There’s power in her hair.
There’s wisdom in her hair. There’s triumph in her hair. Yes, there’s pain in her hair. But at the root of it all, there’s love in her hair.
To artist Nikki McComb, there are stories in her hair.
There are the stories of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X – men willing to live … men who would die … for their people. There are the stories of Harriet Tubman shepherding her people to freedom, W.E.B. DuBois elevating his people through education and fittingly, Madam C.J. Walker, who used hair (and hair care) to build an empire. There are the stories of the hope of a Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. And there are the stories of those who are hidden in plain sight.
“I wanted to tell our story in a unique way that included national and local figures who have made – and are making – history daily,” said McComb, explaining her inspiration behind the artwork, “Afro Stories,” which adorns this week’s cover of Insight News.
In addition to well-known historical figures, McComb makes it a point with “Afro Stories” to pay tribute to those who have offered significant contributions to humanity but may not have lived in the spotlight. People such as Bessie Coleman and Ruby Bridges.
Coleman, who was African-American and Native-American, was the first woman of either ethnicity to hold a commercial pilot’s license. Bridges, at just six years old, took powerful steps for generations to come when she and three other Black children integrated the public schools of New Orleans in 1960. Four years later her steps were immortalized in the now iconic Norman Rockwell painting, “The Problem We All Live With.”
McComb also honors several Twin Cities based figures in “Afro Stories,” such as revered educator and civil rights icon, Mahmoud El-Kati and political and civil rights stalwart, Dr. Josie Johnson. Names of recent history makers, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minneapolis City Council members Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, flow seamlessly next to those of King, X and others.
McComb’s vision and art has sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. Recently launched, Re-al-itees (www.re-al-itees.com), is a line of expressive clothing featuring McComb’s original artwork, including “Afro Stories.”
With Re-al-itees McComb seeks to put the statement in fashion statement.
“I didn’t start the clothing line to be about me, I started it so people could wear something that speaks to their souls,” said McComb.