by Saskia Calliste and Zainab Raghdo
with a foreword by Stella Dadzie
illustrations by Aleea Rae
with poems by Kadija Sesay
In this anthology about Black women’s hair and beauty, some of the world’s most inspiring black women tell us about their attitudes to, and struggles with, their crowning glory. Kinky, wavy, straight or curly, this book celebrates Black women’s natural beauty, however they choose to style their hair.
With an overview of the politics and history of Black women’s hair, the book explores how Black hairstyles have played a part in the fight for social justice and the promotion of Black culture while inspiring us to challenge outdated notions of beauty, gender and sexuality for young women and girls everywhere.
The power is in our hair. And we’ve come to tell the world what ours can do!
Also includes over 30 interviews with women of colour about their hair and beauty journey including:
• Annika Allen – co-founder Black Magic Awards and podcaster, UK
• Eva Anek – design and fashion, UK
• Anita Asante – fashion and design, USA
• Caroline Blackburn – former athlete and sports’ injury therapist teacher, UK
• Doreene Blackstock – actor, UK
• Dawn Butler – Member of Parliament, UK
• Anastasia Chikezie – award-winning Afro hair entrepreneur and pioneer, UK
• Stella Dadzie – writer and activist, UK
• Sokari Douglas Camp – artist, Nigeria / UK
• Stephanie Douglas Oly – retired Olympian sprinter, UK
• Deitra Farr – blues, soul and gospel singer-songwriter, USA
• Rachel Fleming Campbell – litigation attorney, USA
• Ruthie Foster – singer-songwriter of blues and folk music, USA
• Kadija George Sesay – writer and curator, UK / Sierra Leone
• Jamelia – singer-songwriter, broadcaster and author, UK
• Judith Jacob – actor, radio presenter and fitness instructor, UK
• Bakita Kasadha – health writer and poet, UK
• Angie Le Mar – comedian, presenter, producer, UK
• Francine Mukwaya – human rights campaigner, Democratic Republic of Congo / UK• Jessica Okoro – IT program manager and STEM advocate, UK
• Anita Okunde – climate activist, and member of Youth Parliament, UK
• Stella Oni – writer, UK / Nigeria
• Chi Onwurah – Member of Parliament, UK
• Olusola Oyeleye – award-winning writer, director and producer, UK
• Shade Pratt – footballer and designer, USA
• Rianna Raymond-Williams – sexual health advisor and social entrepreneur, UK • Djamila Ribeiro – feminist philosopher, Brazil
• Vivienne Rochester – actor, UK
• Cleo Sylvestre – actor, singer, writer, UK
• Carryl Thomas – actor, UK
• Jael Umerah-Makelemi – illustrator, graphic designer, UK
“First and foremost this book is a celebration of our history, politics and culture as Black women. I personally took pleasure in digesting the history chapter first. The book affirms the beauty of Black women and, in particular, our natural kinky hair. It then flowed seamlessly into the collection of hair journeys told by thirty Black women aged 18 to 80.
The Aleea Rae artwork on the front cover and sprinkled throughout the book is absolutely stunning. Hairvolution is not just a book, it’s a movement!”
– Carol Ann Whitehead FRSA GGA, MD, The Zebra Partnership
“Hairvolution: an essential addition to the narrative” (bookbrunch.co.uk) read the full Bookbrunch interview with author here
“Hairvolution: It’s a wonderful-looking book and that’s half the battle… “ – Claire Hermat, BBC Radio London – listen to her interview with author (1 hour 9 minutes in) here.
Watch the livestream interview with author Saskia Calliste and Voice Magazine here
“Over the past decade, the reclamation of Black hair by Black women through the mobilisation of online communities has paved the way for actionable change through campaigns like that of The Halo Code and the ongoing ratification of the Crown Act in the US. Hairvolution is a triumphant ode to this Afro-centric hair revolution. The book offers historic deep dives alongside interviews with the key cultural names, such as MP Dawn Butler and Doreene Blackstock (of Sex Education fame), to depict an intimate and critical look at what it means to recentre Black hair, even within white spaces.”
– Ata-Owaji Victor, Stylist
“Hair is the one way most Black women express themselves and Hairvolution takes a look at the history and culture surrounding Black hair, challenging outdated notions of beauty, through to reclaiming its power and Black beauty and identity.” –Black Beauty & Hair Magazine
Livestream interview of Saskia on Voice Magazine here.
Zainab’s interview with Judith Jacob & Keith Palmer on Injection Radio here
Saskia’s interview with Judith Jacob on Concious Radio here
Listen to Saskia’s interview with Meeting of Minds UK here
Voice magazine interview both authors, here.
Authors discuss the importance of awareness of the history and struggles regarding Black hair, why Black hair has been and is still policed and what you can do to appreciate and celebrate Black hair.
-Brown, Brainy & Beautiful, Podcast. Listen here
Hairvolution gives a voice to black women and a chance to own their experiences with their natural hair. Ultimately, this book stands as a reminder to readers that they are that they are not alone in their feelings and that all black hair is beautiful no matter the style or texture. – @goodblackreads, instagram
Saskia Calliste and Zainab Raghdo are two young and upcoming black female writers based in London.
Saskia Calliste, author and co-compiler is assistant editor for Voice Mag UK where she writes about societal issues and reviews fringe theatre, including Edinburgh Fringe in 2019. She freelanced for The Bookseller and has had her work published in the 30th-anniversary edition of The Women Writers’ Handbook (Aurora Metro). She is the author of the blog sincerelysaskia.com, has an MA in Publishing and a BA in Creative Writing & Journalism.
Zainab Raghdo, author is a writing assistant and content creator at ContentBud, and the author of the blog thecoffeebrk.com. She has an MA in Publishing and a BA in English Literature and Classical Civilisation and has freelanced for many years, recently being published in a the new arts journal, The Bower Monologues, and the online African Woman magazine AMAKA.com.
Stella Dadzie, writer and interviewee is best known for her co-authorship of The Heart of the Race: Black Women’s lives in Britain which won the 1985 Martin Luther King Award for Literature. She is a founder member of OWAAD (Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent), a national umbrella group that emerged in the late 1970s as part of the British Civil Rights movement, and was recently described as one of the “grandmothers” of Black Feminism in the UK. Her career as a teacher, writer, artist and education activist spans over 40 years.
Aleea Rae, illustrator, is a graphic designer and illustrator born in Denver, Colorado, living in Brooklyn, New York. She gained her commercial and non-commercial design experience from her responsibilities at The University of Northern Colorado for her Bachelors of fine arts in visual communication design. To Aleea, art is her profession and her passion, it is more than an expression, it’s a lifestyle. Aleea displays her technical and conceptual skills to communicate her ideas in a way that is not only effective, but also aesthetically pleasing. She specializes in, but not limited to, editorial and portrait illustrations, comic art, posters, and more!
Kadija Sesay, poet and interviewee, Hon. FRSL, FRSA is a Sierra Leonean British literary activist, short story writer and poet, and the publisher and managing editor of the magazine SABLE LitMag. Her work has earned her many awards and nominations, including the Cosmopolitan Woman of Achievement in 1994, Candace Woman of Achievement in 1996, The Voice Community Award in Literature in 1999 and the Millennium Woman of the Year in 2000.
She graduated with a degree in West African Studies from Birmingham University, then worked as a Black Literature Development co-ordinator for Centreprise in the 90s, where she launched and ran the newspaper Calabash. In 2001–2015 she founded and published SABLE LitMag. Sesay has also edited and co-edited several books, including Burning Words, Flaming Images: Poems and Short Stories by Writers of African Descent (1996), IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (with Courttia Newland, 2000), Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 Poems for Ken Saro-Wiwa (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2005), and (as Kadija George) Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers (Aurora Metro Books, 1993), Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature (Hansib Publications, 2005). She is the co-author of This is the Canon: Decolonise Your Bookshelf in 50 Books, (Quercus Publishing, 2021).
In 2007 she created the first SABLE Literary Festival in The Gambia, where she now programmes the Mboka Festival of Arts, Culture & Sport which she co- founded in 2016. She is Publications Manager of Peepal Tree Press’s writer development programme, Inscribe, alongside fellow poet Dorothea Smartt.
Sesay’s first full collection of poems, entitled Irki, was published in 2013. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in a range of publications, including the 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
Sesay is a doctoral researcher in Black British Publishing and Pan-Africanism. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to Publishing and awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature in 2021 for services to Literature.