Melanated Gem, do you know that your hair is the only hair that grows upwards towards the sun. With gravity, most things grow down towards the ground, but our hair, having the most protein, needs the sun. Did you know that our hair mimics the trees, a cauliflower, and even broccoli? What I’m getting at is, we mimic nature, in our natural form. We respond to nature, as does our hair. I always see our hair as a representation of us, strong, sometimes needing a little extra effort to comb through, but always exceeding expectations. We are not easily breakable. Let me break it down; when I wash my hair, it is in it’s most natural form, tightly curled and ready to be loved. By the time I comb it, moisturize it, and stretch it out via twists or braids, it’s so much longer than anyone thinks. As Africana people, we are resilient, we are always able to be stretched beyond measure when we are loved, and when stretched, we produce much more than anyone thinks. As we comb through ourselves, there are so many layers, we find out so many different things. We have a plethora of different styles that our hair, and our being can transform to; our hair is strong enough to withstand a plethora of styles, and as a people, we have withstood a plethora of experiences and atmospheres. For example, we have created cultures as an extension of African cultures in the Caribbean, United States, Britain, Pakistan (Siddi), and anywhere else the wicked have placed us as a result of slavery. We have so much inside of us, even as one person, and that’s just as people whose presence is attacked daily. Imagine if we weren’t attacked daily, we’d literally be in every corner of the world as leaders. We already are leaders, having not been given the credit for our inventions and cultural influence daily, but with true freedom, we’d be unmatched. I encourage you all to see your hair a little differently today, what story does your hair tell you about you? Feel free to comment!
We have to stop using words like natural hair and 4c hair; it’s my hair, period.
I get that Black women are learning to love our hair in a world that tried to make us hate it, but it’s literally a natural phenomenon for humans to wear their hair. We are literally the only people that distinguish our hair as natural, I hate that it’s seen as revolutionary to simply be yourself, hair and all; self love and all. The most dangerous thing I’ve heard people say is “oh yea she’s into the whole black thing” when describing someone’s love for their hair. or their love for Black people. So to be into yourself, the way you were created, and your community is a “thing”?
We’ve internalized our self hate so much that, the very interest in us, even from us, is seen as “that thing over there”, or strange, or revolutionary. When we make it the norm, we are seen as ingenuine. I remember having to explain to a lady with my same texture hair, tightly coiled, that I love my hair texture. She fond it hard to believe because she didn’t like her hair texture. How does that translate to me? Even with me trying to explain to her that her hair is good, she rejected it.
Who taught you to hate yourself? You didn’t come out of the womb thinking, “my hair is not good”, it had to be taught. If nobody ever taught you how to say natural hair, you’d just be saying “it’s my hair”. I literally think it’s disrespectful to God to say you believe and have faith, but doubt your very value as a human being for something as simple as hair. I remember last year when my white coworker said to me that “all Black women have bad hair”, then she went on to list the Black women in media who she felt had bad hair, such as Viola Davis and Joy Ann-Reid, I ripped into her, and made an example out of her to corporate – but before that, I reminded her that she’s not the norm. I said to her “you don’t get to tell me about my hair because you are not the norm, your hair comes out of your head straight, and mine comes out tightly curled, you are not my standard, I am my standard, and I define my beauty, I do not look to you as the standard”. She seemed baffled that I responded that way, then I proceeded to work my way up until I got an acceptable response from corporate that she was reprimanded on all levels. You see, I told that story because, only outside forces have told you that you weren’t good, melanated gem, but those outside sources are confused. They are insecure, and only insecure people can have the nerve to point out what they don’t like about someone else. Don’t get it confused, I hate white supremacy, and I immediately address any form of discrimination, but I have enough confidence in myself to argue with facts, and not tear down someone’s looks in return. I could care less what your hair looks like, what is your character? If you are an agent of white supremacy, I will bulldoze it out of my path.
Us typecasting our hair and further dividing ourselves shows that we have a long way to go. Some people still prefer looser curls over tight curls, and it’s sick. The NAACP used to be like this, preferring their leadership to be light skinned while fighting for the advancement of Black people. I just don’t understand why in a world where people consider us “other” we have to further “other” ourselves. What foolishness for another Black woman to be patronizing a fellow Black woman, saying “wow, you’re wearing your natural hair, good for you, I can’t wear it like you but go head girl! Just remember to straighten it if you want to work in the corporate world” I hate it, and in so many versions, I’ve heard that several times. That’s why you’ll never hear me mention my “natural hair” again, you’ll see my hair, and it is what it is, I will not respond to any comment about my hair unless it’s “girl, how’d you perfect that twist out?!”
This 4c/3a thing that people do is another paper bag test, to determine what is good hair and bad hair. I’m so over all this crap, and I have other things to revolutionize about, as long as I take care of my hair, that’s all I care about. Take a look at my hair when I had locs, this was at 7 months and I loved the look and texture of it while some people said it was messy, I said, “good!” the point of locs is to let your hair do what it wants.
Of course, we all know that the excellence of African royal systems used hairstyles as a way to identify tribes and class, so our hair is inherently important to us as Black people, but, it was not a matter of texture, and quality of foreign hair weave, it was a matter of braid styles, styles that meant something to their respective AFRICAN culture. Nowadays, people are fighting over quality of Brazilian weave and how far removed your fake hair is from your natural texture – big difference. I have talked a lot about my experience living in Namibia with the only tribe in Africa to practice life before colonialism, the Himbas, and I talked about how their hairstyles determined whether they were married, teenager, elder, etc. However, society’s evolve, and we don’t have the time to do such intricate styles all the time. The point is, however I style my hair is my right, I don’t owe it to anybody to prove who I am by styling my hair “appropriately”. I think in this day and age, healthy hair is much more important than any hairstyle. Even without an intricate style, in this society of many races, my hair identifies me as Black. This is random but, what is a French braid? last time I checked, the French didn’t invent braids, but I digress.
So, my point is, it’s my hair, not natural hair, not 4c hair, not categorized, just hair. Of course, I can describe my hair, but what’s the point? Everyone has eyes to see. My hair is definitely not, “other”. I am my norm, I have no other norm outside of myself.
Let’s talk about the gorilla glue situation. I usually don’t like to talk about individuals on my blog, but I hear a lot of people saying that the situation speaks to the need for Black women to love their hair. Here’s the thing, I believe that we should love ourselves the way we are, but, wearing hairstyles is not an indicator of not loving your hair. For Black women, we love to do our hair, that’s why we spend more money on hair than any other race of women. I think the need to have straight hair at any means necessary is definitely a problem. The need for perfection and willingness to damage our hair far before we get to any type of glue is a problem, and it’s definitely a problem when you don’t feel you hair is good without any attachment. Some women like long hair, like me, and I’ll buy a long, kinky style to mimic my texture because I personally don’t like straight hair for myself. The reason I break this down is because we can’t just make blanket statements without understanding the issue. Hairstyling is not the issue, adding hair is not the issue, it’s the idea that we are not valuable without these things. I don’t know the lady who added gorilla glue, but there are many other ways Black women damage their hair everyday just to be sleek. We need to help Black people understand why that’s not necessary, first, and how to style our hair while protecting it and not damaging our hair texture.
How do we even begin to unapologetically love ourselves? I’m glad you asked, I actually talk about that in today’s Dear Black People™ session called, “Tearing Down Colonial Idols”, register here! Black people, it takes conscious, active, effort to be free, and I am here to help you do that, realizing what’s revolutionary, and what’s needed to really make a change for our generations. Hair is the least of our problems now.
The bible says it best, there is nothing new under the sun. For women of African descent, hair braiding is nothing new. From the beginning of time, we’ve been wearing braids in our hair in so many styles that can’t even be counted in number. What has changed though is the meaning, hair styles have always been a significant part of Many African cultures. The same way a ring symbolizes marriage in American culture, hair styles signified marriage in some African cultures. Some styles we rock now have been around for centuries, although at times, we think we’re doing something new. I think although people may say “it’s just hair”, I think it’s important to understand the history of our hair to at least appreciate what it has always meant to us. The fact that we have so many thousands of styles is not something to take lightly, think of it as a God given gift that we share with the world through our cultural experiences. Although many traditions are similar throughout Africa and the Diaspora, I think it’s safe to say that hair braiding is one that unifies most Black people on this earth.
Africa is a big continent with 54 countries and over 1000 languages. These cultures in these ethnic groups vary, and the hairstyles uniquely identify each tribe. Braid patterns can indicate a person’s community, age, marital status, wealth, power, social position, and religion.
Historically, specific braid patterns have been done for special occasions like weddings, social ceremonies or war preparations. People belonging to certain ethnic groups can easily be identified by their fellow ethnic group member by their hairstyle or braid pattern. As one article puts it, “Immense importance is given to the custom of braiding. The person who braids hair performs it as both a ritual and a social service. It is an art form taught by the senior female member of the family to her daughters and close friends. The person who braids well is considered an expert. The man or woman who braids does it as a social duty. No rewards are expected”, and, “A well groomed person is considered healthy and well mannered, and the social customs encourage braids. Well done braids help in attracting a partner during ceremonies”, interesting.
My experience is Namibia, a country in Southwest Africa, showed me the importance of tradition. The Himba people are some of the only people that still practice their culture as it was before colonialism. The hair patterns of the women signified who they were and their importance in society. I found an article describing the hair patterns of other ethnic groups, check them out:
• The Mangbetu women plait their hair and arrange it around a cone-shaped basket frame. They decorate it with bone needles.
• The Miango women cover their braids with scarves and decorate with leaves.
• The Massai belong to South Kenya and Tanzania. They like red and use this color to dye their hair. The men usually braid their hair and stiffen it with animal dung. The boys who are entering the stage of youth spend hours or days to have their hair braided. Each design is innovative.
• Cornrow braids are the most popular. The braids indicate cultural traditions. The patterns are handed down through the generations.
• Himba women make an ointment from red ochre, butter, ash and herbs. The ointment is applied on braids. They are considered the most striking among all tribal women. (Brighthubeducation.com)
I say all this to say, even though we may wear hairstyles now that may not have any significant meaning other than looking beautiful and doing what our hair was created to do, recognize the strength and meaning behind why it has been done before. Let’s take pride in our hair and hairstyles, and realize that it is a representation of who we are!
“Trinidadian-born writer Patrice Grell Yursik created Afrobella.com to fill a void and to celebrate the inner and outer beauty of women all shades of beautiful. Her award-winning blog shines a loving light on natural hair and the wonderfully wide range of gorgeous skin tones and sizes women come in.”
I am featuring her blog today but I’m also featuring a particular post she wrote highlighting 350 Black owned businesses! Wow! There’s so much talent in the Diaspora, I’m
so glad she created this post. I also love how she uses her beauty blog to give a voice to issues in the Black community. I recommend browsing through her posts as they are very inspiring and insightful! Enjoy loves! ❤️