ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Just think, it’s a business in which 99% of

the customers are black, and 99% of the owners

 are Korean… That just seems a little off…

don’t you think?



The White Guy Who Uncovered

The Korean Domination of the Black Hair Industry

Aron Ranen:  The Black Hair Interview with Kam Williams


Aron Ranemn is a gifted filmmaker and professor who has received a litany of accolades for his groundbreaking documentaries, along with a couple of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Here he talks about his latest opus, Black Hair, an incendiary expose’ which is currently generating plenty of conversation in African-American communities all across the country. For his eye-opening investigation revealed that Koreans have come to control virtually every aspect of the multi-billion dollar, black hair care industry, from manufacturing to distribution to retail sales, while simultaneously employing tactics to put African-American merchants and wholesalers out of business. 

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Kam: How did a white guy like you develop an interest in the black hair care industry?

Aron: I made a TV pilot with an African-American host, comedian Chey Bell who also happens to cut hair. She told me about all the dollars black women spend on their hair. I was amazed, and decided to make a fun film about that. But when I began shooting in Oakland at a hair expo, I met some black folks who told me of the Korean takeover.

Kam:  How did you decide to make a movie about it?

Aron: I knew that the Black Hair biz has the potential to bring dollars and employment to inner city neighborhoods. I decided that if my skills as a filmmaker can help, then that’s my path.

Kam:  Did you learn a lot about the history of the industry as you researched the subject?

Aron: You should have seen my reaction when someone first told me about Madame CJ Walker…I mean, come on…this thing is fixable, doable and the film can help. And I hope Oprah leaves her legacy, just like Madame CJ, and opens up a thousand black beauty supply shops with training, and product discounts for the employees.

Kam: Were you surprised to learn the extent of Korean domination of the hair care market?

Aron:  No.

Kam: Why did you put your movie on the Internet in several installments?

Aron: To comply with the rules of

Kam:  Won’t that hurt potential film sales?

Aron:  Perhaps… Is there money in documentary?

Kam: Ask Michael Moore. He made over $100 million with Fahrenheit 9/11. Is what the Koreans are doing, the way they’ve gone about taking control of the manufacture, wholesale distribution and retail sales of black hair-care products illegal?

Aron: We would need help from the NAACP to determine that. I am a filmmaker not an attorney.

Kam:  Playing Devil’s advocate, let me ask you if it’s a form of reverse-racism to suggest that black consumers should only buy from black businesses?

Aron: Just think, it’s a business in which 99% of the customers are black, and 99% of the owners are Korean… That just seems a little off…don’t you think?

Kam:  Yep. What has been the response of blacks, whites and Koreans to your film?

Aron: White people say it’s one-sided, Koreans don’t like it either, but African-Americans give me hugs and tell me to ignore the white people.

Kam: Do you think black people will now organize and change their behavior after being educated by your documentary?

Aron: I think it will take investment bankers like William Lewis and Vernon Jordan, and major media figures like Oprah, Ed Bradley, Spike Lee, or Sean Combs to take this to the next step in terms of economic development. I mean, these giant foundations give micro-grants to poor Africans in the Sudan for pottery businesses, why can’t some of that seed money go to develop black-owned, retail hair supply stores in America?

Kam:  Were you surprised when one of the black distributors featured in your film was arrested for arson for allegedly attempting to burn down a Korean competitor who opened up down the street from him?

Aron: I have no comment, since I have not seen any of the exact charges.

Kam:  How did he get caught?

Aron: Are you trying to get me in trouble?  

Kam: I’m just asking logical questions. Why do you think the black community is so involved with their hair that they could be 10% of the population but purchase 80% of the hair care products?  

Aron: That’s not my area of expertise. My documentary is a simple story of the obvious truth that is out there for everyone to see. By shining the media light on it, perhaps we can spur some positive economic changes in neighborhoods that could use some good news.

Kam:  When did you get interested in making movies?

Aron: At the age of thirteen.

Kam:  Why do you also teach filmmaking?

Aron: It’s fun, and I get to meet people from all over the world who attend my workshops. I also learn a great deal by teaching, and thus become a better filmmaker. I teach “Organic Documentary” at my film school in San Francisco. People interested in learn how to make their own Black Hair-style expose’ should visit my website at

Kam: What other projects are you working on now?

Aron: A history of LSD in the Sixties is also up at I am looking for an investor to get it to feature-length.

Kam:  Is Black Hair officially finished, or is it still a work in progress?

Aron: Black Hair will only be done when we get stores open and effect some real change. Until then, I will always release updates on the web and on DVD.

posted 7 July 2006

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My Black Is Beautiful (Episode 1)—Defining Black Beauty  / My Black is Beautiful (Episode 2)—Shades of Black

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“My Black Is Beautiful” Campaign Connects With Black Women

The campaign which includes a series of events across the country and a show in its second season on BET, has received a huge boost by its association with celebrities such as Queen Latifah and Angela Bassett.

Three years ago, “My Black is Beautiful” was an idea that was created by African American employees of the company.  A campaign meant to start a conversation about beauty and change the negative portrayals of Black women in the various forms of media. Currently, over 70 percent of African American women feel that they’re portrayed negatively by the news media. The goal of the program is to encourage Black women of all ages to define and promote their own beauty standard. News One

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Procter & Gamble’s ‘My Black’ Campaign

connects with African-American women

The “My Black is Beautiful” television show on the BET network began its second season in May, featuring a half-hour of talk and features on health and beauty and culture. Hosted by actress Tasha Smith, the show has delved into cultural issues as well as trends in accessories, lipstick and hair coloring.

My Black is Beautiful has gone on the road to Chicago, Atlanta and Charlotte, bringing celebrities and “pop-up salons” in free, open-to-the-public events that offer skin analysis, hair consultations and makeovers. In April, P&G kicked off the second season of the TV show with a similar event and salon at the company’s downtown Cincinnati headquarters.

The campaign sponsored the Essence Music Festival July 2-4 in New Orleans, where it set up a “Bronze Goddess Spa.” Appointments were booked within two hours of opening, P&G spokesperson Felisa Insignares says.The campaign is about improving black women’s image of themselves, offering a forum for information and expression and promoting loyalty to P&G beauty brands. Cincinnati News

Good Hair Movie—Chris Rock Sells Black Hair / Good Hair on Relaxer

Natural v. Perm Debate: Negative Focus on Gymnast Gabby Douglas’s Hair

Enough with the Black Hair Session—Gabby Won

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Our Hair is Unprofessional?—MarKeese Warner—12 June 2012—Like many students across the country, I have been looking for a summer job before I start my senior year at Pennsylvania State University where I’m studying engineering. As I’m living at home in Maryland for the summer, I thought working at the nearby Six Flags would be a great summer job. I’ve been going to Six Flags with my family for years and have even had season passes on occasion, so I applied for a food service job. However, as I started to go through the interview process, I was disturbed to find out that I couldn’t work at Six Flags because of the texture of my hair. Six Flags has a strict policy that prohibits employees from having dreadlocks (or “locks” as some people call them) as they classify them as an “extreme” hairstyle along with mohawks and unnatural coloring. Locks are predominantly worn by African-American, Caribbean and African people as an expression of how our hair grows naturally. My hair is important to me and part of who I am. I’ve had locks for about five years.

Being disqualified as a potential employee because of my hair made me feel defeated; as my hair is representation of my personal growth through the years. It hurts to hear major employers like Six Flags call my natural hair and texture “extreme.” Unfortunately, throughout history, many people have demonized locks.

It is disparaging for Six Flags to accept substantial amounts of money every year at their parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada from patrons who wear their hair as it grows naturally, but the company would refuse to hire any of those patrons with locks. We spend way too much money at places like Six Flags Theme Parks for them to discriminate against any members of our community. Let us also exercise our voice with our dollars. There is no excuse in 2012 for such abhorrent employment policies. In a time when the “voice of the people” can indeed be witnessed to move mountains, let us in one accord raise our voice. In a country that purports itself to be the greatest “melting pot” of social values and ideals, it’s time for Six Flags to stop its discriminatory policy by categorically refusing to employ people because of their natural hair. Please join me in asking Six Flags to stop discriminating against people with locks.—seeingblack

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman

By Joyce A. Ladner

Tomorrow’s Tomorrow is a pioneering sociological study of black girls growing up in the city. The author, in a substantial new introduction, considers what has changed and what has remained constant for them since the book was first published in 1971. . . . Joyce A. Ladner spent four years interviewing, observing, and socializing with more than a hundred girls living in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. She was challenged by preconceived academic ideas and labels and by her own past as a black child in rural Mississippi. Rejecting the white middle-class perspective of “deviant” behavior, she examined the expectations and aspirations of these representative black girls and their feelings about parents and boyfriends, marriage, pregnancy, and child-rearing.

Ladner asked what life was like in the urban black community for the “average” girl, how she defined her roles and behaviors, and where she found her role models. She was interested in any significant disparity between aspirations and the resources to achieve them.

To what extent did the black teenager share the world of her white peers? If the questions were searching, the conclusions were provocative. According to Ladner, “The total misrepresentation of the Black community and the various myths which surround it can be seen in microcosm in the Black female adolescent.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies. 

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanaper

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: The economy is not an efficient machine.

It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. We’re all better off when we’re all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior.

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Predator Nation

Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America

By Charles H. Ferguson

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York. This radical shift did not happen by accident.  Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite.  It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers.  It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008. Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite.

Based on many newly released court filings, it details the extent of the crimes—there is no other word—committed in the frenzied chase for wealth that caused the financial crisis.  And, finally, it lays out a plan of action for how we might take back our country and the American dream.—Read Chapter 1

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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 Death of White Sociology

By Joyce A. Ladner

In the 1970s, the battle for racial equality being waged in the streets an d the legislatures took the ivory tower. Black students, researchers and instructors had long been witness to the distortion of their history, their communities, and their identities in the classroom and in the field. The Black community had long borne the brunt of academia s failings. But many, like the contributors to Joyce A. Ladner s The Death of White Sociology, took up their pens and raised their voices against mis-education and bias in social science research. The Death of White Sociology offers brilliant descriptions of black identity with excellent essays from writers like Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, who take aim at the “social science fiction” of Euro-American sociological analysis, as well as political scientist Ron Walters’s “Toward a Definition of Black Social Science” and E. Franklin Frazier’s unsentimental critique, “The Failure of the Negro Intellectual.”

In a new foreword, Ladner notes that when the anthology was originally published in 1973, it “provoked healthy debates over a range of issues: Does Black sociology exist? If so, what are its theoretical assumptions, and what is the range of subject matter it covers?” The writers gathered within these pages provide diverse answers to those questions, examining–and refuting–Eurocentric distortions of what and who black people are.—Eugene Holley

The Ties That Bind: Timeless Values for African American Families

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 9 July 2012




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Related files:

The Black Beauty and the Beast    Locks Conference   

Gabby Douglas and Black Self-Hatred