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Friday, July 08, 2011

Go Ahead & Free Yourself: A Tribute to Natural Hair & the Women who ROCK it

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of a friend who was concerned about how her natural hair would come off in her interview. Although she was clearly proud of her natural hair, there was something about her job interview that made her want to throw it all away and either press her hair or put a weave in it. The conversation surprisingly pissed me off to the Nth degree. Why the hell does she have to change the texture of her hair just so people will trust her enough to hire her? Why the hell does she have to cover up her beautiful tresses with a weave just to avoid distracting her interviewer? Like I said, I was pissed. Then I calmed down and turned to Google for consolation. 

The aforementioned convo reminded me that going natural is an honorable decision but it does come with drawbacks. People still don't understand the process and their ignorance blocks them from appreciated the significance of the decision. Consider the actions of fumb ducks like the TSA workers who decided a black woman's hair was so poofy she could be hiding something in there. Peep the story below. 

I have to premise the rest of this post by saying my understanding of the natural hair journey can only be viewed from an observers standpoint since I've always had more curl than coil. I have never had a relaxer and I don't ever plan on getting one. I have used all natural products on my hair for the past 4 years and I don't plan on going back. Prior to watch the movie Good Hair, I did not know much about what women of African descent went through to get their hair looking a certain way, namely bone straight. I have two sisters who both use relaxers and wear weaves but I still did not know much beyond seeing the final product. Moving on. 

The decision to go "natural" for African American women has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Its invigorating. Its liberating. Hell its downright fabulous. It is a story spotlighted by local and national news networks with flocks of women making the "big decision" every day. For those who are not familiar with what it means to "go natural" it means to  stop using chemicals and chemical straighteners on your hair. It also means to change your mindset about your hair by adjusting the way you compare kinky & curly coifs i.e good vs bad hair, respectively.

Natural hair is beautiful. I HATE the phrase "Good Hair" and I DESPISE people who use the phrase to describe my hair. I think women of African descent look more gorgeous with their natural hair than they look with relaxed hair. I don't hate relaxers but since I have never had one I can't say that I like them either. That said, its time for a little natural hair enlightenment.

Brave women around the world have began to rebuke the idea that their hair texture is "bad" in favor of proudly wearing their natural hair. Natural hair is hair that has not been damaged or altered by chemicals or high heat devices. Hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs and websites have emerged with a focus on helping black and African American women transition from relaxed hair to the natural texture of their hair. Sites like have formed a community comprised of African American women and women of African descent all over the world who have stopped relaxing their hair. Members post pictures and tips to help others smoothly transition from their addition to creamy crack. According to nappturality, women make the decision to transition for a number of reasons including damage, scalp problems, illness, hair loss, finances, curiosity or maybe simply being tired of wasting all day Saturday waiting in a salon. Regardless of the reason, everyone who has taken the most important step, deciding to stop relaxing her hair, can then focus on her transition process. 

When transitioning, there are two major schools of thought: 1) Big CHOP 2) Transition. 

The big chop means a woman who has decided to go natural decides to cut off most of her hair and start growing it back from scratch. Transitioning is the process of going from relaxed to natural hair. The woman decides to keep her relaxed hair and grow out her natural hair. For many women, this is the most difficult as their hair goes through creamy crack withdrawals and becomes brittle or difficult to manage. It is best to wear "protective styles" during this period like weaves, wigs and braids. 
The video below explains hair types and other common terms Naturals use. 

Regardless of her hair type, the key to maintaining healthy hair is to moisturize. We have all heard the jokes about black women and their resistance getting their hair wet. When she goes natural, moisture becomes her hair's best friend! 

Women who allow their hair to naturally grow out are not the only ones affected by the general public's ignorance about natural hair. There are also stories from the male perspective: Men who choose to wear dreadlocks or a small afro can also testify about feeling persecuted or being held back because of the way they choose to wear their hair. 

When I started college, I attended a professional training conducted by members of the black student union. At said meeting, we discussed interview techniques, professional dress, resume building tips, and workplace behaviors. It did not take long for someone to get up and go off of the itinerary. He was an African American man who labeled himself a professional with "vast knowledge" of most fields. He used his  5 second spotlight to tell all of the gentlemen with hair to cut it off. Why? Because a black man with hair is not professional. I couldn't make this up. 

To be fair, I do believe African Americans have to take the reigns and teach others the truth and the light. We have to show people that it is not OK to describe an afro as "aggressive" or dreadlocks as "intimidating." When we are in positions of power we have to take special care to hire people who look more afrocentric. I'm not saying hire someone because they are black. I am saying we should do what we can to change the make up of our workplace by making them more diverse. I think a lot of the negativity people have about our natural hair styles is based in misunderstanding. The best way to help others change their mindset is to present them with the opportunity to interact with the things they don't understand. Sometimes the biggest enemy in a fight is not your perceived enemy but your own people. Black women have been the most harsh to each other and it has to stop. Its a revolution! Let that marinate.

I hope this little tutorial helped some of you get a better understanding of a woman's journey to embracing her natural roots. Lit'rally. Natural hair is beautiful! Embrace natural beauty! Each one teach one. Each one reach one. *giggles*

Peep the Outro 

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