Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's Black History Month: Are We Celebrating Our Hair?

Black History Month is coming to a close in just a couple of days.  (By the way, why do we get the shortest month of the year…hmm?)  Anywho…I recently saw a local TV news feature on “The History of Black Women and Their Hair”, celebrating all of the different ways African-American women express themselves through their hair, whether it’s a press-n-curl, perm/relaxer, braids, locs, afros, weaves, wigs, etc.

I am definitely an advocate of variety.  I’m glad we have so many choices as to how we want to wear our hair.  But the question popped in my mind…how many of us, as African-Americans, truly love and celebrate OUR OWN hair…in its natural, God-given state or texture?

The news feature stated that the hair industry is a multi-billion dollar business and that human hair is the second largest import from India.  I’m not at all surprised.  A few years back, I personally spent several hundreds of dollars at Eastern Wig and other beauty supply stores in Detroit, just to have those beautiful braids and weaves.  And living in a predominately black city, it is VERY common to see other sistas wearing weaves, wigs, braids, ponytails, etc.

What happened to that “Black Pride” of the ‘70’s, when so many people donned those big afros (and the afro picks with the fist on the end) with pleasure?

One of the women interviewed in the news feature, who wears her hair in locs said that “being in America, the European standard is the standard of beauty.”  Of course, this is nothing new to us.  We’ve seen this in corporate america, in Hollywood, all around us, even within the African-American community.  Why are we criticized and/or not accepted for going along with what God gave us?

Two other women interviewed in that same news features said they like wearing weaves because it makes them fabulous, feel good, and look good.  I’m not gonna say much about their comments (to each her own), but we, as African-American women, can be and are just as fabulous, and can and do feel and look good wearing our own natural hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all knocking those who choose to wear weaves, wigs, etc.  I’ve been there.  We all are at different phases in our lives and we do what we feel we need to do at various stages in our lives.  Although I wear my hair natural now, it took several years for me take that “brave” step to come out from under the relaxed, pressed, braided, and weaved hair to reveal my God-given hair texture to the world, even though I had admired and contemplated wearing natural hair for years beforehand.

Many black women (myself included) grew up hiding or camouflaging and still do hide their natural hair texture (through relaxing, pressing, weaves, wigs, etc.).  Why?  I dare say, often because of embarrassment.  How many times have you heard a sista (or yourself) say, “Girl, my hair is so nappy!” 

All I knew, for most of my life, was getting my hair relaxed every six (or four or five) weeks, “sleeping pretty” to avoid messing up my hair, trying to avoid sweating, and hiding my “nappy roots”.  And even after I went natural, I still kept my hair hidden under bought hair.

It wasn’t until I took a leap of faith and did my second (or was it my third?) “Big Chop” (B.C.) and just put it out there, sporting a teeny-weeny afro (TWA), that I realized, “Hey!  Like it, love it, or hate it.  It is what it is!  This is who I am!”  And I decided to rock it!

I like what the ladies who commented on my last blog post said.  “…I didn't need a billion dollar industry to make me beautiful.”  Another young lady, who decided this month, Black History Month, to begin her transition to natural hair, commented, “…I was tired of the compliments I'd be getting on my sewn in hair because it wasn't my own... I'd question if I'd get as much "attention" without these long locks of someone else’s mane… I want to express the Genuine Beauty I was given.”  Kudos to you, my sister!  What a way to celebrate Black History Month!

I say this, mainly to natural “newbies” and to those in transition to natural hair...don’t ever let anybody tell you that you’re no longer attractive, because you “dare” to wear your hair in the texture that God, Himself, gave you!

Thankfully, we’re moving back into the direction of being “happy to be nappy”, unashamed of wearing what God gave us and into a day of greater acceptance of our God-given beauty.

I love hearing what you all have to say.  Let me hear from ya!

(Contains excerpts from "TranZitions: Revelations on My Journey to Natural Hair and Freedom" by Yolanda T. Jones)