Black Ivory

"Yo dude, whatever happened to your 'fro?"

Afronautical Artifacts ... or ”Yo dude, what happened to your ‘fro?”

 

Stuart Bascombe - March 9, 2013

 

Welcome Black Ivory fans and other visitors. This is the first installation of The Black Ivory Blog. I’ve never done a blog before, so I am certain that there will be some changes as time goes on and themes begin to develop. The main focus of this blog will be to reveal personal reflections on our experiences, recordings and the people that have played major roles in our careers. I am sure that you the reader will gain a much greater insight into our history, how it helped to shape us as people and how we move forward exploring our creative impulses into the future. If you have any questions you would like us to address or suggestions for blog topics, please leave a comment in our guestbook or drop us an email at info@blackivory.com

Over the years as I have travelled throughout New York City, rushing to and fro usually on my way to work or returning home, I have been astounded by one thing. Whenever I happen to cross paths with someone who recognizes me from the singing group Black Ivory, after they verify that to be the case, the one burning question that seems to be on most of the delighted passersby’s lips is “What happened to your afro?”.

Let me add that most of the time that question is posed by a male, whereas the ladies’ line of inquiry often follows another path, usually beginning with ..”don’t you remember?”, but that’s a story for another day. I have to admit that I have never known how to respond seriously to the question. “This person really doesn’t expect me to still be wearing an afro in the 90s does he?”. That’s what I would think to myself as my mouth spoke the words, “Oh, I washed my hair and it shrunk”, or  “I still have it at home in a box”. I have to assume that most of these people are trying to be witty in the moment of awkwardness that often accompanies meeting someone who you view with reverence or admiration. I myself still never quite know how to act when I am in a similar situation. I remember once meeting the actress and African princess Akosua Busia at Mart 125 in Harlem for what must have amounted to 7 seconds before I bashfully rushed out of the building. You see, I had a crush on her on-screen persona and here she was in the flesh before me as beautiful and beaming as ever. I weakly muttered my standard “I’ve really enjoyed your work” before tripping over myself to get out of there, so believe me I can relate. All things taken into account, after you admit that our afros were emblematic of how people thought of us, their absence is probably the first thing one tends to notice.  After all,  they were HUGE!

For me as a teen in the late 60s the afro symbolized so many different things. First of all it was a symbol of black pride and of a determination to be accepted on our own terms and by our own ethnic aesthetic. Some of the most powerful icons of the black community and popular culture adorned themselves with “naturals’ and afros from Flip Wilson to Angela Davis. I think that I as an aspiring vocalist was probably influenced  more by Sylvester Stewart than by anyone else in terms of style, and with the release of Sly and the Family Stone’s  album “Stand”, Afros, knit hats, fringed vests, bellbottom pants and platform shoes were the order of the day. Practically every aspiring black male musician had an afro at the time, as did our musical contemporaries like The Stairsteps, The Jackson Five and The Sylvers. It is helpful to remember that afros were not widely accepted by everyone at first. We have witnessed a similar reaction to dreadlocks in more recent history. I remember once when I first started growing my afro going to a barber shop for a haircut. I sat in the chair, told the barber how I wanted my hair shaped and how much I wanted cut off. This was a barber shop that I had patronized from the time I was a young boy, so I was shocked when the barber proceeded to cut my hair short. On the verge of tears I asked him why he had cut it that way and he replied, “Your hair was too long, you looked like a girl”. I had to let him finish but I didn’t pay him a dime and never went back.  

More often than not the afro was a source of pride, worn like a crown. And although it required constant upkeep, maintenance sometimes resulted in the unexpected pleasure of sitting between the legs of a teenaged girl while she cornrowed your hair. It was usually the prelude to deeper levels of intimacy so we tried to get our hair braided as often as we could. The girls definitely loved our long hair, which might explain why men today delight in asking us where our hair has gone. Gone also are all of the paraphernalia and experiences associated with wearing an afro such as the assorted types of afro comb, hairsprays, hair dryers and the sensation of coconut oil freezing in your hair during winter in New York. These now are merely artifacts of  days gone by. Time marches on.

Yes, the afro’s gone, the hair is shorter, thinner and whiter, but I feel so blessed to still be here, waiting to respond to that question with a head full of memories of the days when we walked like lions through the streets of New York. 

 

Comments

please see my facebook page. I think I can change your mind about how the young people of today see the afro.
Happy Birthday Leroy Burgess I hope you had a wonderful day enjoy wish you many more
I have been knowing your style, creation and grace since I first hear don't turn around on the new wbls-fm 107.5,and I don't care who sung the rig. I care for the most thing is your talent and your stlye of dancing. I was a black sheep and I care to dance and sing but years later I ignore my mothers ignorant remarks as I opem my own entertainment agency and four or five non profit organizations to help families to get together in this sadden world we all love,but that doesn't stop me to do what I normally dpone best. I care for my music,potery and beign a true businesswoman I am. I remembering you all over right on, soul, soul teen,and sometimes blues and soul in England with your hair overbloomed like a bonquet of lilacs in a small photo about 'new talent' colnumn. im from Bronx/harlem.im here getting myself together in san Francisco ,and I will care to make my journey last with your wholesome true work of art. art comes from new York downbeat sedction of real good looking men who do positive major things. stuart, imagine me and you doing a French vogue layout proving that our life and music is not jinxed to the factor, I gurantee, the whole world will not forget our eyes, sound, noise and pure stroke of genius. black ivory will live on like the whole god plants will lives on ever,ever,evermore! may the good blessed lord will bless you! have a wonderful holiday this year, uncles Leroy and Russell. I also say, happy birthday ricky, come back home, mama syl' will be so damn proud. bless you,everyone!
I grew up with Leroy. and rember the record shop and the rehearsal at Andy's pope studio on. 145th St.Nicholas Ave!!! Holla Back!!! .
Powerful & Sexy Fro's
Some people become so star-struck, that they don't know what to say. Secondly, I just learned of this group recently and love the sound. I hope you guys are still putting out good music. I have to admit, "You & I" is my favorite thus far!
Akosua Busia is a beautiful sister. You just answered a question I pondered for the last 24 years.
Afros! I had one bigger than yours! I remember I got mine when my mother had a heart attack. She didn't want me to cut my long hair.."folks out there buying hair and you want to cut yours off?!?"..lol. So while she was in the hospital I got my fro 1970. She was none too happy. But like you and so many, it was an expression of our culture. A sign of a new age of pride and history that we were priviledged to be a part of.
Oh didn't we love our Afros?! Loved the scent of coconut oil or musk oil in your hair! It was my goal to have my afro look as much like Sister Angela Davis' as much as I could, thinking of her as I admired my reflection in the mirror, and hoping they would never catch her, being on the FBI's Most Wanted list. My afro was a source of pride, a symbol of defiance, my very own unique symbol of beauty! Remember the commercial: "Wantu Wazuri use Afro Sheen"? Swahili for Beautiful People use Afro Sheen! Wasn't that a time? God Bless!
The afro was indeed a source of pride for our people. I was really young in the 70's and as a child I used to beg my mother to style my hair in an afro. My afro's would always flop. I had to settle for wearing the afro puffs instead. The afro did make a slight resurgence during the early 90's and it was nice. I remember seeing the young man who played Cole on the television show Martin sporting an afro for a few seasons. Two of my sons are looking to make them popular again in 2013. In any event, I am happy about your website and look forward to more blogs and information on Black Ivory in the future.
wow! I remember my dad's big ol afro and all my aunt's with metal afro fist hair picks...now i sport a bald head n i can still smell the coconut oil/grease!

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