Back to School as a Naturalista

As a naturalista going back to school, you might be feeling the anticipation of summer coming to an end, excitement about reuniting with your friends, and stress about getting back into the grind of studying every day.  You might also be nervous about how everyone will react to your natural hair.

Given what we saw Tiana Parker, and Vanessa VanDyke go through simply because they wore their hair the way it naturally grows out of their heads, you might be feeling slightly on edge.  This is completely understandable and is a valid reaction to having to exist within a system that is supposed to nurture individuality, help you find your voice, and support your future dreams.  Instead, schools have done the complete opposite by making hair discrimination official policy.  Tiana Parker was sent home from school because the Deborah Brown Community School she attended had a dress code rule that labeled her loc’d hair “unacceptable.”  Vanessa VanDyke was threatened with expulsion from her Orlando, Fla private school unless she styled her hair differently than the glorious afro with a flower she wore.

These are two hair shaming cases that made the headline news, but there are no statistics for the multitude of other situations many naturalistas experience every day.  Daily microaggressions and outright discrimination are hard to determine.  From my own experience being natural, I am certain the numbers are staggering for those of us who refuse to conform to a Euro-centric beauty standard.

Being socially rejected because of your hair can weigh heavy on your self-esteem.  Hopefully, some of the many online tutorials on natural hair styles themed around Back to School, will help relieve some of your fears around how you will be treated simply because of your beautiful tresses.  There are also some fabulous celebrity naturalistas to look to for inspiration, like Solange Knowles, Tamron Hall, and Lupita Nyong’o.  Even though Vanessa VanDyke was threatened with expulsion, she still knew her hair was beautiful when she stated, “It says that I’m unique…First of all, it’s puffy, and I like it that way.”

I also want you to know that you are not alone, there are many other naturalistas out there going through the same thing you are right now.  What I want you to remember is that your hair is perfect, just the way it is!  But you already knew that being the confident naturalista that you are 🙂  As you walk through the doors of your school for another year of learning, wear your hair proudly and hold your head high! 

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Open Letter to My Sistas with Relaxed Hair

natural_versus_relaxed

The conflict between women with natural hair and women who get relaxers is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.  I’ve seen YouTube videos complaining about natural fanatics, people hating on Gabby Douglas, and weave shaming images go viral.  Even though I personally have nothing against women who relax or straighten their hair, the growing conflict between naturals and sistas with relaxed hair is something that concerns me.

Part of what I love about the natural hair community is the sense of sisterhood, support, and understanding that comes with sharing our natural hair journeys.  That feeling of love is something I want all women to experience no matter how they style their hair.  Personally, I do not judge women who relax their hair.  I understand it since most of my life I had relaxed hair.  I try to remember that everyone’s journey is different and that I did not start out where I am today – loving my natural texture.  I also try to remember that it does not matter what you do to your hair, as long as you love it the way it is and keep it healthy.

I do not want to address the reasons why people are against relaxers, or why women relax their hair, I think we already know the arguments.  Instead, I just want to send the same support I have felt from the natural hair community to all my sisters who get relaxers.  So this letter goes out to all the women who have relaxers, are proud of getting them, have no problem with getting them, and will make no apologies for it.

****

Hey ladies!

It’s me, Jane.

I see you with your relaxed hair blowing in the wind.  I think you look fly so please don’t think I’m throwing you shade!  In fact, I’m sorry if you have felt judged or critiqued for your hairstyle choice.  You see, I understand the desire to straighten hair that can seem very difficult to manage.  I also know what it is like to want to look like Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, or Olivia Pope!  I know how hard it can be to wear a style that your co-workers think is unprofessional, family members do not understand, and significant others may not like.  At the end of the day, who has time for all of that extra?

I’m writing this letter because I wanted you to know that I will not judge you because you relax your hair.  You are entitled to wear your hair any way you chose.  You do not deserve to be shamed by anyone.  Instead, I will send you and all the other sistas with relaxed hair nothing but L-O-V-E.

When you are waiting at the salon so you can get your touch-up, I send you patience.  When you shake your hair in the wind after getting that touch-up, I will compliment you.  If you get a burn on your scalp from that relaxer, I will pray you heal quickly.  If it is raining outside, I will help you run for cover!  If you decide to go natural, I will be glad for you.  And if you change your mind, I still love you anyway.  Because the fact is, we are sistas no matter what you do to your hair.  I got nothing but love for you!

Sisterly,

Jane

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Should White women join the natural hair movement?

Alicia KeysBo Derek 2

If you haven’t heard about the recent beef between the most widely known natural hair site Curly Nikki and Ebony Online, then you must have been living under a rock.  It all started when a White woman was featured on Curly Nikki sharing her hair journey and natural hair struggles.  Some were confused as to why a White woman was included in a movement that has been mainly dominated by Black women.  In reaction, Jamilah Lemieux, wrote the article, White Women on #TeamNatural?  No, Thanks!, arguing against the inclusion of White women in the natural hair movement by citing cultural misappropriation and sacred “Black Girl Space.”  Curly Nikki’s response was that she created the site for all women who are struggling with their natural hair texture, including White women.

I read both pieces and feel that both have their valid points.  I respect Curly Nikki’s stance on this issue and her right to create an online space for all women and I also can identify with the concerns raised by Lemieux.

What I know most about are my personal experiences as a woman of color in this world.  Particularly, my professional experience in social justice movements have shown me firsthand what happens when there are no spaces for individuals who experience unique circumstances.  I will give a brief history.  In the violence against women movement, Black women and White women originally worked separately in their own neighborhoods and families to protect each other against the violence in their homes and in their communities.  After the women’s movement became integrated, it quickly became clear that the unique experiences Black women faced were not a major concern for their White allies.  Eventually, Black women and their specific circumstances, were essentially pushed out of the violence against women movement.  Today, if you walk into any mainstream domestic violence program or rape crisis center, you will see a number of White female employees and very little, if any at all, women of color on staff (other than culturally specific services, which are rare).

So, what happens when you are a women of color on staff at one of these mainstream social justice programs?  One of the ways women of color are supported is through the availability of Women of Color Caucuses.  These caucuses provide a safe, private space for women of color to discuss the concerns of their communities and their unique challenges within the movement.  The caucuses address the need for rejuvenation, and sisterhood among women of color.  They are a place to celebrate ourselves without having to explain why, because we have a shared experience.

The need for private space is not only necessary for our safety and sanity, it also protects our intellectual genius.  Our culture has been adopted many times, especially when it comes to hairstyles.  In 1979, the movie 10 was released and featured Bo Derek (a White woman) wearing cornrows in her hair.  After the movie, she was named the most beautiful woman in the world, and cornrows came to be known as “Bo Braids” even though Black women had been wearing them for years including Roberta Flack and Cecily Tyson.  Recently, Marie Claire tweeted a photo of Kendall Jenner with braids in her hair calling them “new” and “epic.”  It ignited a firestorm of backlash on Twitter.  Since when are 6 cornrows on the side of your head “epic?”  When Alicia Keys wore braids for the first half of her career, they didn’t create the same kind of uproar in mainstream media as Kendall Jenner’s did.  Why does it take a White women wearing the same hairstyles that Black women have worn for years for them to be seen as acceptable, epic, or beautiful?  Why were they not acceptable, when a Black woman wore them?  Why were Black women and our culture, not given credit for our unique styles?

Marie Claire on Kendell's "bold braids"

I say all that to bring us back to consider having spaces within the natural hair movement that are either inclusive of White women or are not.  What I know is that women of color, particularly African-American women, have a different experience with our hair than do White women.  Historically, Black hair has been systematically, socially, and politically assaulted and deemed as ugly and unkempt.  Black hair has been practically banned in the military, viewed as unprofessional in the workplace, and during slavery, scientifically deemed as not even real hair!  Black hair as been noticeably missing from mainstream media, ridiculed by beauty standards, and has the least available hair products (just check out your local grocery store aisles).  This has not been the experience for White women.  Because we share this experience, we also need to share a space where we can support each other through our shared struggle.

The taking of our movements and culture brings me to ask many questions about integrating the natural hair movement.  What will happen if the natural hair movement is shared with White woman?  How will the movement be different?  Will there be space for our unique experiences?  What will we have to give up?  What might we gain?  These are questions we must consider and conversations we must have. 

I am certain that White women face challenges with their curly hair texture, and I validate their specific challenges with a beauty standard that none of us will ever measure up to.  Do not get me wrong, I believe in being inclusive.  I believe in the power of coming together and the ideals of unity.  However, unity implies shared power and shared understanding.  Until there is real shared power and understanding among African-American women and White women, I am left wondering if there can be real unity within the natural hair movement.

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One Lovely Blog Award!

 

one-lovely-blog-award

I was given the “One Lovely Blog Award” (OLBA) by the wonderful D’Aller Natural who loves all things natural hair and natural living and Missfresh who is a fun loving Nigerian wife and mother.  I’m always grateful to receive support and recognition from other bloggers!  Thank you D’Aller Natural and Missfresh!

The purpose of this award is to show appreciation to small or new bloggers/blogs to help them reach more viewers.

The rules for the OLBA are simple:

  • Thank and link the person(s) who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 Bloggers & comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

Facts about me:

  1. I love the show Orange is the New Black. Crazy Eyes in my favorite character.
  2. In elementary school, I learned how to play chess and won a tournament against my whole class. Today, I can’t remember a thing about how to play chess!
  3. I know how to play 3 instruments: the organ, flute, and guitar. Although I can’t play any of them very well.
  4. I believe in the power of meditation and belly breathing to relieve stress and calm the mind.  You should try it sometime.
  5. I have a growing fascination with blaxploitation films from the 70’s. Some may say they are an embarrassing representation for Black people, but I also think they are an important part of hair history and can tell us a lot about the fashion of the time.
  6. I think I might be addicted to ice cream. Every time I go by an ice cream shop, I get a strong itch to stop in and by some mint chocolate chip – my favorite.
  7. I still can’t get a handle on using Twitter regularly!

Blogs I nominate (in no particular order) are:

  1. Antiguabarbudagirl 
  2. Naturally Curly Me!
  3. Wax’s World
  4. Kurlfriends
  5. danne UNSCRIPTED
  6. I’ll Be the Judge
  7. Eleanor J’Adore
  8. Recreating Herstory
  9. 5Naturelle
  10. According to Moriah
  11. Nature’s Sparkle Now
  12. Embrace the Chaos
  13. My Curls
  14. Hazel Eyed Beauty
  15. Iamnaturallykinky

Please check them out and send them some support because they are all wonderful blogs!

Peace and thanks,

Jane

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