Pick Progress project celebrates Black History with 31 stylish combs
Celebrating Black history in ‘style’: that’s what Kansas City artist Chandler Johnson is doing with his project that features 31 unique afro-combs and interviews.
“Whether I’m sportin’ them in my hair or rockin’ them in my back pocket, picks are dynamic tools that elevate my life,” Johnson said. “For years, I’ve dreamed of picks having more style and swagger.”
His dream led him to create 31 different plastic afro-combs that reference phrases of Black empowerment like ‘Lift Every Voice’ and ‘Melanin’ Abundant.’ Johnson said the process made him think about his community and his culture, so he decided to give back to the community through the ‘Pick Progress’ project.
In portraits with the afro-combs and long interviews, Johnson profiles educators, doctors, journalists, and others to contribute their experiences and perspectives of being Black. Johnson is posting one afro-comb accompanied with an interview once a day in February, during Black History Month. The stories highlight the complexity and diversity of identity within the Black community. One woman describes growing up multi-racial:
“I felt Black before I knew I was Black,” said Jessica Auld. “And even though everybody tried to condition me to be White, I still felt Black. My hair had dreads. I drew a little girl with dreads in Brown crayon. But, that’s not what was acceptable.”
Johnson hopes that the project shows the richness of Black culture in different forms. This project may help people better understand struggles minorities experience so that solutions can be found to make more inclusive environments.
“Regardless of where life takes me or how long I live on the Earth, I want to be part of the progress and action to make this world a better place for all of us,” Johnson said.