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Allison Keys Of NPR Says It's Never Cool To Touch Someone's Hair Without Permission

Allison Keyes, a talk show host on NPR's Back Talk, talked about having her hair inappropriately touched without permission.

Allison discussed the incident on her show and said "it's not OK to touch hair, any hair, black or white, without permission."

(Image of Allison Keys of NPR - Photo by Steve Barrett

In the original discussion Allison Keys said "for the past few weeks, I've been rocking an Afro-puff, that's a round, fluffy puff perched atop a braided or twisted up-do. It is fierce. And I must admit, the texture does look inviting to touch, but walking up and palming my puff, particularly without permission? Can I just tell you, speaking colloquially, that is not cool."

As her co-host Lee Hill replied "Well, that drew over 400 comments and counting one of the strongest responses we've ever had for a piece aired on this program. And there's even a spin-off discussion from your commentary happening on other Web sites. Now, I caught up with one listener who wrote to us - and I'll let her do the talking.

Ms. ANNE(ph): I'm a 43-year-old white woman. I grew up in Seattle where I was bused for voluntary desegregation. But my middle school bus was racially integrated. I'll never forget the day when a black boy pulled my long, straight hair out and passed it around as white girl hair. It was funny. It hurt. I got it. I never touch anyone without asking. But I get why people are curious."

I can totally related to Ms. Keys.  As a woman with exceptionally long hair I have had complete strangers touch my hair, without my permission, in grocery stores, movie theaters and at the airport.   It always makes me annoyed and uncomfortable, which is why I often wear my hair up to avoid tempting people with my long locks.

A good lesson for everyone is to always ask before touching anyone else, whether it be a person with long flowing locks, a gorgeous Afro, dreads or any other hairstyle that catches our fancy.  Also, that goes for touching woman who are pregnant or little children.

Ms. Keys, I'm totally on the same page as you.  Thanks for bringing up the topic.  Very timely and appropriate.

More About Allison Keyes

Allison Keyes is an award-winning journalist with almost 20 years of experience in print, radio, and television. She has been reporting for NPR's national desk since October 2005. Her reports can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Sunday.

Keyes coverage includes news and features on a wide variety of topics. "I've done everything from interviewing musician Dave Brubeck to profiling a group of kids in Harlem that are learning responsibility and getting educational opportunities from an Ice Hockey league, to hanging out with a group of black cowboys in Brooklyn who are keeping the tradition alive." Her reports include award-winning coverage of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York, coverage of the changes John Ashcroft sought in the Patriot Act, and the NAACP lawsuit against gun companies.

In 2002 Keyes joined NPR as a reporter and substitute host for The Tavis Smiley Show. She switched to News and Notes when it launched in January 2005. Keyes enjoyed the unique opportunity News & Notes gave her to cover events that affect communities of color on a national level. "Most news outlets only bother to cover crime and the predictable museum opening or occasional community protest," she said. "But people have a right to know what's going on and how it will affect them and their communities."

In addition to working with NPR, Keyes occasionally writes and produces segments for the ABC News shows Good Morning America and World News Tonight.

Keyes is familiar with public radio, having worked intermittently for NPR since 1995. She also spent a little less than a year hosting and covering City Hall and politics for WNYC Radio. Prior to that, she spent several years at WCBS Newsradio 880.

Keyes' eyewitness reports on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York earned her the Newswoman's Club of New York 2002 Front Page Award for Breaking News, and, along with WCBS Newsradio staff, the New York State Associated Press Broadcast Award for Breaking News and Continuing Coverage. Her report on the funeral of Patrick Dorismond earned her the National Association of Black Journalists' 2001 Radio News Award.

In addition to radio, Keyes has worked in cable television and print. She has reported for Black Enterprise Magazine, co-authored two African-American history books as well as the African American Heritage Perpetual Calendar, and has written profiles for various magazines and Internet news outlets in Chicago and New York.

Keyes got her start in radio at NPR member station WBEZ in Chicago, IL, in 1988 as an assistant news director, anchor, and reporter. She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in English and journalism. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. and the National Association of Black Journalists.

When not on the air, Keyes can be found singing jazz, listening to opera, or hanging out with her very, very large cat.

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