Ask Oak Cliff writer and cultural activist Linda Jones what life is like these days, and her answer is likely to be "hairy."
Not just because she’s one of the nation’s leading proponents of the natural hair movement for African-American women. It’s all the other hats Jones wears, weaving efforts as a published author, a social advocate, a teacher, a media consultant and a performance artist into a vocation – and avocation – unlike any other. Bump into her here in the Cliff and, depending upon the day, you’re likely to see a different facet of Jones.
The common thread? "I guess you could say that I’m a purveyor of my culture," asserts Jones, a former Dallas Morning News reporter turned Chicken Soup series essayist. "Whether I’m writing or teaching or speaking, I’m working to dispel misperceptions of what it means to be a person of color." Communications Jones These days, Jones devotes the lion’s share of her time to running her own independent media consultancy, Manelock Communications (www.manelockcommunications.com). Through Manelock, Jones provides professional writing and media relations services for clients ranging from aspiring new authors to a Plano yoga shop. She also freelances for a range of publications, including People magazine.
In addition to her "day jobs," she teaches – everything from English and creative writing courses for Upward Bound students at Richland Community College to developmental writing at Brookhaven College. Jones’ teaching efforts at RCC were chronicled this summer in a column by the Dallas Morning News’ Steve Blow, who reported on her work assisting teen students in compiling a dictionary of urban slang. Jones conceived of the project, and helped her Outward Bound students publish their efforts in The Krunktionary: An Adult-Friendly Guide to Hip-Hop Language and Other Casual Talk, in a user-friendly bid to teach her students standard English.
She’s also expanded her teaching efforts to include occasional cultural-enrichment workshops for young girls and writing workshops for adults. Two of her current workshop topics include "Zen and the Pen," a session designed to help eliminate the stress many fledgling writers experience, and "What I Want You To Know Before I Go," a memoir-writing session designed to help family members and church groups capture treasured memories for posterity.
If writing and teaching pay the bills, though, it’s Jones’ "moonlighting" stints as the founder and director of the cultural organization A Nappy Hair Affair (www.nappyhairaffair.com) and her alter ego, "Mosetta," that feed her soul.
Jones founded A Nappy Hair Affair in 1998 as a response to African-American friends bemoaning the grooming and styling difficulties they faced as they embraced natural and African-inspired hairstyles. "I had a number of friends who were lamenting not being able to find or afford someone to help them do their hair," she explains. "One day, I invited some friends over to my house so we could help each other groom our hair. From that first gathering, A Nappy Hair Affair and ÔHair Days’ were born."
The first Hair Day proved so popular – providing as much opportunity for bonding and support as it did styling assistance that Jones began to schedule the events regularly. Soon, a Hair Day network sprouted up in several U.S. cities, and Jones’ fame began to spread. As the Hair Day gatherings caught on, "Mosetta" was born. The name was minted by Mary Sims, a former Oak Cliff resident and Hair Day regular who likened Jones to a female Moses, delivering African-American women from hair bondage and "o-pressed" mindsets into "nappy freedom."
Before long, the writer in Jones took over, prompting her to pen the book "Nappyisms: Affirmations for Nappy-Headed People and Wannabes!" Upon publication, Jones was interviewed about A Nappy Hair Affair and the natural-hair movement by popular radio and television personality Tavist Smiley. Interest in Jones grew quickly and, soon, "Mosetta" began writing a regular column for NaturallyCurly.com.
More speaking engagements and natural-hair performance-art opportunities followed and they haven’t stopped. Earlier this year, Jones was tapped as an essayist for the latest in the popular Chicken Soup book series, Chicken Soup for the African-American Woman’s Soul. And, in August, when Jones performed at VISIONS: The Women’s Expo, here in Dallas, she drew a crowd of African-American professional women who clearly identify with her leadership of the natural hair movement. "When I saw Linda Jones was going to speak, I went running," said Siobhan Farr, director of Coppell-based KidsMuze. "A friend living in London at the time told me she’d read about her in England, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to see her speak ever since."
Parting words Asked about the disparate nature of her varied portfolio, and Jones quickly summarizes: "The common thread is blackness and a desire to push what is positive about my culture," she explains. "Some people say, ÔI’m a writer or a teacher or a speaker first. Then I am black.’ Not me. I was born black. That came first. Those other things came later."
She’s also quick to dismiss questions about the challenge of juggling so many balls. "I’m lucky," she asserts. "It isn’t always easy but I’m able to make a living doing what I like to do, how I like to do it. How many people can say that?"
LINDA "Mosetta" JONES
Favorite colors: Orange and coral
Favorite writer: Alice Walker
Favorite book: Notes to Myself by Hugh Prather
Favorite quote: "There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach. . . . To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me." -Hugh Prather
Favorite hobby: Playing West African djun djun drums
Favorite movie: "Akeelah & the Bee"
Favorite foods: Chocolate chip cookies, okra, greens and rice.
Favorite place in Oak Cliff: Home
Favorite "satellite offices": "I do a lot of my writing in various and sundry coffee shops, bookstores and cafŽs." Her mainstays here in the Cliff include The Nodding Dog in the Bishop Arts District and the Starbucks on Camp Wisdom Road.
Deepest secret: "My middle name," Jones says, "and I’m not telling anyone."
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