Natural Hair & Care

Under attack June 27, 2010

It’s been a very long time since I have written and this has been mostly because I have been so overwhelmed by subtle and destructive messages about our natural hair that I have simply chosen to remain silent. I’ve chosen not to say anything in the hopes that someone else around me would complicate comments about good hair and beauty. Since no one seems to be saying anything and these comments seem to be crushing my spirit and challenging my generally strong sense of self, I have to write.

I’ve made many changes in my personal life since I’ve last written for this blog. The biggest change is that I’ve moved back home from a predominantly white city. I think that I was naively nostalgic for a home that did not actually exist. Having lived among people who did not look like me for quite some time, I imagined going home and being celebrated, accepted, affirmed and embraced and while there were many things about me that were affirmed, there were also many things that were not–namely, my hair. See, I am a passionate proponent of natural hair in every form. I think that my/our hair has the most beautiful and arrogant texture that I have ever seen. I have written poems and stories with our hair as the central character. I have even included hair in a term paper at school. I am our hair’s biggest fan. Sometimes, I think I am our hair’s only fan.

In one exchange with my grandmother, who is 81, I realized that I had imagined what I was looking for at home. She reminded me of what home was really about. Sitting at the kitchen table she turned to me and calmly asked me if I was ever going to perm my hair. That was really one of the more innocent exchanges because I said no and the conversation was over. I think that I was really hurt  by a comment that came much later. See, I started seeing someone, who is from a fairly conservative background. I know they are conservative because we actually share the same background. I’m the maverick. So my grandmother asked if this new young man had made any comments about my hair. She asked me if he liked it. I looked at her for a long time before answering and calmly explained to her that he did not seem to have any problems with it but the question depressed me. Is my hair something that people should have a problem with because it is natural? Is it something that has to be approved? Why is my hair the topic of discussion? Why is it so crazy for me to actively choose not to process my hair?

As you know, it is recital and graduation season. My young cousin had a dance recital the other day. The dance recital alone deserves its own blog entry! Waiting outside of the auditorium before the event started, my sister and I searched for our four year old cousin’s tiny face and eventually concluded that we could not find her. In every picture, these young girls were adorned with ornate crowns of weave that made them indistinguishable. In act after act, young girls bounced around with shiny ponytails that were not their own and I could not help but think about the message behind this very strange choice. Had the parents and the dance director come to an agreement about what is appropriate for a recital? Does our own hair not make the cut? Eventually, I did find my cousin. She was there, under a very large weave.

I think that I decided that I would start writing again and being a voice for natural hair and beauty last night. I was at a friend’s house. His niece is graduating on Monday. She tried on her very beautiful dress and shoes and paraded around the house while we eyed her proudly. I asked her if she would be carrying a bag and she laughed at me and said, “I’m not going to carry a bag, this is graduation!”. However, when I asked her how she was going to do her hair she very flatly explained that she was going to wear a weave. It was ludicrous for her to think about carrying a matching bag but very normal for her to wear a weave. I was astonished and speechless. When are we going to really see the ridiculousness of our attachment to hair that is simply not our own, in any sense.

Anyway, this is getting long so I will stop here. What messages have you been receiving about natural hair?


Black Barbie Uses Relaxer October 20, 2009

Filed under: Barbie,Black dolls,children — R.D. @ 1:03 pm

stacey-mcbride-irby-barbie-425km100909-1255110578 Since I have two nieces I am excited about Mattel’s new line of Black Barbies, which are not simply browner versions of the original. This new line of dolls seems to capture the nuance of ‘Black’ with dolls of varying skin tones,”fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheekbones”. Unfortunately, this doll also reflects the details of our relationship with and to our hair.

While two of the dolls (Trichelle and Kianna) have curlier hair so that black girls can” see themselves within these dolls, and…know that black is beautiful”, the majority of the dolls have straight hair. I don’t really understand how Black barbies with long straight hair are supposed to help young black girls (and the larger Black community) with the issues that Chris Rock describes in his movie “Good Hair”. I would really like to see Kenneth Clark’s doll experiment done with these Black Barbies. I don’t think that the “So In Style” hairstyling kit, which would allow girls the option of straightening their doll’s hair, is going to help either.

Trichelle and Vanessa

Trichelle and Vanessa

Despite the outcry that these new Barbie’s have garnered, many are seeing this new line (Why is it called So in Style?) as a step in the right direction. These dolls are interested in math, science, volunteering and mentoring (each doll is paired with a younger sister) and do give young girls of color different options for their possible future selves. I just wish those options included an equal balance of processed and natural hairstyles. These dolls are successful at painting a portrait that is a much closer approximation of the varied Black community but we still have a long way to go. I would like a Barbie with locks.

Blackhairstorians what do you think?


Zahara and Black Women

zahara_paxThere has been a lot of buzz about the October 9th Newsweek article published by Allison Samuels. I am actually getting ready to grease my own hair and get ready to go to class but I had to add my voice to the discussion. From the comments posted to the article and the space devoted by many blogs to responding to the article, it is clear that many Black women feel that Jolie’s handling of Zahara’s hair is a sign of disregard for something that is so important to the Black community: hair. Contrary to what India.Arie believes, we are our hair. Our sense of self is inextricably linked with what we choose to do with our hair, how we talk about our hair and what we tell our daughters about their hair.

Some have said that Zahara may resent Jolie when she grows up, look back on her baby pictures with sadness and be made to feel the sting of her difference when she enters schools. But are we talking about Zahara or ourselves? Others have said that Zahara’s mom could take cues from the hair of Madonna’s newly adopted African daughter or Sasha and Malia because she is a little black girl being judged by “mainstream standards”. However, what are these mainstream standards? I don’t find many white Americans responding in anger to these blogs. Who is imposing and reifying standards of beauty for Black women? From the looks of the blogroll, it looks like we have so fully bought into “mainstream” standards of beauty that we cannot even begin to think of other ways that a little black girl might be–beautiful.

Allison Samuels finishes the article with this statement:

“But there will come a day when this beautiful little African girl will understand what it means to be an African-American woman in this society and realize unlike her younger sister, hers is not a wash-and-go world.”

I am not so sure anymore of where our definition of “what it means to be an African-American woman in this society” comes from. I do believe that there are many different ways to be black and beautiful and that we need to really think about what Zahara means for us and why her hair is making us so angry.

I have to go to class.


The Princess and The Frog August 12, 2009

Filed under: children,hair oil,hair products,natural,natural hair care — R.D. @ 5:14 pm


To celebrate the release of Disney’s latest film, The Princess and The Frog, Carol’s daughter has launched a line of hair products that are aimed at young African American princesses. The film, which will feature Disney’s first African American princess-Princess Tiana- boasts a casts that includes the voices of Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey. The line of products, which are adorned with scenes from the movie, includes shampoo, conditioner, detangler and bubble bath. Keeping with the company’s commitment to natural ingredients, the products include ingredients such as aloe leaf juice, cranberry extract, sunflower seed oil and olive oil. While the products will be launched in October, the film is slated for release on December 11th!


Weaves for Babies March 21, 2009

Filed under: children,extensions,Uncategorized — R.D. @ 10:07 pm
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Baby Bangs

I don’t know if anyone has heard of Baby Bangs but they are a hair band of hair strands, which “have been arranged in the cutest most adorable elfish coiffure!” What do you think about Baby Bangs?


Writing new hair stories for our children February 19, 2009

Filed under: Barbie,Black dolls,children,natural — R.D. @ 10:39 pm
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During the 40’s psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark created the doll test to test the effects of segregation on black children. The findings provided overwhelming evidence of the damaging consequences of segregation for young African-Americans; many children demonstrated signs of internalized inferiority. In the experiment, the Clarks presented black children with dolls that were identical in every aspect except for color. All of the children correctly identified the race of the dolls. However, when asked to select the doll that they preferred, most of the children selected the white doll and ascribed positive attributes to it. When the Clarks asked the children to draw themselves, many of the children chose white and yellow crayons and refused to use brown or black crayons. In addition to feelings of inferiority, the children exhibited signs of self-hatred. Today, African-American children continue to  exhibit the very findings reported by the Clarks. In 2006, 17-year-old Kiri Davis’ eight minute documentary “A Girl Like Me” revealed that little has changed:

A  female voice asks the child a question: “Can you show me the doll that looks bad?”

The child, a preschool-aged Black girl, quickly picks up and shows the Black doll over a White one that is identical in every respect except complexion.

“And why does that look bad?”

“Because she’s Black,” the little girl answers emphatically.

“And why is this the nice doll?” the voice continues.

“Because she’s White.”

“And can you give me the doll that looks like you?”curlyqmilkshake

The little girl hesitates for a split second before handing over the Black doll that she has just designated as the uglier one.

Today many African-American parents say that the color of a doll should not be a deciding factor when making pilovemyhaironesieurchases. However, their children often own a disproportional number of white dolls. Aren’t we making a decision not to buy a black doll if we are choosing a white one? Unfortunately, the legacy of segregation and slavery does not only manifest itself in children; it begins with and is apparent in the behavior of their parents. Today there are many options for parents who are concerned about the images available to their children and ways to counteract the concepts of beauty that are being transmitted to their children. Tbenjaminbannekerhe site Dollslikeme provides parents with so many different kinds of clothes, dolls, toys, books and hair products that are affirming for young children of color. It was very hard for me to keep myself from buying some of the dolls that I saw (Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Banneker). However, what is most appealing about the site is its committment to promoting diversity in a multicultural society. Hispanic, asian, white and black dolls are present on the site. This is more reflective of the society that we live in and provides children with beautiful imitations of themselves, people in their neighborhood and people in school. The dolls possess a range of hair textures (straight to tightly curled)!!! This made me smile because all children can benefit from having dolls that reflect society (I do not believe that children should only have dolls of one color because play is practice for life). Although the Clarks’ experiment only revealed the negative side effects of segregation for the African-American community, we all exhibit the symptoms of those who have lived in a society built upon the backs of others and should always be looking to heal ourselves and eachother.


What I am loving: Sasha and Malia’s natural hair January 30, 2009