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Petitioning For An Afro Emoji


There are over 2,800 official emojis. You know those little icons you use to spice up your texts - a cow, a doughnut, a queen, and my personal favorite, the eye roll. The Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that oversees emojis - yes, there is such a thing - has been criticized for its lack of diversity and inclusivity when it comes to LGBTQ or religious expression. And now they're under fire for one more - the afro. That's right. Of the more than 15 hairstyles offered in emoji form, not one is an afro. Rhianna Jones wants to change that. She's a freelance writer based in New York. And she joins me now from our studios there.

Rhianna, welcome.

RHIANNA JONES: Hi, Lulu. Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is an absolute pleasure to have you. Let's talk through this. There's already been some diversity in the emoji world. We have different skin tones included in emoji form. But why do you think an afro should be included too?

JONES: I think an afro should be included too because there's an entire community of people - black, Afro-Latinx, diasporic. We were just talking about the do for others. It's a lot of people that have hair that grows up, forward and spherically and, you know, defies gravity. And there's been - and there's just been a big dearth and lack of representation of natural hair and Afro hair in the media. And I think the lack of Afro hair in our keyboards is a subtle but constant reminder of that. You know, we're a world that interacts largely in digital spaces. And emoji are this universal language of self-expression and kind of the closest way to, really, inject our personality into our conversations. And the fact that a very large community and culture of people has no reflection of themselves in those conversations is something that I'm trying to change.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Describe the emoji for us.

JONES: The emoji - so we started off with - we called her Frolange because we'd been listening to Solange's new album for like...


JONES: ...A couple weeks straight.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And she's got great hair.

JONES: And she's got great hair. She's got absolute fly girl hair. But like I said, it grows spherically and upward. And it takes up as much space as you can in the very, very minute parameters of an emoji.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Who designed it?

JONES: My friend Kerrilyn Gibson, who is - she's a graphic designer and a fellow Afro-ed female. And we really wanted it to be by us and for us because we, like so many of our friends, you know - and for almost a year now, I'd sign a lot of my emails, insert Afro emoji here. And that's kind of what precipitated all of this is one day, I just - I was coming off of Black History Month and celebrating all these - you know, our big stories and our big voices and our being hair. And I just realized that I shouldn't have to do that anymore because it's more than just an emoji. It's about people being able to see themselves reflected in the conversations they're having not only on screen but in real life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And any idea how long it'll take until we can see the Afro emoji?

JONES: It's a pretty lengthy process. I hope that they're listening. And I hope that they know that we all really want this.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rihanna Jones, freelance writer and Afro emoji proponent, thank you so much.

JONES: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rihanna Jones plans to submit the Afro emoji to Unicode tonight. If you want to see it, you can go to change.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.