“Natural” Is To Black Hair As “Organic” Is To Produce.
What it means to normalize black hair and black futures.
Imagine a day where you’re strolling down a busy street in your favorite dress, killer shoes, and the sun is hitting your melanated skin just right.
Someone calls out to you (in a non-agro way) “Your hair looks great!”
And that’s it. That’s the end of the story.
You move on with your fabulous day unbothered by the “Can I touch its?” and “How long have you been natural fors?”
It is simply another normal day for you to rock your hair however and wherever you damn please.
When will black women simply be celebrated without having to prove worth or motive?
Black hair IS black history and true equality has always been the goal.
Blackness is black hair yet are not just one thing. Can a Republican, Trump-supporting black woman still wear her “natural hair?”
Or what about a 16yrold anime lover? Or a professional ballet dancer playing the role of Juliet?
Is there space for all these identities to exist and have our hair just “be?”
While I am deeply in love with the natural hair movement and everything that it progresses and stands upon I’m also at the point. Today. During yet another Black History Month, that feels the term “natural” is to black hair that “organic” is to produce.
It is literally the way things naturally grow and yet in a world where there are so many chemicals and (co)modified techniques, to simply “grow” as nature intended is now considered special.
I love feeling special…I mean who doesn’t?
What I don’t love is the “otherizing” that special sauce brings. You know when people see your healthy hair and automatically ask about your “big chop” decision? Like, can I just be born this way?
Or when you genuinely take a beat to decide what hairstyle would be “appropriate” for your job that day or pictures for a special occasion.
Notice how all the second-guessing and fear that comes with those choices have to do with how OTHERS will perceive us.
Call me a crazy theorist but I’m ready to skip to the good part.
In the spirit of Black Future, I’d love to imagine with you a place, a time, a feeling where all types of black hair are normalized.
Where healthy hair is the goal and self-preservation is the sweet reward.
Freedom to allow the complexities of the black life to be expressed through our crown and glory without the necessity to explain or defend.
That feels like softness to me. A trait we don’t see of Black women in the media that often.
Nothing to prove only to share. Self-acceptance at its finest.
Natural Hair as a Revolutionary Act
This is not to say that we haven’t come a long way from periods in history when it was illegal for black and biracial women to go outside unless they had their hair covered.
In the white slave owner's eyes, free hair meant free-thinking, and bound heads were used to symbolize enslavement and inferiority.
The indoctrinated shame runs deep ya’ll.
And the tactics used against the black woman to feel “less than” unfortunately did not stop even after she was “free.”
Sojourner Truth, a pioneering activist, leading feminist, and freed scholar of the nation still had to cover her hair when giving speeches that later made history.
Which begs the question, how free was she?
Through the decades further confirmation of eurocentric beauty prevailed.
“Good hair” was seen as easy to comb, long, curls that could be tamed or straightened with ease.
And then there was everybody else who had to get the same results by any means necessary — which usually meant lyed, fried, and laid to the side.
When I think about how deep the self-hatred must run for black women to believe that the way their hair grows out of their head is a mistake, if I’m being honest, hurts to the core.
And if I may speak from experience, the even sadder part is that this blanket standard of white beauty does not only rest over American soil. It has penetrated into African culture with an equal force.
Imagine my shock as a liberated African American woman traveling to modern-day Africa to see that skin bleaching and hair perming are as commonplace as chicken and rice.
This is a global reckoning, one that will continue to unfold and be released from the shackles over our minds and self-knowing.
In continuing the narrative of black hair I think it important to lift up the 70s era and its beginning seeds of revolution that were planted by our elders in this time.
Black hair has always been more than just hair. Black folks know this to their core. But it was during this time period that we started being loud and proud about it and so the rest of society caught on too.
The Black Power movement turned our hair political. And at the time, rightfully so.
The halo of the afro served as a power source and bold acceptance of our gravity-defying nature.
Blackness, which always includes black hair, was being celebrated and there was beautiful community in what could be viewed as just another passing trend.
This setting free, letting loose of the hair was the catalyst for accepting a part of ourselves that had been buried in shame and guilt for far too long.
Wearing your hair big and loud was a statement, and you were expected to have your reasoning and belief system to back up your choice.
These strides served their purpose and we wouldn’t be able to imagine our liberated future without that groundwork.
So what’s next?
Perhaps the real question is…
What generation will experience black women defying gravity with their crowns as a perfectly acceptable way to live their life?
I’m talking without an agenda, or a traumatic period of “transitioning” out of perms and chemical alterations. A day of celebrating the diversity of textures and lengths from day one of that little girl (or boy’s) life.
I consider this freedom dreaming and if Dr. King can do it, why can’t we?
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