Recently at work during BHM (Black History Month) we had a cultural week where we had group and panel discussions in reference to our culture. I of course elected to discuss Black Hair. We gathered in a room and I told the story of our hair starting in Africa. In Africa our braids were a symbol of status, your tribe, and marital status. What I loved most was learning we took so much time with our hair, and we adorned it with jewels and shell it was our crowns, literally. It translated to me that its in our DNA to be extra! Literally that is just who are, so when you see us with blinged out bobby pins, diamonds on our face, braids down to our ankles it is a part of our make up. I spoke about when I was in between braids how scary it was to come to wok with a scarf pushed back you know how we do! My session was essentially a therapy session amongst Black Women it was the most beautiful thing. We shared our stories about hot combs, we got passionate about why we even need laws to protect us, how we don’t want anyone touching our hair. Amongst all of us, 2 women said they never try appease corporate America in reference to their hair. One of them said they will even go to an interview with her natural hair-you’re gone get that black girl magic and deal with it and if you can’t she has no business being there. Those 2 women empowered me because I am not that bold, I have systemically been taught that pulled back sleek hair is professional I am working towards being that bold. My panel discussion had women from different departments, some of these women I had never met or seen to be honest yet talking about the struggles and the pride we have for our hair made it feel as if I had been to happy hour and vented with these women before. One woman that impacted me the most told the story of how she had to learn to love herself. In a room of strangers, she explained she had worn straight hair weaves for so long when she wore own hair, she didn’t feel like herself she didn’t see beauty and she had to learn to love herself for who she really is. Listen hair goes very deep with us! This woman was beautiful and so was her hair!! I feel like I am experiencing this now as well but the opposite. Now that I have had long periods with my nappy kinky hair like when I was 8 it has been a reconnection with my true self. I love her so much, when I relaxed my hair I looked in the mirror I didn’t see me! I initially wrote this post 2 years ago and every time I thought I was going to post it me and my hair was in a different place, needless to say my hair journey is a life story!
I have loved the resurgence of love for our hair and all its glory. There are so many more images of us in our fros, our cornrows, box braids, pineapples, coifs manufactured to art, straight and sleek, you name we have done it. As a little girl all I remember is seeing images of just for me-the relaxer that’s all I wanted. It was supposed to eliminate the pain of the Sunday wash and hold me down hot comb routine my Auntie Spuckie would come over and do every week. Today you are almost shamed for getting a relaxer. There are so many more products for our different textures and curl patterns and Youtube tutorials sharing information. I love that my nieces little black girl experience is totally different, they turn their noses up to me and my creamy crack. My younger niece loves Youtube videos tutorials, and I must say her edges and curls and are one the most glorious things I’ve seen.
I haven’t relaxed my hair in about 7 months I am not sure what my next step will be, but I know I can do whatever I want with my hair that’s the privilege of being a black woman. Black women and our self-love is bubbling with no ceiling, therefore it’s more common to see the opposite of European standard of beauty. I have had box braids accented with gold string for about 8 weeks. I have been stopped and chased out the grocery store for people to tell me how beautiful they are. What else has also been happening? The attempt of touching of the hair!!! I went to a predominately Caucasian school growing up, I would get asked how often I washed my hair, and of course can I touch it; starting in elementary. In middle school and high school, I certainly didn’t want or allow anyone touching my hair. In addition, I didn’t want anyone asking me what I perceived as dumb questions, I was not a science project. One morning I am at work toasting my English muffin and enters a coworker – “Hey Ericka oh my gosh I love your hair!” she begins to walk over. Prior to her entering the toasting area I was talking with a black woman (that happens to be 2nd VP- Black Girl Magic!!). As my coworker gets close to reach out and touch my hair the 2nd VP quickly says “No, don’t touch her hair!” The coworker with her fingers already in my hair then states, “Can I touch it?” and I say “Sure.” As I was exiting with my toasted English muffin the 2nd VP quietly says to me “I tried “and we chuckled. Even though it wasn’t her hair she very offended that my coworker would touch my hair. I know the coworker, so I know her intentions were not to treat me like a science project she was inquisitive. I said to myself the next time I see her I would pull her to the side and educate her on the appropriate behavior when it comes to Black Women hair. I said to myself wait, is this my job? But if I don’t tell her how will she know? Pretty much after high school I vowed my teaching lessons of Black culture was over because it’s not my job, there is something called the internet. But how can I be mad at someone if they don’t know? It really is like a catch 22. As I am standing at the printer yesterday a different coworker waiting for her paper reaches out to touch my hair, I pull my neck back as she says, “this is so pretty.” I was feeling it. Then I was completely honest with myself – “Did I not mind like I stated the day before, or did I just like to avoid being uncomfortable?” I haven’t been at this job long and I don’t want to be known as “The Angry Black Woman.” As I stood at the printer what was I supposed to say, besides pulling my neck back? As I conversed this issue with my sisters and my nieces, my niece said simply tell them “Don’t touch my hair.” As I am proofreading this, I am binge watching and listening to Claws and I hear a customer says to the main character – “Desna can I touch your hair? “Desna repies “Helll naw!” There you have hell naw you can’t touch my hair. Haven’t had a problem setting anyone straight since then.
**Update** (July 2018) I have relaxed my hair and I am very happy about it. And to those wondering I am still living the Black Woman experience no matter what these edges look like. Y’all saw how they treated Mary Jane and her edges were always snatched LOL
**Update** (May 2019) I haven’t relaxed my hair in 5 months. My hair is weak and adding chemicals are not going to help therefore I am taking a hiatus from the creamy crack. I am back to being a braided sister and I am NOW ready for someone to think they are going to touch my hair LOL. With everything in life experience is the best teacher and preparing for all things. Being MaryJane is officially over forever (insert tears and a tantrum) and I am waiting for Desna to sashay back on my tv screen. Braids are definitely a summer thing.
**Update ** (February 2020) I made it pretty much through 2019 relaxer free. But for my birthday that was in January, I felt the need to relax it so I can easily switch my styles during the weekend. I thought as soon as I relaxed it, I would feel a sense of relief because I LOVE me some slick edges. To my surprise as soon as I relaxed it I had a sense of regret. I had become accustomed to my fro and I absolutely loved it and all its kinks wrapped up in my 4C coiled hair. We shall see if I can make it through the summer because that’s when it gets real LOL. That heat and humidity will when the battle against my hair every time! Pray for strength for me to make it thru because when I look in the mirror with my nappy hair I see the real me.
As always, thanks for stopping by!!
Wishing you no pain unless it’s champagne!