Pick Progress is a project focused on sharing stories of Black individuals and highlighting elements of Black culture. Each post will spotlight two items: 1) perspectives and opinions from individuals who are traditionally underrepresented in the greater American narrative. 2) a plastic afro-pick (or afro-comb) designed with a black empowerment phrase on it (e.g., black is beautiful). For 31 days, Pick Progress will share the Black experience in ‘style’.
There are many reasons why this project is intrinsically aligned with current issues. Filmmaker Rhea Dillion describes an afro “as a crown laden with politics and societal pressures.” Natural hair has always been linked with the societal perceptions of Black people. In the 1960s, the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement fought to undo all the negative ideas brought about by a history based in White supremacy… However, the world still needs more content to promote inclusivity and to dispel the notion that Black people are inherently inferior beings.
The Pick Progress project also aims to connect Black artifacts and phrases with today’s urban community. The afro-pick has been a haircare tool used for over 6,000 years, but historically it is more than just a haircare tool. It is also a powerful symbol for Black pride and empowerment. In the 1960s, the afro-pick with a Black fist-etched handle proved that style could have social and political influence. By customizing afro-picks with phrases of Black empowerment, ‘Pick Progress’ will continue this visual legacy by highlighting popular touch points in Black history and culture.
Last, but not least, Pick Progress aims bring awareness to experiences Black people are facing, locally and/or nationally. Storytelling is a powerful tool for social impact and positive change. Sharing oral histories not only puts a face on statistical truths, but it also highlights the ways Black people are not monoliths. Our world need more diverse individuals at the ‘table’ speaking their truths to better understand our world. While churches, barbershops, and beauty salons serve as “sanctuaries” for Black individuals to share their stories with each other, Pick Progress can be one place for a larger community to ‘get woke’ about realities of being Black.
You can contribute your story to Pick Progress by filling out the form on the contribute page.
Please direct all inquiries about Pick Progress to Chandler via kalimizzou.com.
Pick Progress was created by Kansas City-based creative Chandler Johnson over the course of seven months.
First, I need to make a special thank you to Stephanie Alderman-Oler. This project wouldn’t have been as successful if it wasn’t for her help with editing and planning. Thank you so much, AO.
Thanks to my generous friends and colleagues who helped put this project together in a variety of different ways: Corbett McKinney, Maddy Cushman, Dr. Sally Ann-Ashton, Nathaniel Bozarth, Aimee Alderman, Kyle & Ryan, Jessica Leader-Kirk, Nelson Vowels, Mike O’Leary, Nicole Miller, Ruby Montoya, Amanda Schneider, Gail Zeak, and all of the amazing individuals that contributed their stories.