What Is #BrownUpYourFeed?

Mandy Harris Williams presenting on #BrownUpYourFeed at UAF. / Photo taken by JR Ancheta

Created by Mandy Harris Williams, #BrownUpYourFeed is about the reclamation of your social media space, representation, and pushing black and indigenous people to the forefront. She described the movement as a consistent pathway and grasping of what we have internalized about beauty and how it works.

“When we talk about beauty what we are really talking about is the propensity to receive love, interpersonally, and societally.” Through this movement she urges consumers to investigate our views and why we see less beauty in certain, specific demographics.

“I’m betting it is because we haven’t seen it on screens, screens represent glamour and success.” She proposes the question: “Now that we can all make images for screens, what can we do as consumers to push against what we’ve internalized and learned?”

The hashtag began as a response to the natural hair movement which, for a lot of people, was the first time seeing and experiencing a large promotion of black beauty. The natural hair movement sparked a community of black women throughout social media who began to cut off their previously relaxed hair to accept their natural textures, some of which these women never knew or experienced.

Black hair culture had then experienced a shift and launched full force into rejecting European beauty standards. Through this new journey of self-love and acceptance, black women began to educate themselves and others in mass about curl patterns, hair porosity and circulated the in-depth hair care language that we see reflected in advertising today. The movement however was quickly co-opted by women with loose curl patterns and light skin who were already represented and highly praised in the media.

“What has clearly taken place is that mixed raced people with one African descended parent have stepped in to represent blackness wholesale. Beyond that, in a white supremacist society, black people who are perceived to have more whiteness are going to be elevated.” said Williams.

With movements like #brownupyourfeed, cultural appropriation becomes an issue. One discussion of cultural appropriation in recent news includes Ariana Grande, who recently dropped the single “7 Rings” a pop and trap mash up who multiple people felt overstepped cultural boundaries.

“You have this convenient story that people tell themselves about black culture being cool and hip. It becomes this slippery slope where you have people who are light claiming this right to perform African descended cultures.” Williams said. “Because we still live under white capitalism you end up with a preference for those people. Due to the fact that most Americans have grown up with that visual indoctrination with all things being equal, the lighter popstar will be chosen.”

Lyrics such as “You like my hair gee thanks just bought it” have frequented throughout social media captions causing an influx of promotion towards wearing hair extensions while black women continue to live with hair related trauma, abuse, and widespread harassment over their hair length, textures, and authenticity.

“We have deep internalized antiblackness. You are going to get people that are barely black, performing blackness and claiming that it is their right. That’s how blackness works its always been about us not getting credit for what we do.” Williams stated. “Ariana is a natural result. If we can deconstruct the reason why we see certain people as less beautiful and move in another direction then we can have less Ariana Grandes.”

Brown up your feed may have began on Instagram but its message can be applied throughout education, art, advertising and all other platforms that send visual messages. As consumers we can push black and indigenous people to the forefront as they have been invalidated and dehumanized for the entirety of US history.

“For every one person that succeeds because of white supremacy, thin supremacy, there are ten people that get invalidated. That’s a bummer and it keeps consumers from having quality products. ”

Mandy Harris Williams goes by she/they pronouns, and can be found on Instagram @idealblackfemale