Guest Blog Post: Why Hair is So Important to the Black Community

(Hey, y’all! It’s been a minute since I’ve had a naturalista swing by the blog! Patrina of naturalhairqueen.net is a beautiful naturalista who is here to drop some knowledge on the social, political, and economic meanings of Black hair. I’m thankful that Patrina came by to share her words as it is a well-written and significant piece. I encourage you to take some moments to read her words too! Blessings, Monica aka afrotasticlady)

Guest Blog post_Patrina

It’s not just hair. If you mention the deep significance of African-American hair to nonblacks, you might get a blank look. They probably won’t understand why you are angry when you see cornrows being culturally appropriated. Nor will they get your frustration of not being able to find black hair products on the supermarket shelf.

The way we wear our hair isn’t just about self-expression. Our kinky hairdos and our coily locks are beautiful and unique, but it’s never just about you as an individual. Yes, we struggle with self-acceptance, but it’s not the same as a Caucasian teen wearing a mohawk to be rebellious, or a middle-aged white woman dying her hair bright red to do something fun for the summer.

How we style our hair goes way beyond that. It’s almost as if we’re representing the entire race. African-American hair is woven into a traumatic history of cultural discrimination, political turmoil, and fighting for basic human rights.

As time passes, we’ve seen mega-companies like L’Oréal scramble to sell to the one market they’d ignored for years. And it’s about time they paid attention, because the black hair and cosmetics industry is worth $9 billion per year, according to Black Men in America.

The black population is no small market. Nielsen reported that blacks will reach a buying power of $1.3 trillion by the end of 2017. We want to look good and we show it with our wallets, but it goes much deeper than just vanity.

African-American hair bonds and unites us as a people. However, the scars of having been ignored, shunned, and frowned upon still exist. In this post, we’ll discuss why hair is so important in the black community.

Hair is Interwoven into Black History

Black obsession with hair didn’t begin in America, nor does it date back to when Africans were kidnapped and sold as slaves. Hair has always been important to Africans, and we see evidence of this by studying the tribal traditions of our ancestors.

Africans made elaborate hairstyles for celebrations and rites of passage, and they also used styles to determine rank, social class, fertility, manhood, age, and wealth.

So, it’s only natural that we would turn to hair to express ourselves since that’s what our ancestors did.

When Europeans stole Africans for use as slaves, they uprooted an entire legacy of hair. Being far away from home without styling tools or nourishing butters like Shea, meant that Africans had no way to care for their hair. For the first time, blacks no longer celebrated their hair. Rather, both blacks and whites saw it as a problem.

In 1909, Garrett Morgan invented the first relaxer, and we saw black women flocking to take care of the “problem”.

The Struggle is Real

Why do we pay so much attention to hair? Because managing African hair takes time, patience, and dedication. Whether you have natural, relaxed, or a protective style like braids, you are undoubtedly going to spend hours doing your hair.

It’s kinky hair’s coily characteristics that make it a challenge. As the tiny coils cling on to each other and tangle, the hair mats until you have time to detangle it. And the detangling itself can take a long time to master without breaking the hair strands.

As we move into the Natural Hair Movement, American women are spending more time and money than ever on perfecting hair. Hair is connected to self-esteem and the way we feel about ourselves and being black.

Do we allow it to go natural? Do we straighten it to appear more “acceptable” in the workplace? These are complex questions that every woman must answer repetitively over the course of a lifetime.

Changing jobs or even just posing for a professional picture might change a woman’s mind from one day to the next about her hair, and whether it’s good enough. It’s this constant battle that leads us to obsess over hair and continuously “fix” it until it’s ready to be seen by the public eye.

A Common Bond Between Sisters

Our hair connects us. It’s the internet that brings sisters together. Now we can freely discuss and exchange ideas about how to take care of our complex hair, something we haven’t had since before slavery.

Sure, we always had casual conversations with friends and strangers alike, but You Tube and blogs made our connections stronger and more frequent.

It’s a grand reuniting of people affected by the African diaspora. These are the conversations we were meant to have hundreds of years ago. But better late than never, and it makes the connections even more compelling.

It’s not just the ability to research information, but a way of socializing. Our hair journeys give us something to talk about, share, and bond over. And yes, it feels like we’re celebrating once again.

Patrina-Naturalhairqueen

Patrina is the founder of Naturalhairqueen.net; a blog to educate and inspire women with natural hair. Patrina just celebrated her 10-year natural hair anniversary, and achieved her goal of waist length hair. With the knowledge she has learned over the years she is dedicated to share her knowledge, and experience to educate women who wish to have moisturized, healthy natural long hair.

Social Media:

Website: www.Naturalhairqueen.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/naturalhairqueensite/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatHairQueen

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nathairqueen/

Advertisements

Black History Clings To My Veins

20160228_190012

(Every year, my church hosts a Black History Month service, and various churches in my hometown attend. At this year’s service (Sunday, February 28, 2016), I stood up as choirs sung energetically. I enjoyed watching a liturgical dance. I uttered “ummhmm” when a spoken word artist shared her pieces. I listened to the guest speaker as he revealed his testimony of contending with segregation in the South and finally opening up his own animal clinic in the North. 

I was impacted by wisdom and compassion from other ministers as well.  As I am still processing those moments, I will share the ministers’ word offerings in another blog post.

But today’s blog post includes what I shared at the service. I was able to write a reflection and read it to the congregation.  Please see my thoughts below.  Thanks for taking the time to read, y’all! -afrotasticlady)

History is bubbling inside me. My veins are thick with the stories of my parents’ childhoods. My parents were children of the South, and they had to follow the insidious rules of their homeland. Rules that dictated to them how they would be Black and where they could be Black.

Each day, my parents woke up before the sun was out. For hours, they worked. My mom remembers the large tobacco truck that she had to climb into. My dad remembers picking cotton.

History pushes my heart. I am awed by the resilience of my parents. My parents have been blessed in their own journeys. Through turmoil, they relied on God.

I am overjoyed by the accomplishments of my ancestors. Through abuse and pervasive discrimination, they created arts forms. They were the masterminds behind popular inventions.

Yet, I am surprised when I hear folks ask the following questions: why do we continue to celebrate Black history? And why is there even a Black History Month?

Learning about Black history is an uncovering of memories. It is a discovery of a people who would not be moved despite their losses.

The noise of opponents of Black History Month should be answered. My response to them: Let us look at the foundations of Black History Month.

Carter G. Woodson, a Black historian and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, created “Negro History Week” with his colleagues. In 1926, the first “Negro History Week” occurred during the second week of February, which happened to fall on the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Nationally, schools and other community organizations had their own commemorations of the week. Eventually, the “Negro History Week” transitioned into Black History Month with several colleges celebrating it in the 1960s. Later, President Gerald R. Ford “official recognized” the month. He stated that the month was “the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (Source: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month).

Woodson was committed to showing society the worthiness of black history. He contributed to opportunities for children and even adults to realize that their brown skin is beautiful. To feel the strength within their bones. To know that there have been courageous women and men who spoke when they were supposed to be quiet. To know that we continue to be a bold people!

To the opponents of Black History Month: please let me inform you about some black heroes. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist who condemned lynchings. She was also one of the co-founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). W.E.B Du Bois, a sociologist and another co-founder of the NAACP, wrote the splendid book “The Souls of Black Folk.” Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin were creative folks who shared honestly about the black experience in their writings. As young people, Diane Nash and John Lewis worked in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) during the Civil Rights Movement. They risked arrests and even death in order to participate in sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches. Now, Lewis is a U.S. Congressman.

My response to opponents of Black History Month is that black history is an American history, an African history and a global history. This history clings to my veins and spins in my mind. Blame my parents for the passion. Yell at the college I graduated from. But do not take away the month.

And when the month ends, I will continue to read about unknown and known Black leaders. I will listen to Black orators. I will pester my parents with questions about what they endured in the South. I will take these facts and anecdotes, and I will pass along this knowledge to everyone.