Category Archives: Culture

Inspiring Video Captures the Essence of the Natural Hair Movement [WATCH]

I was tickled by filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa’s humor as she describes the uncertain feelings of going natural in her Op-Doc, Transition  This is a terrific video on the New York Times website that sort of summarizes the natural hair movement. The state of going natural is called transitioning–cutting out the relaxed hair and wearing the hair it in its naturally curly or kinky texture.  Zina Saro-Wiwa decided to document her own transition along with that of others. As the stylist shaves her head, she jokingly says, “God, I can just feel myself getting uglier.” The results of her transition completely contradict that statement, for she looks absolutely stunning. Like most women who go natural, I feel like I can really “see” them for the first time.

Zina was identifying with the feelings that many newly naturals have stating,
“I was forced to confront my real hair and doing this changed me. I had unknowingly transitioned” 
As a friend of mine so eloquently stated, “natural hair” is not just a state of hair, it’s a state of mind. For many of us, confronting our real hair challenges our view of beauty and ultimately how we see ourselves as women. “Pretty” takes on a new meaning. Going natural also spurs on a desire to address other body “issues” such what we eat and physical activity or the lack thereof. 
As Zina explained,
“Transitioning changed my relationship with my entire body” Going natural is really an awakening of health consciousness as we rid our bodies of chemical relaxers, unhealthy foods and other toxins.
Though most women do not see the natural hair movement as political and are just enjoying the journey, Zina believes otherwise. She characterizes the movement as a quiet internal shift toward self-acceptance, which in her mind  is “the most potent political act of all.” I would have to agree.
Do you identify with the sentiments in this video? Please share your thoughts about the video in the comment section below.

Embracing Who I Really Am with a Full Afro (Not easy)

This past mother’s day weekend, I found myself in sort of a mess. My kids were sick and I had a ton work to do (both around the house and freelance work). My plan A was to set my hair in twist for a twistout on Saturday night for Mother’s Day. Well, that didn’t work out. Plan B was to get up early on Sunday morning and figure out something cute to do with my hair. I did get up early, but the kids did too. Instead of fussing over my hair and neglecting the kids I decided to enjoy what this day is all about and that is being a mom. So, I played with the children, enjoyed my cards and flowers and moved on to plan C–The Afro. You might ask, why do I say it this way. It takes a lot for me to wear a full afro and I’ll tell you why.

I’ve always admired natural hair icons like Afrobella and Rachel O who seem to be able to rock their signature full afro worry-free and with style. For me, wearing an afro is usually a last resort. I think like many women, you don’t go to the salon and say can you “style” my hair in an afro. Oftentimes, women won’t even wear a full afro. They tend to tie it back with a headband or scarf. There’s something about an afro that sends a strong statement. It often commands attention both positive and negative. The afro is the proverbial “F- you” to society’s standard of beauty.

To this day, it still strikes an unnerving chord in many blacks and whites. For whites it’s an instant reminder of the struggle for blacks to obtain civil rights. For blacks, and black women in particular, it’s a reminder of what lies “beneath”. The afo says, “look at me, I’m on display for the whole world to see how African hair really looks,” There’s also the issue of differences in hair texture. You have the cute fluffy/curly fro and then there is the latter, (which I have) the kinky fro. The kinky fro yells, “I don’t give a ____! Say something else, and I’ll pop you in the mouth…” Okay, maybe not… I’m not trying to turn this into a political or racial  issue. However, for me and lot of women, these are just some of the issues that we have to work through in order to embrace natural hair.

So, back to Mother’s Day. I’m standing in the bathroom mirror, like, “crap. I’m late for church and my hair is a mess.” Then it dawned on me, what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to celebrate who I really am? As a mother and a nurturer, I chose to nurture my soul by embracing and displaying the beauty of my hair–in an afro.

Tell us, what do you think of “the afro”? Have you ever struggled to wear one? 
Please use the comment section below, or go to our Facebook page.

Do you ever want to go back? Going Natural and Staying Natural

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The other day I was explaining to someone that I have been natural on and off for over ten years. I have been rocking natural since before it was a “trend” or a “movement”. The woman I was talking to asked me, “So, are you here to stay?” Excitedly I declared, “YES!”. We proceeded to chat about how we could never go back to perm. I say this now, but 3 years ago, this was not the case. So, what changed in the way I felt about my natural hair?

First off, I developed a new attitude. The new buzz phrase in the natural hair community is “Natural Hair, Don’t Care.” To rock natural hair with confidence, you really have to develop a certain sass or swag about your hair. Now, I’m not talking about becoming phony or bourgeois, but when people see you, they need to see a woman who is not ashamed of the big puff atop her head. The naysayers about my hair suddenly became irrelevant in terms of the way I styled my hair (even family members). Either you were for me or against me. If you were against my hair, then I quickly changed the topic. My choice to go natural was not up for discussion. In the past, I let folks get to me, but not anymore.

Second, there are more resources now than ever before. From blogs to Youtube to online communities like the Love Your Naps Facebook Group, you are never without support in your decision.

Lastly, I learned how to adapt to the way my natural hair behaves instead of trying to make fit into the permed look I was used to. I also learned how adjust my schedule to my texture. Styling and manipulating afro-textured hair everyday in the same manner as relaxed hair is just not an option. You will either be late for your appointment or be tempted to use damaging hair practices to whip the hair into shape. Instead, I learned to plan out my styles for the week.

So, do I ever want to go back? Sometimes. I mostly dream of going back on bad hair days. But then, I remind myself that I had bad hair days even when I was relaxed. Other times, I think of going back when I just want to blend in and assimilate. I don’t always like the attention that comes with natural hair. But then, I wake up and realize that, “HELLO! Our very presence as Black people commands attention. So, get over it.” Stand up and be confident in who you are.

Tell us, do you ever want to go back to relaxer? What keeps you natural? Please use the comment section below or join us on Facebook.


Captivating Photos of Vintage African Beuaty

When I ran across this article on BGLH’s site, I felt these images of African beauty were so captivating, I had to share. The photos display how well-to-do African women from the Ivory Coast styled their hair and adorned themselves in the early 1900s.  These photos make me proud of our history and culture. It’s interesting that they kept their hair in updos, because these days I find myself wearing mostly updos. The original post can be found at Adire African Textiles

According the website, these images are from two series of postcards produced between 1900 and 1910 by the photographer F.W.H Arkhurst in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. Arkhurst, a member of the Nzima ethnic group born in the Gold Coast , was a timber exporter who lived in Assinie and later in Grand Bassam. His studio photographs capture perfectly the then fashionable style of  women’s dress along the African coast from the Niger Delta to the Ivory Coast as families grew prosperous from trading opportunities in the expanding colonial economies. Hair was swept high and adorned with gold jewellery or wrapped in cloth, tailored dress was of imported cotton prints, often with a shawl or wrap of locally woven fabrics.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.