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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A’Lelia Bundles named fellow at IUPUI, honors Madam Walker with new hair care line

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A’Lelia Bundles, historian, journalist and great-great-granddaughter of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, has been named the inaugural Prestigious Fellow at IUPUI’s Center for Africana Studies and Culture.

Created with help from the center’s director, Dr. Leslie Etienne, the position will allow Bundles to use her skill set and knowledge on various topics — including media, historical preservation and social justice — to help students and to bring scholars to IUPUI for speaking engagements.

The fellowship has three main components: a Bundles Scholar program, an annual Bundles Lecture series and an “In Conversation With” discussion series, which Bundles said she hopes will occur every quarter. The Bundles Scholar program will allow two Africana Studies students to do a research project and receive mentorship from Bundles and professors. The Bundles Lecture series will bring a guest speaker to campus once a year, and the “In Conversation With” series will be a moderated discussion with a “thought leader” in Indianapolis and a leader in a field germane to the topic being discussed.

Bundles said the position, along with initiatives being taken, such as the Rethink 1-65 highway project, are signs that the city is moving forward in its work to address historic harms.

“They’re doing work to examine and acknowledge that communities were erased and destroyed with the construction of highways and through a lack of investment,” Bundles said. “In order to make things better going forward, we have to acknowledge the damage that was done, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Notably, the creation of IUPUI in 1969 resulted in the displacement of many families and businesses along Indiana Avenue — a predominately Black neighborhood — and downtown Indianapolis. In recent years, IUPUI has hosted community discussions and other events to examine its role in the gentrification of Indiana Avenue. In 2021, the school announced a scholarship program for descendants of people who were displaced by the university.

Though she’ll continue living in Washington, D.C., Bundles looks forward to working with students in her hometown. The North Central High School graduate said it hasn’t been difficult to reconcile her love for Indianapolis with the work that needs to be done.

“You love your family, but you also can see where some things need to be improved, and I feel that way about Indianapolis,” Bundles said. “I have a great affection for Indianapolis and feel very fortunate to have grown up in Indianapolis … so there is a lot that I love about the city, but Indianapolis is not unique in inequities that developed because of disinvestment in neighborhoods. For me as a person who loves her city, it’s important to find the positives, and it’s important to acknowledge that harm was done here.”

Along with her new role at IUPUI, Bundles is also celebrating the launch of MADAM By Madam C.J. Walker, a new line of hair care products created by Sundial Brands.

While the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company — launched in 1906 — never really went out of business, the trademark was sold in the 1980s before being bought by Sundial Brands in 2013.

Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial, worked with Bundles and a team of chemists and marketers to create 11 new products under the Madam Walker line. Available now, the line includes shampoo and conditioners, as well as curl cream, braid spray and a healthy scalp serum.

“We’re so excited to be announcing the launch of MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker — a collection designed to carry on Madam Walker’s legacy as an innovator, trailblazer and activist,” Sabin said in a press release. “The products were created for polycultural women who proudly lead their lives, unbothered by society’s ideals of how they should look, feel, and present themselves. MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker celebrates the multi-dimensionality of women with textured hair, enabling them to switch it up while promoting a healthy scalp, stronger hair and unlimited styling possibilities.”

The hair care line is available now at Walmart nationwide, and Bundles said the products fall in line with Walker’s intention when she started her company over a century ago and she’s excited to see her great-great-grandmother’s legacy continue.

“I do these projects and plant seeds here and there, and some things blossom,” Bundles said. “I never know exactly what’s going to happen or what the flower is going to look like, but I’m so excited about the things that have developed. … I’m at a stage in my life where I’ve had some really great experiences as a journalist and a biographer, and I feel a desire to download some of that information to the next generation and give them some of the tools I hope will help them be strong and courageous people, and I’m excited for the opportunity to delve into wonderful things about Indianapolis and the ways I know we are working to be better.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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