Rest In Love: Miss Jessie’s Co-Founder Titi Branch Dies at 45

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The natural hair world was recently rocked with the breaking news of one of its own, Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, passing away from a possible suicide. While this is not confirmed, it is being reported that her death was caused by asphyxiation.

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This is the second death within the natural hair community this year. Earlier this year, founder of For Brown Girls and #DarkSkinRedLip died in an apparent suicide. People have been sending messages of love and shock, along with her sister who posted:

In 1997, sisters Titi and Miko opened Miss Jessie’s Salon in response to the demand for experts in natural hair and natural curly hair. Their experience with curls started over 20 years ago.

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Born into a multi-cultural family, having a mother who was Japenese and a father who was African American left the girls with a head of multi-textured hair.  Titi was very disappointed about the lack of salons and products that catered to her and her sister’s textured hair, which led Miss Jessie’s to be a major staple in the natural hair community.

Miss Jessie’s was one of the first major hair care lines to hit the shelves of a major big box retailer at the height of the curly girl movement. Their products soon could be found in retailers where products for natural girls were scarce.

Titi became a recognizable face of the brand with her beautiful, curly golden locks and was the mastermind behind the wildly popular and signature product, Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding.

Last year this time Titi told the online media source Ozy, “I get so inspired when people meet us,” “It’s just a hair product but to them it’s so much more. It has such an impact.”

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Indeed. Their brand has been an impact and their vision is one that will be celebrated for years to come. Rest In Love, Titi Branch!

If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, do not be ashamed to reach out for help…help is here for you. National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

H.Y.P.E Hip Hop Therapy Program Helps Black Youth Address Racism

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Our children are a direct reflection of what we did or did not teach them. – David Banner (Grammy Award winner and founder of A Banner Vision)

Racism in America has been a hot topic on the minds of many during the last several weeks. Politicians, religious leaders, experts and celebrities have weighed in on the discrimination experienced by Black Americans, men and boys in particular, in the wake of the “no indictment” decisions by grand juries in New York and Missouri.

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In a 2012 study by Lorena Estrada-Martinez of Washington University in St. Louis, daily stress related to racial discrimination can increase risk for depressive symptoms and engagement in violent behavior among African Americans ages 19-25. To address this health concern BlackDoctor.org and the hip hop therapy curriculum H.Y.P.E.: Healing Young People thru Empowerment partnered to bring the program to youth through an online platform.

During a recent H.Y.P.E. session exploring racism and oppression, participants shared their opinions and experiences with injustice. They listened to and discussed the song “I Can” by Nas and created solutions for rising above racism in America. The following are reflections from H.Y.P.E. online participants:

This past week during our live group chat with H.Y.P.E we discussed many personas of our community today. We questioned ourselves with the Mike Brown case and the Trayvon Martin case. Is it racism or the fear of black males? Our youth activist Dr. Adia Winfrey stated that she came up with a new term “Ebomaphobia” which simply means the fear of black males. 

We stated that racism still exist today, but varies on where you live or work. In some cases, it is worse than others. In our Black middle class communities, we not only are experience racism by other ethnicities, but we are sometimes racist to ourselves. Each day we downgrade one another by our hair texture, price and brands of our clothes, and who has more followers on social media. We as a Black community are dividing ourselves further and further apart everyday. Later we will realize in life that materialistic belongings do not belong to us. At the end of the day we need people, not products. 

Willie Lynch made the statement that we only have to teach one generation to mess themselves up mentally and it will continue to carry on. Sadly, his statement became true. Through this discussion we asked is it possible to break this cycle in our community? Is it possible to change? If so, how? We need to start with our younger generation, because they are our future. The young mind is like a sponge and still bendable, versus the older minds that are old and set in their ways. 

Tupac said it best with “T.H.U.G L.I.F.E” (The Hate You Give Little Infants F**** Everybody). We have to be careful of what we do, how we do it, and know that someone is watching, especially the youth. To round my final statement into conclusion we listened to the wonderful song entitled “I Can” by Nas. That song to me gives me a fresh breath of hope saying, “I know I can”. All we need is that little motivation, that extra word of positivity that could possibly help someone through a trying time in their life, and could possibly save their life as well. 

~Kiana J as in KianaJTv (Age 17)

The H.Y.P.E. Racism and Oppression session was very intense. The timing couldn’t have been more precise and perfect. All the things going on in the world right now make this session even more relevant than ever. Everyday it’s a new story about a different Black boy that has been brutally abused by the police until they couldn’t defend themselves no more. As intense as this session was, I felt offended that every teen we talked about was my age or older! It scares me to think the teen males that I know are a threat to the police. It breaks my heart to know that as people, police can oppress us. It’s not us it’s them!

~Brandi “Lotus” Williams (Age 18)

This was a great session, and it was the perfect time to bring up a discussion as sensitive as this is especially in this moment in time that we are going through in today’s society dealing with racism. I feel like the only way we can make a change is to be open to change in both a negative and positive way. Meaning that we accept the negative and find a point where we can come together and find a point where we can say, “okay we know it’s a negative effect so let’s get what we need and move on.” If we don’t, our society as a whole can not come together and be more peaceful and actually make a change.

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~Asia (Age 18)

My Name is Nick. I’m part of the best group in the world…H.Y.P.E. The H.Y.P.E. sessions we have are a blessing. They have taught me to look at things from different perspectives. H.Y.P.E. has taught me not only do I have to learn how to forgive people but to also forgive myself. Last but not least, don’t let past decisions and the negative opinions of others determine my future.

~Nick (Age 20)

 

Dr. Adia WinfreyDr. Winfrey is an Atlanta, GA based author, psychologist, and corporate trainer who has been featured on NPR, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and in JET Magazine. She is the creator of Healing Young People thru Empowerment (H.Y.P.E.), which incorporates rap music and lyrics into group therapy sessions for at-risk youth, with emphasis on Black males. Learn more about Dr. Winfrey and H.Y.P.E. at www.letsgethype.com