why do we ignore the mix?

The Raiders in Las Vegas are trying so hard to be modern and “progressive” (for the NFL). You’ll recall the team gave Colin Kaepernick a tryout.

So why doesn’t a forward-thinking team in Las Vegas, one of the most diverse cities in the nation, just come out and announce that Morgan is both Black and Asian?

Is it because we don’t want to see the Asian parts? Is it the wrong suit in a game where Black trumps?

As I’ve said, we’ve been here before. Kamala Harris is from the East Bay. Her Black father was mostly absent from her life, and her mother, an Asian-Indian UC cancer researcher, was dominant in her upbringing. Still, Harris publicly identified as Black most of her life.

Through her time as a politico in San Francisco, to her rise as attorney general for the state, to her announcement in Oakland seeking the nomination for president, Harris was always Black first. I always noticed. And wrote about it in the Asian American media.

When did things change? When she was selected as the vice-presidential running mate of Joe Biden. And then, of course, when they won and were inaugurated.

How many times did you see the phrase, “First African American, first Asian American, first woman to be vice president of the United States.”

It was American diversity history. Reporters stumbled over how to get it right.

And now, because human nature is what it is, most people have stumbled back to convention. Kamala? Oh, she’s Black.

But it’s not just Kamala. Tiger Woods has always had this problem. When he came on the scene with his first Masters victory in 1997, stories hailed him as the “Black man in a green jacket,” or “the Black man in a white man’s game.”

The column I wrote, published later in my book “Amok,” pointed out calling Tiger “Black” is once again, just half right. His mom is from Thailand. Tiger described his mix as “Cablanasian.” That made people smile but never stuck.

And now as he slumps back from missing the cut at the British Open, Tiger is back to Black.

Why is this all important? There’s accuracy of course, but it shows we have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

I know mixed-race kids. I made a few of them. I prefer they say they are Asian because they are. But their mom is white. But that doesn’t show. They get passed over and face both subtle and not so subtle discrimination all the time.

The Jewish faith offers a guide. It believes that what defines you passes by way of your mother. Hence Kamala, Tiger, and yes Saundra Douglas Morgan would be Asian.

But in America, the Census uses a “you are what you say you are” basis. Is it just easier to say Black and leave it at that? And ignore Asian? Maybe until someone points it out.

Here’s a vote for being accurate and fair. When Saundra Douglas Morgan made history, we all should honor our diverse America where we can be Black and Asian and anything else. Proudly.

Especially when we make history together.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. His work is on www.amok.com

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Advice

A Wedding and Evening Sail on the Matthew Turner

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

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By Godfrey Lee

Sharika Gregory hosted an evening program on July 9, 2022, encouraging adults to develop healthy relationships. The program took place on the tall ship Matthew Turner owned and operated by Call of the Sea, the nonprofit that also contributed to the cost of the event.

Sailing on the ship becomes an analogy of how a husband and wife can make a marriage work. The captain and his first mate on a ship are like a husband and his wife in a marriage, Gregory said.

The single man and woman need to know if they are the best fit for each other before they get married. The couple will also need to know how a marriage works, like how the captain, his mate, (and the crew) need to know how the ship works in order to safely sail it. The married couple needs to trust each other, like the captain and the mate need to trust each other in order to sail their ship.

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com).

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com.

The event started in front of the Bay Model Visitor Center with a mock wedding between Nefertiti and Bronchè Steward, where Bronchè suddenly realized that he needs to be committed to his wife. The second half of the program began on the ship with Nefertiti and Bronchè arguing, and Nefertiti runs away to the front of the ship.

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

Around 40 people attended and enjoyed the event, which offered food and drinks donated by the Strawberry Village Safeway. The ship sailed to the middle of the Bay with its engines and then the crew hauled up two of the sails. But there was not enough wind to sail the ship.

The Matthew Turner, a brigantine, is a tall ship owned and operated by the Call of the Seas. She will be used to help the crew on her sister ship, the Seaward, teach sailing and marine environmental programs to adults and middle school-aged youth. The Matthew Turner was designed after the ship Galilee, which was built in the late 1800s by the ship designer and builder Matthew Turner. The length of her deck is 100 feet long, and has a total of 7,200 square feet of sails. She is docked at the Bay Model Visitor Center’s Pier in Sausalito.

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