The ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ button that launched the natural hair movement in the 80’s inducted, and on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African American History and Culture. “I’m so surprised and honored that this cute little face and empowering slogan are now a part of American history, and being displayed at our nation’s premier treasure house of African American history and culture…” states Caprece Jackson-Garrett, originator of the ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ concept.
Baltimore, MD – Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. a cultural renaissance dedicated to Afrocentric identity and ideals blossomed in young adult Black communities across the United States, during the decades of the 1970’s through the 1990’s. From coast to coast, groups of African American artists, musicians, designers, and entrepreneurs brimming with Black Consciousness and Black Pride came together to ignite a cultural explosion that included Afros, locks, braided hair designs, music, poetry, fine art, fashion, graphic design, and wearable “message” merchandise like ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ Collectibles, created by Caprece Jackson-Garrett.
“After my wonderful academic experience at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and inspired life in New York City, I moved to Paris, France for five years where I modeled, and wrote for publications in the U.S., Africa and Europe, which included a stint on the editorial team that launched the US edition of Elle Magazine.” When Caprece returned to the United States in the early 1980’s, she found a dynamic Black community thriving in Washington, D.C. juxtaposed with the growing popularity of the ‘Jheri Curl’ hair-styling trend being embraced by the African diaspora at that time. “It disturbed me that Black women wearing Afros and other natural hair styles in were being challenged in the workplace by employers who said these styles were unprofessional. And I would invite small groups of women to my Northwest DC apartment for salon-style discussions about cultural issues related to the concept of finding happiness with our natural selves. Working with a couple of collaborators, including Pam Johnson who I invited to my first wine and cheese chat.
One evening while sketching what would be the first image of Nappy’s bright eyes, round features and piquant red lips; Pam and I were tossing around words that captured the tone of the series dialogue and the “Happy I’m Nappy™,” tagline was born.” Caprece was then challenged with creating merchandise around the concept that would appeal to African American consumers. She trademarked her ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ concept and developed an affordable and attractive product line that included tee-shirts, aprons, coffee mugs, sweatshirts, infant wear, tote bags and novelty items. “We were selling our merchandise anywhere we could as vendors, but really cracked the market open at the 1st Capitol City Jazz Festival, where we sold every piece of merchandise we had on inventory! We then connected with Lee Hairston, owner of Washington DC’s ‘Wonderful Things;’ boutique, and by the early 90’s we were shipping Nappy Collectibles to more than 120 stores nationwide. I processed, prepped and shipped every order from home!”
Recently, during the grand opening week of the Smithsonian’s spectacular Museum of African America History and Culture, a friend touring the exhibits saw a ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ button in a display case, and called Caprece to share this astounding bit of news. “That was such a surprise! My good friend, Sehar Peerzada, a Baltimore-based fashion designer, called and forwarded a cellphone photo of the ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ button displayed at the museum. It was one I sold to a member of ‘The Last Poets’ who donated it to the new museum. Talk about serendipity, I didn’t have a clue about any of that, and was so excited I immediately called my mother and two daughters to share this awesome news! I plan to meet with the curator of that particular section of the museum, to donate other ‘Happy I’m Nappy’™ merchandise.”