Friday, December 12, 2014

Bill Cosby: An example of how "Rape" works within a patriarchal society

By today's Urban Chameleon contributor
Christa Bell

 In many ways, focusing on serial rapist, ‪#‎BillCosby‬, is a way to direct rage and shame at an entire set of systems that compose the massive and unwieldy phenomena that are patriarchy and rape culture. It's easier to focus on him than on the rape and torture of prisoners by, for example, the CIA. Cosby makes identifying the way rape culture works within patriarchy, manageable, almost breezy. He also makes it easy to identify those who have completely internalized rape culture ethics. If anything could be said to be redeeming about Cosby's decades as a serial rapist, it would be that his heinous crimes against women force us to approach rape from multiple and intersecting perspectives. It allows us to confront the kind of eucharistic brainwashing, that we are all impacted by, that allows patriarchy to operate so efficiently. By eucharistic, I mean that spiritual ritual of double think that allows us to believe that what is false, is actually real. As in the ritual of communion when adherents accept that the bread and wine being imbibed are the actual body and blood of christ. In the case of the ritual of defending Cosby, his disciples have substituted his TV persona, his filling in for and as their absent fathers, his representation of black masculine purity, as the truth of who he is. But he is not. He is black, he is an exceptional entertainer, and he is wealthy. He is also a scum who has spent decades sexually exploiting women in one of the most vile ways imaginable. You will have to find a way to reconcile those truths with his persona. Reconcile the wine and bread with the blood and flesh. This is also the work of ‪#‎Ferguson‬. Upending and calling out all systems of oppression.

Follow Christa Bell at

Friday, April 4, 2014

Can We Get Further in Life With a Perm vs. Natural Hair?

By today's Urban Chameleon contributor
Brooke Lugo Smith

"It took a lot of self discovery and rebuilding for me to even train my own eye to love myself the way I am."

I was born with a full head of black, vibrant curls. Today, I would say this was a great thing but at the time being born in the 80's when mixed kids weren't trending, I developed a distorted perception of myself. In grade school, while other little girls' moms were taming their natural hair with relaxers, my mom refused, and therefore I was limited to pony tails and buns because I was too uncomfortable to wear my "wild" hair any other way. Growing up I never saw any images of women with hair like mine, not on TV, in videos and surely not in my classrooms. I have memories of little girls picking at my hair with looks of disgust saying, 

“Why don't you get a perm?” 

What was this “perm” they spoke of? Soon I realized it was the reason every Black girl I knew had straight silky hair. So I did what any other thirteen-year-old would've done in my shoes. I BEGGED my mother to relax my hair. I cried when she denied me. It was hard to be a plus size girl and have wild hair. Both of these traits made me unpopular.

It wasn't until graduation that my mom finally allowed me to get a perm.  Now I had hair that every girl envied. It was extra long and thick, a mane of black hair that almost reached my butt. It was amazing to see how people who never spoke or acknowledged all of a sudden want to crowd around me  just to see if my hair was real and ask to touch it. Everyday people stared in amazement. I was a hair goddess. Because of this new found attention I became addicted to the creamy crack (relaxer). At the first sight of my natural hair growing out at the roots I'd run to the store and touch it up before anyone could see. This habit continued all the way through my mid 20s. I was not prepared for the amount of work it took to maintain this look. I now had to flat iron my roots, curl my ends with a curling iron every day and use tons of heavy greasy products to keep it from frizzing; anything to stop my hair from going back to "wild." Slowly but surely my long mane that had once reached all the way down my back wouldn't grow past my collar bone. One day as I looked in the mirror, I couldn't help but look at my damaged hair with split ends and say, “What did you do to yourself?!” 

In 2005, I started growing my natural hair again. In addition, I decided to do a spiritual makeover. I needed to redefine my definition of beauty from within. No, I didn't do the “big chop” where some women cut off all of their hair completely and start from scratch. However, I went through what is known as the “in between” stage, where you allow your roots to grow out, looking puffy and crazy and slowly cut away your ends until the relaxer is completely gone. The transition was very awkward. Even though I was finding this new wave of confidence in the "natural" me, men, didn't seem to take a liking to the new look. I could go out with straight hair and have several suitors, and where the same outfit with my curls and only receive a handful of hellos. It took a lot of self discovery and rebuilding for me to even train my own eye to love my natural self. And I mean LOVE not just settle or be content. 

Even though society is slowly beginning to embrace the natural look many of us have a long way to go with self acceptance.  I know I have come a long way but I still haven't arrived.

Let's talk corporate America. When I have meetings, specifically an interview, I still hesitate on whether to wear my hair natural, in fear of  coming across unprofessional. We are all a work in progress. I try and hold on to the principle that I am fearfully and wonderfully made! 

Be confident and be you. Honestly anyone who doesn't accept that is doing you a favor by weeding themselves out of your life! Being myself has even allowed me to find a spouse that loves me with no filter. Shoot, the day I met him, I was sporting a curly side ponytail, a Thunder Cats hoodie, jeans and Converse sneakers. He later told me, his dream girl was a women with natural black curls... go figure. Funny thing is my husband suffers from low hair esteem himself. He's been trying out this fro/hawk style but gets uncomfortable when his hair grows in thinking it looks too nappy. I even had to explain to him that the hair that grows out of our scalp is not bad even though we've been taught otherwise. I believe we simply haven't been given the option to love our natural hair. Growing up, there were no tutorials on maintenance, no products and no support. Luckily, today we have platforms like Urban Chameleon to shed some light on why we do what we do including the need to chameleon. I'm excited to teach my unborn baby how to rock their hair, curls or not. With the right products and styling (the key to any great hair style) we all can shine! In the words of one of my favorite movies, Just let your soooooooooouuuuul glow!

Brooke is a Gospel Pop Artist and the Star of Oxygen's hit reality show, My Big Fat Revenge. She is also the vocalist behind several  commercials including Old Navy and Kia Motors. Follow her at

Have your Urban Chameleon story featured by e-mailing

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Funnel Cake Flowers & The Urban Chameleons comes to Spelman College!

In the vein of Saturday Night Live meets The Chappelle Show , Emmy nominated writer, producer, performer HaJ brings her new interactive, multimedia stage show to Spelman College. FUNNEL CAKE FLOWERS & THE URBAN CHAMELEONS is a comedic, social commentary on how people of color in America have to chameleon between white corporate America and their kinky hair-handling, curry spice eating, hip gyrating America in order to survive. It's complicated! 

Tickets are FREE!
General admission 

Spelman College
John D. Rockefeller Fine Arts Building
Atlanta, GA 30314

Show Times 
Thurs. Feb 20 at 8PM 
Fri. 21st at 8PM
Saturday 22nd at 8PM 
Sun 23rd at 3PM

For more information e-mail