Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Hair Debate Is On!

Twist-outs, braid-outs, protective styling, pre-pooing, detangling, co-washing and pine-appling, are just some of the common terms you'll hear uttered by many "naturals." The past decade has seen a rapid resurgence of the natural hair movement much like the hippie subculture of the mid-1960's. Is this a true revolution where people of Afrocentric backgrounds are laying claim to and proudly declaring their identity to all? If this is a true movement, how long can we expect it to last? Is there room for all?
Does this movement have implications for other social issues and battles being faced by people of African descent?
I recently came across an article that attempted to explain the origins of Afro-textured hair. It spoke about this hair type being an adaptive trait which was necessary to facilitate protection from the harsh sunlight in Africa. The article characterized Afro-textured hair as being "sparsely distributed" allowing for easier aeration of the scalp and hence better regulation of body temperature on the African savannas. The impact of colonization saw a disruption of native African life and native civilizations, which inevitably affected their hair care at the time.
Afro-textured hair is commonly characterized as being curly, coily, or kinky, with a spiral or spring-like shape. The coiled structure makes it difficult for natural oils to travel down the shaft of the hair which can result in a dry texture and appearance. The feel of the hair can range from wooly to cottony. The shape of the hair shaft also makes it prone to breakage and shrinkage.
Having outlined the appearance of Afro-textured hair, how do we care for it? How can we retain moisture and ensure that we are growing healthy tresses? Is this the daunting task it seems to be? Perhaps you remember, or as I do, our weekly hair wash, followed by plaits and bantu-knots to prep for church. Were our parents doing it all wrong then? Since most of us haven't worked with our natural hair since our early teens, we might have forgotten the techniques required for managing and maintaining our hair type. However, there are tons of resources available on the blogosphere with tips and techniques on growing and maintaining healthy, natural hair. There are many natural hair social groups as well, where support and ideas are shared, both in person and through online connections. Get involved! Anything you want or need is out there now.
Does wearing wigs, weaves, extensions, or chemically altering your hair texture reflect an act of self-hatred? Many activists are loud about this position. But let's make this really clear. Tastes and choices have evolved over the years and experimentation with new things doesn't mean that you are rejecting anything at all about who you are. From a personal standpoint, I can say that these additional styling options provide more variety for the individual, especially if you are searching for a quick way to diversify your look. Some are also useful as protective styles which relieve the hair from daily styling and manipulation. Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to rock a particular hair-do or style. Don't be quick to judge without knowing the other person's story.
So what is your story? Are you totally in love with your Afro-textured hair? Or have you chosen a particular hairstyle as a means of conforming to this society's ideals of beauty. Are you less than ecstatic about that "mane" that has been artfully numbered and installed in your follicles? If this is the case, it is time to really "emancipate yourself from mental slavery." Only you can free yourself of guilt or shame, or any feelings of self-hate or self-loathing that might be lingering in your mind. Under that weave or wig, you're still "curly"... and you will always be curly. That we can never change.
But now, let's get back to one of my original questions: Is there room here for everyone? As I have being writing this text I've discovered that the Natural Hair Revolution is definitely a poignant movement which has deep implications for many other issues. The greater message, however, is self-love and self-acceptance. Embrace your identity! Our heroes and past leaders have fought and died for the freedoms we now enjoy. Our minds need to be set free so that we can truly love and appreciate the beauty in us all.
If we are ashamed of the kinks in our hair, then this speaks of a much deeper issue. As Marcus Garvey articulated, "Remove the kinks from your mind, not your hair."
Alecia James is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of http://creativeajay.com. CreativeAjay.com is a lifestyle magazine that is focused on health and wellness, beauty, makeup artistry, fashion, and natural hair.
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