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Dr. Yaba Blay is a Ghanaian-American professor, scholar-activist, public speaker, cultural worker, and consultant. She is originally from Ghana, West Africa, and was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Her scholarship, work, and practice centers on the lived experiences of Black women and girls, with a particular focus on identity politics and beauty practices. Lauded by O Magazine for her social media activism, she has launched several viral campaigns, including Locks of Love, #PrettyPeriod, and #ProfessionalBlackGirl, in her multi-platform digital community.
In 2012, Dr. Blay served as a producer on CNN's television documentary, “Who is Black in America?". She has since been named one of today's leading Black voices by ‘The Root 100’, and Essence Magazine's ‘Woke 100.’ She has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, BET, MSNBC, BBC, and NPR. Her work has also been featured in The New York Times, EBONY, Essence, Fast Company, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Colorlines, and The Root, to name a few. Her commentary is featured in A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond, a permanent installation exhibited in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Blay is the author of the award-winning (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race.
Blay was born and raised in New Orleans, US, where her Ghanaian parents had relocated. She received her B.A. in psychology (cum laude) from Salisbury State University, M.Ed. in counseling psychology from the University of New Orleans, and M.A. and Ph.D. in African American studies from Temple University with a Graduate Certificate in women's studies. The former Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central University, she has also taught on the faculties of Lehigh University, Lafayette College, and Drexel University, where she served as the director of the Africana Studies program.
Blay is the author of (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race and artistic director of the (1)ne Drop project. In (1)ne Drop, she explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics and racial identity, and challenges perceptions of blackness as both an identity and lived reality. In 2012, she served as a consulting producer for CNN Black in America – Who is Black in America? – a television documentary inspired by the scope of her (1)ne Drop project. In addition to her production work for CNN, Blay is producing a transmedia film project focused on the global practice of skin bleaching (with director Terence Nance).
While her broader research interests are related to African cultural aesthetics, aesthetic practices, and global Black popular culture, Blay's specific research interests lie within global black identities and the politics of embodiment, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics. Her 2007 dissertation, "Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Politics of Skin Color in Ghana", relies upon African-centered and African feminist methodologies to investigate the social practice of skin bleaching in Ghana. Her ethnographic case study of skin color and identity in New Orleans, entitled "Pretty Color and Good Hair", is featured as a chapter in the anthology Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities.