Hair in the Black community has always served as a staple of our culture and heritage, often referred to as The Crown. The “greasing of the scalp” serves as a tradition passed down from generation to generation as a connection to our roots (no pun intended).
There has been plenty said and depicted about Black hair, but never an attempt to change the market in an untapped genre of Black art. In 2017, Filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry is changing the game and raising the bar on the connection between Black fathers and their daughters, and what it means to show love to our hair.
In a press release for his project, Hair Love, Cherry says the film “centers around the relationship between an African-American father, Stephen, his daughter Zuri, and her hair. When his wife becomes unavailable, Stephen is faced with having to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, and soon discovers that her hair has a mind of its own.”
The 5-minute animated short film will consist of Pixar-like digital animation, to help bring the story to life.
For Matthew, the story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects depicting the Black family dynamic. Through this ambitious film, he hopes to spark a change in the industry. Cherry says the idea for Hair Love was birthed from a series of viral videos online of Black fathers interacting with their sons and daughters–and their hair.
Cherry’s Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the film project has already surpassed its initial goal of $75,000, having raised over $220,000.
“I think we have all seen the strives that Black people have made on TV and film. We have ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Fences,’ and several Black actors leading network shows, yet we are rarely seen in the digital animated space,” Cherry tells theGrio.
“Blacks have been seen lately in a dehumanizing way, with police brutality and the murders of unarmed Black men and women. Showing other images of the Black family dynamic is so important to fight against those stereotypes and create actual representation. It’s important to show our humanity by taking the peek behind the curtain of the Black family; specifically, Black men and young men and women of color in this industry who are so underrepresented.”
The Hair Love campaign has not gone on deaf ears as several celebs like Gabrielle Union, Reagan Gomez, Mindy Kaling and others have shared, with some making major donations.
“The celeb effect the film is having is awesome but it’s all about the people,” Cherry points out. It’s about the people with three followers who support the project. The school teacher or mom that shares the post with her daughters.”
He also admits the level of trust the community has placed into his vision is a bit overwhelming. “The amount of people who are engaged is telling. People who don’t know me or my work willing to invest in me is important to me. As an artist, having people support my vision for helping change the narrative about our community is awesome,” he says.
Regardless of where Hair Love ends up in terms of commercial success, however, Cherry is more focused on the impact on the community who can relate to its niche narrative, yet universal theme in communities of color.
“Success for ‘Hair Love’ would be an email, call, text, or FB message from a mom, dad, boy, or girl that says this project changed their life. For someone to come to me and say something like that means the world,” he says.
Regardless of how much money is raised by the end of the Kickstarter campaign, Cherry says the project will only be released when the time is right. “I want it to be right and we aren’t chasing the clock on this one. We want to make sure it is quality material and willing to take the time to ensure that,” he adds.
As for up and coming artists or entrepreneurs trying to break into the industry, Cherry has sound advice: “Start now!”
“It’s never going to be a perfect time or an ideal set of circumstances,” he says. “The longer you wait, the longer you are living life as a person you aren’t meant to be.”
For Black people, it is easy to become jaded and hardened by society’s depiction of us in the media, based on stereotypes. Hair Love is a valiant attempt to change that narrative for little Black and Brown kids everywhere.
To support the campaign, visit here.