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12.14.2012

Black Women/Black Hair/Black Politics: A Conversation

 So, I just watched this incredible video of a clip that aired earlier this year about the politics of black hair on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC.  This conversation featured blogger; Curly Nikki, actress; Nicole Ari Parker, UPenn professor; Anthea Butler, author; Joan Morgan, and of course the amazing Melissa Harris Perry.  First off, nothing excites and inspires me more than watching, listening to, or just being near a group of intelligent black women. These women talked about one of my favorite topics- BLACK HAIR- the politics, economics, and meaning of being "natural" was the main point. It was a well done talk. So smart, so informative, so real, and so healthy. I really really recommend it. (Make sure to click "part 2" after watching the clip below).

Melissa Harris-Perry, then goes IN with a Black Hair 101 video. I sweat it's like poetry. It's just dope.
It's fascinating how things works out. A few days ago, I met up with one of my best friends (a black woman), and of course the topic of hair came up- specifically natural hair.  Interestingly enough, my friend brought up the politics of natural hair and how she as a black woman with relaxed hair often feels guilty for perming her hair- as if she's regarded as not being "down" enough by natural woman (or white people for that matter) and is automatically labeled as self-loathing because she chemically straightens her hair.  I was kind of shocked, mostly because she never talks about such things. But, also because I realized that I never had such a charged conversation about natural hair with a black woman with....relaxed hair. Curiouser and curiouser.

Since then, I've been thinking allot about my own natural hair journey- something I don't do...ever.  This video I just watched pushed me to go into deeper reflection about the true motivations I had for going natural- that will be another post.  But, what I will say now is that it was a combination of factors....
1. I had a horrific experience with a perm about a year prior to going natural. It was so horrific that half of my hair fell off. I was left with scabs and scars that lasted for months. 2. I was curious about what my natural hair looked like. I mean, I had only seen it in baby pictures or in typical Haitian-girl braids and buns; but only after it had been blow-dried on Sunday afternoons after swim class at the YMCA. 3. I went to an amazing institution (Brown University), that challenged me to rethink social norms, dominant narratives, the politics of black identity, and of course my own existence. It was also the first time I was surrounded by "so many" black people (like maybe 200 of us out of 4,000 people?)  I was able to befriend incredibly strong, confident, and open black women who were also starting to rethink their identity and were open to trying out this "natural thing"...that seemed to really take off around the time that I started asking these questions (2008) 4. I was 19 years old. I was finding myself. I needed and wanted a change. I thought it would be cool. 5. I didn't want to continue to spend my money and time on my hair. I was a broke college student. 6. I just wanted to feel free.
Ok. This isn't supposed to be a long post.

Here's what I propose, friends.
Please watch the video and share it!  Comment below on this post. Let's get a conversation started! I feel like it will be fun and healthy and awesome.
Here are just a few guiding questions as you watch:
Why did you go natural? Why did you NOT go natural? How did the video make you feel? Do you feel like your hair- natural or chemically manipulated- makes a statement? Why is black women's hair such an important topic? When did you first become hair conscious? What do you think about all of the attention that the "natural hair movement" has generated? What are your thoughts on the recent BOOM of natural hair companies (including black hair companies that historically only made products for relaxed hair, but only RECENTLY offer products for "natural hair")?

Stay Engaged,
N

3 comments:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this video. I particularly enjoyed Joan Morgan's commentary- that black women's bodies are always a topic of conversation. Either our hair is too nappy, our bodies too fat, etc.
    I did the big chop almost one year ago because I wanted to see what my hair looks like- kind of like you were saying. I was tired of unhealthy permed hair and wanted to start a more health-conscious relationship with my hair (and body for the matter).
    -Sagine

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  2. Thanks for posting Naika! This is such an important topic. I feel like I can participate in this conversation from many angles, since I am currently "transitioning" (lol at Joan Morgan's vampire comment) from permed hair to natural hair. Even though Joan's funny was kind of comical, it is so valid. I really do feel like I am transitioning from one person to another. I'm excited about that, but it's also problematic. Should my hair play such a big role in my overall identity? Whether it should or shouldn't, it absolutely does.

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  3. I went natural because I needed more flexibility with my hair. So, I'm really feeling what Curly Nik had to say. It wasn't so much a political statement, as a convenience issue. I love workin out, swimming, and just doing whatever I please without having to worry about my hair.

    I, like you Naika, went natural in college and I feel like there was a "boom" in the natural movement around that time too. All of a sudden it was the cool thing to do. I don't mind that natural products came out because I feel that we deserve the same versatility in products that non-textured types have. I do think it's kind of grimy that older companies that never paid attention to natural haired women are now jumping on the train.
    -Jade

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