No. Not at all.
I’m not specifically sure where it went awry, but hair, more specifically what grade and what length, became of importance. If I’d take a good guess it probably goes back to the days of slavery. Yes, taking it way back today. A time in which, white men would have their way with black women, creating interracial children, with various hair textures and various shades of beautiful brown skin. All of this (among many things) subsequently left a substantial divide, that still haunts our culture to this day.
Here we are, and afrocentrism is deemed new and hip. Kids are getting afro weaves put in their hair, to stand out (errr blend in?) amongst their peers. Who would have known. Afrocentrism isn’t new, and even I, as an African American woman in one of the most accepting and moving neighborhoods in Brooklyn, a neighborhood that embraces and rings the resounding black love alarm, with it’s lively Ethiopian restaurants, African dance festivals, and mocha mama meet-ups, has yet to fully grasp the depths of what it truly means to be afrocentric.
But this post isn’t about afrocentrism. It’s about hair. It’s about actually and truly embracing your roots and going all in, without fear.
Honestly, the most uncomfortable part when talking about natural hair texture with someone who is considering transitioning, or who happens to be in transition, is the big chop portion of the conversation. I understand slow transitioning in many ways, I do. I understand not wanting to be bald, and or close to it for months at a time. I even understand placing wigs upon your hair up until you feel comfortable. I get it, I respect it, but I don’t fully agree. In many ways, it’s a close comparison to the likes of those high school girls wearing wigs because it’s simply cool. Not because they actually know or fully grasp the meaning of adorning what their ancestors gave them. When you’re trying to hold on to your long and permed hair until it because fuller and kinkier, and inevitably, more versatile hair, it’s like masking the process.
Let yourself feel it. All of it.
The mere act of cutting one’s hair is transformational in itself. During my first cut, I immediately felt vulnerable. That lasted for weeks. I quickly realized that beyond needing to feel pretty when I cut all of my hair off, I needed to acknowledge and accept the path that I was taking. I needed to understand, as best as I could, why I was cutting off my hair, and what it meant for me, and more importantly, what it meant as a woman in general. In many ways, once my hair was gone, there went many of the chains of conformity that held on to me for far too long.
Lest you think the pot is calling the kettle black, I in many ways, have yet to dive deeper in the natural pool. My hair is currently rotating in shades of golden tones, to give me “a just returned from vacation” vibe. Mostly because I take very few vacations these days. And who in the world leaves New York City in the summer?! But still, mama loves to look like she’s just stepped off of some island far far away from the city smog.
Hair can sometimes be summed up to simply being just hair. And in many ways, this works. Like when discussing the big chop, my simple, less blog like response sounds a bit like; “girl, stop stressing! It will grow back even more beautiful than before. It’s just hair!” If given a few more minutes, I would explain the gravity of the transition as someone who has taken the plunge, not just once, but twice. I’d take on those last few minutes to talk more in depth and in a more powerful nature. If you educate yourself properly on the power of what it means to change your hair to fit the straight European ideology, when you are in fact an African American woman, the transition becomes more. So much more.
Beautiful art by Emily De Nicolais for LaTonya Yvette.