I was researching information for another story when I stumbled upon “No Lye: An American Beauty Story
,” which chronicles the rise and decline of the Black-owned ethnic beauty industry in America. It was a wonderful surprise that the documentary was encompassing and went well beyond the story of Madame C.J. Walker.
The beginning was a bit slow as it sunk in that the award-winning production was not Hollywood-slick and I began to question my interest in going further. Soon, I found myself stopping the movie to replay parts and to catch the historical details or to further my own research before continuing.
I was most intrigued how the 55-minute movie weaved in the story of SB Fuller. Just this month, Tyrone Haymore, historian/curator of the Robbins History Museum, brought me up to speed on Fuller’s story as we crafted “Robbins, Illinois Seeks to Convert Early Black Millionaire Home into Museum
.” Even when Black people are in control of Black History Month programs, they don’t even comb through the story of the Black entrepreneur-millionaire or the many Black entrepreneur-millionaires he mentored.
Though this documentary should attract the attention of those with interest in communications or political science to Black history and Black activism, if I was to ever again teach an Intro to Business or Intro into Marketing class the movie would be required viewing.
The movie, which includes photos, videos, text, and voice-overs, became very personal at times. Director Bayer Mack even found a clip of Marsha Ann Gillespie, a former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine. Her words have stayed with me since circa 1980.
I was a wavering construction/small business administration major when she spoke at Iowa State University and generally told us how Essence almost went bankrupt when they published too many serious articles. Subsequent mangers turned the editorial around with more lifestyle and entertainment stories and began attracting more Black hair care advertisers. That symposium talk affects my business strategies.
The movie made me scramble into my folder of college papers for a study I had done on the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute (AHBAI). Founded in 1981, the movie shared the story of the lobby and marketing group that included most major Black-owned Black hair care manufactures, except Johnson Publishing. In addition to owning Fashion Fair, Johnson Publishing owned Ebony and JET magazines that depended upon White-owned company advertisements that manufactured Black hair care products.
As a Junior Achievement national officer, I had the opportunity to meet some of the businesspersons depicted in the movie. Junior Achievement is a business program for teenagers that many of them supported. I emulated the Black super achievers.
To see their empires crumble was personally devastating. I am reminded of it many times, especially when driving from Chicago to Gary down the Dan Ryan Expressway and see that the huge red, black, and green flag is no longer flying in front of what was the home of Johnson Products, the former leader of Black hair care. Watching the portion of the documentary that methodically showed how and why Johnson Products and the others lost their sheen or died was like watching a thriller knowing the ending will not be kumbaya.
Mack’s storytelling reminds me of CR Gibbs' historical jaunts in that he dug deep enough into history to put the together a story that goes well-beyond the superficial. Though this documentary should attract the attention of those with interest in communications or political science to Black history and Black activism, if I was to ever again teach an Intro to Business or Intro into Marketing class the movie would be required viewing.
Win Tickets to See No Lye: An American Beauty Story
Two current Port Of Harlem subscribers will each win one coupon to see “No Lye: An American Beauty Story” from the safety of their electronic device including the one you use to read Port Of Harlem. The coupon has a value of $4.99 (electronic viewing) to $12.99 (CD viewing) plus $3.75 for shipping.
Click here to enter the drawing. We will randomly select a winner Monday, November 23, noon, and send you the coupon in the same email notifying you as a winner.
Note to Winners: After creating an account, including creating a password, the system will ask you for payment info. Click "PAYPAL" and "APPLY COUPON,” then enter the coupon code. The coupon expires December 31, 2020 or after a single use.