Remember Kanye West's Broke Phi Broke skit on his debut album College Dropout? Unlike Broke Phi Broke, Pi Nappa Kappa isn't satire, although it's hard not to classify it as such upon first glance.
Pi Nappa Kappa (Nappa is not an actual Greek letter) is a natural hair sorority founded by Leola Anifowoshe, the self-proclaimed authority on natural hair care. Word spread about the sorority -- and I use that term loosely -- through its Facebook page where members can join by electronically signing the organization's pledge. Their mission is to "educate, inspire and uplift natural hair women, men, boys and girls throughout the entire world. To make the word "nappy" into a "happy" and celebrated term." New members are all too excited to write on the sorority's Facebook wall introducing themselves to their new Sorors. And what sorority is official without a hand sign and a call? Well, Pi Nappa Kappa has that too.
Everything about Pi Nappa Kappa seems to be a mockery of actual Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO) whose history dates back to 1906 when Alpha Phi Alpha was founded.
Black women with natural hair have formed a strong and diverse community because of the one thing they all have in common: natural hair. Tens of thousands of naturals host meet ups with total strangers, chat in online forums about hair care tips, support one another's online hair stores that sell organic hair products and thousands of women subscribe to the YouTube channels of naturals who demonstrate step-by-step instructions of all things pertaining to natural hair. Women genuinely bond and serve as a support system for one another.
I understand that when natural women participate in the hashtag #teamnatural, or when some naturals hold themselves on some type of conscious pedestal, it comes from a place of pushing back against all of the conditioning. Many naturals feel the need to proclaim to the world they are beautiful with natural hair because the opposite message continues to persist. Natural hair is not celebrated or appreciated in mainstream media or corporate America. However, in continuing with what can be perceived as a 'look at me I'm natural' campaign, a wedge has formed between naturals and non-naturals as if one is superior to the other. Whether intentionally or not, Pi Nappa Kappa contributes to the divisive us vs. them debate; and that's a far too dangerous line black women can't afford to tread.
The natural hair vs. relaxed hair is becoming eerily similar to the light-skinned vs. dark-skinned (read: colorism) divide and conquer method of the 21st century. Imagine if a Permed Phi Chi was a budding new sorority. Beyond the jokes of the preposterous name, I believe the black community would be in an uproar that women with relaxers were potentially spreading their promotional message of the creamy crack to black youth.
While I respect Anifowoshe's commitment to serving the women in the natural hair community, Pi Nappa Kappa may have missed the mark as a sorority. As a natural and a member of a BGLO, I can assure you women with natural hair have been a part of sororities for as along as they've existed. Black sororities have an enriched history in higher education institutions, community service, segregation, Women's Suffrage and Jim Crow. For nearly a century black women have joined sororities and found a fulfilling sisterhood. Black sororities managed to preserve the history and traditions they created almost a century ago; and today they thrive. Forming a natural hair group on a Facebook page with no tangible goals in which the organization hopes to achieve does not compare to the four black sororities that have been able to withstand as national organizations while other black organizations were folding.
Black hair care is a nine billion dollar industry. Guess who we are making wealthy? It's not us. I'd like to see all black women collectively sharing ideas on how we can distribute the billions we spend in hair care into our own pocketbooks and communities. Pi Nappa Kappa has a right to form. But it's imperative for the group to recognize by claiming the sorority title it has a larger responsibility than curating a Facebook page and selling products. And what is it offering to its members that naturals can't get from other sororities? From the looks of it -- absolutely nothing.
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