Staff Song Pick of the Week

News and Notes intern, Kenya Young, explains why she chose "I Am Not My Hair" by India.Arie as this week's selection.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And now it's time for our staff song pick of the week. Today's pick comes from News & Notes intern Kenya Young and its Grammy Award winner India.Arie with her 2006 hit, "I Am Not My Hair."

(Soundbite of song "I Am Not My Hair")

INDIA.ARIE (R&B Singer): (Singing) I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am not your expectations, no. I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within.

CHIDEYA: Again that was "I Am Not My Hair" by India.Arie. Our staff song pick of the week. Intern Kenya Young's with me now to explain herself. Kenya, Welcome to my side of the mic.

KENYA YOUNG: Hey, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So what about this song resonates with you?

YOUNG: I really love it the song is really not about hair. It's more about self-acceptance and really just embracing who you are with what you've got. I think that - I know for me, personally, growing up in predominantly white areas and schools, I had a lot of cultural identity issues. And I just think India.Arie does such a great job of saying hey, this is who we are, this who we love about - what we love about ourselves, and it's okay. You know, not only is it okay, it's beautiful.

(Soundbite of song "I Am Not My Hair")

INDIA.ARIE: (Singing) Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person? Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend, oh? Does the way I wear my hair determines my integrity?

CHIDEYA: So when you think about hair and the politics of hair, do you say, well, people should always wear natural hair or how do you come out on that debate?

YOUNG: You know, what I love, and I think India.Arie touches on this, too, is that it does not matter. If you want to go natural, great - and the great thing about today, that's acceptable. We can go natural, we can wear clips, we can wear braids, but if you want to go rock a weave, then rock it. It's just so great to be able to say, I can wear my clips(ph) and be so cool with it and know that's it's okay. And…

CHIDEYA: Well, they look beautiful on you, by the way.

YOUNG: Oh, thank you.

(Soundbite of song "I Am Not My Hair")

INDIA.ARIE: (Singing) I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within.

CHIDEYA: Do you find yourself applying her lyrics to your life?

YOUNG: I do, you know, I did. I had a lot of struggles growing up and really did not feel like I came into my own cultural identity and embracing my heritage and my looks and my African beauty until late college years. And every day, I talk to my kids about how beautiful their skin is, how wonderful their hair is, and "I Am Not My Hair" is just so true to what we are trying to be. It has nothing to do with us as people.

I'm not going to - we're always trying to be better people, but it's being a person and having a better life - not trying to look better for superficial reasons, not trying to change who you are or what you have, but working with what you have and making it just really work for you and look beautiful on you. And I think that's what makes a person a better person. And I think India.Arie talks about that a lot in her songs.

CHIDEYA: Well, Kenya, that's great. Thank you so much for coming in and telling us about your staff song pick of the week, "I Am Not My Hair" by India.Arie.

YOUNG: It was great being in here.

CHIDEYA: Kenya Young is NEWS & NOTES' brand new and already overworked intern.

(Soundbite of song "I Am Not My Hair")

INDIA.ARIE: (Singing) Good hair means curls and waves. Bad hair means…

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today. Thanks for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show, you can visit npr.org/newsandnotes. There's also a link to our blog, news and views. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of song "I Am Not My Hair")

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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