The Black identity has always been in question. What does it mean to be Black? Is it deeper than the surface of our skin? Is it in our culture? What are the features that make us “Black” and are they truly just Black features? It all depends on who you ask. But the one thing we can all agree on when it comes to being Black is that our people are quite diverse in our appearance. And, of course, that includes our hair.
French-born and London-based photographer Michelle Marshall recently shared an ongoing photo-documentary project following redheads of color. Marshall sheds light on the unusual manifestation of the MC1R gene (melanocortin 1 receptor), which causes the red hair mutation, fair skin, as well as freckles. Marshall’s project focuses specifically on Blacks and mixed-race people who carry the gene to reveal that these traits are common for more than just White people.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Marshall stated that she wanted to “stir the perception” people have of redheads. “As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows it’s own course, embracing society’s plurality and in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origin, ethnicity, and identity.”
Marshall’s exhibit sheds light on the beauty of Black multifariousness. With all the debates and table talk revolving around colorism within our community (light skin privilege versus dark skin disadvantages), the Rachel Dolezal scandal, the Shaun King controversy and what it really means to be Black in a time when Black lives matter the most but are considerably devalued, this project is a necessity. Marshall uses her gift of photography to reveal just another aspect of the Black spectrum and how beautiful being a Black redhead, and Black in general, can be.
To view more of Michelle Marshall’s MC1R project check out her website.