Our daily dose of #BlackGirlMagic comes by way of Rhianna Jones, an entrepreneurial writer and content producer who found herself fed up with the flagrant lack of diversity in the digital and social media realms.
As a result, Jones set out to create a set of afro-textured emojis — men, women, boys and girls — and send an official proposal to Unicode before the closing of Women’s History Month.
“The next day, [I learned] Tinder’s interracial emoji petition got approved — a year after their Change.org campaign, which also inspired me as a biracial woman,” Jones told BET.
A Chicago native, Jones currently resides in her second home of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, where the borough’s cultural capital and communal spirit helped to inform the 28-year-old’s latest creative pursuit.
“I was in a room full of bold, beautiful Black girls, [with] Solange’s 'Binz' on repeat, and, frankly, I was just over the lack of representation,” she recalled. “I researched the official submission process and decided to do something about it.”
In the end, Jones simply wants for the gatekeepers of electronic messaging to match Black people's real-life makeup and swagger with the appropriate symbols: “When an afro’d person walks into a room, you know that person has something to say. We wanna slide into your DMs with that same big-hair energy — insert Afromoji here.”
Get better acquainted with Rhianna Jones in a brief Q&A below, plus more about the design process and gravity of such an emoji. After, be sure to sign her petition here.
BET: How did you come up with the idea to propose the Afromoji?
Rhianna Jones: I was emailing a fellow afro’d editor and signed it "*insert Afromoji here.” I was in a room full of bold, beautiful Black girls, Solange’s “Binz” on repeat, and, frankly, I was just over the lack of representation. I researched the official submission process and decided to do something about it.
The proposal is due at the end of the month, so, ideally, I would’ve had more time to mobilize, but at least I’m trying. I'm proposing an Afromoji because emoji are a universal language and all the Black, Afro-Latinx and diasporic afro-haired users like myself don’t have a single option that represents our hair or cultural identities.
BET: Why is this so important to you? Some might think it trivial.
Rhianna Jones: It’s 2019. We’re out here and not everyone has straight hair. Much of my identity journey as a biracial child — and for many others — was influenced by “good” straight hair dominating the media’s beauty ideals. I straightened my hair for 12 years as a result. The lack of emoji hair diversity is a daily, subtle reminder of this social construct. Afros are fly as hell, and we should be able to celebrate our roots digitally, too.
BET: How involved were you with the design process?
Rhianna Jones: My fellow afro-haired friend and graphic designer Kerrilyn Gibson and I spent an entire day together fluffing Afro Woman’s fro just right; we named her Frolange. Kerrilyn took the lead on Afro Man and Afro Baby and did a killer job. We’re just two girls doing this — not an entire tech company. The Afromoji are by us and for us. Even the Curly Haired Female's hair still grows downward. Afros are kinky and coily and defy gravity. Our design reflects that.
BET: What should the Afromoji accomplish?
Rhianna Jones: With the Afromoji, I hope to achieve more cultural inclusivity and hair diversity in the digital realm. Look at Colin Kaepernick, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Amara La Negra, Solange — me, you, your favorite afro’d auntie, the Harlem stoop kids, etc., etc. Afros take up space just like our voices, our stories and our culture.
(Photo: Courtesy of Rhianna Jones, by Kerrilyn Gibson)
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