Written by Ny Qunaa
Since the days of slavery, America has caused many Blacks to have psychological issues. One of these issues involves the state of Black women's hair. Having straight hair was deem acceptable socially and professionally after the Emancipation, so many Blacks began to straighten and process their hair. All that changed when "Black Power" emerged in the 1960s which encouraged many Blacks to wear their hair in its natural state.
Throughout the years, many people have debated on the way Black women should wear their hair. While these debates have sparked national attention, the conversation lacked the discussion of the health of black hair. Whether processed or unprocessed, Black women want their hair to look beautiful. While hair can be alluring in any state, some Black women will sacrifice the health of their hair for beauty. I used to ignore the health of my hair until a tragic accident occurred in 2009 caused me to focus on the state of my hair and make decisions that liberated me from society's standard of beauty.
After seeing the trailer of Chris Rock’s Good Hair, I took a break from using the “creamy crack” aka relaxers. As I transitioned toward having all unprocessed hair, I decided to add braid extensions and weaves to my mixed hair texture. I did this for a couple of months and all was going well until one tragic night in July. Even though I was transitioning the textures of my hair, I didn’t take care for it like I should have. The glamorization of adorning braid extensions and weave blinded me from caring for the hair that was underneath-- my God-given kinky hair.
So this night in July, I took out my weave and looked and in the mirror. What I saw was dirty, dull, and neglected hair. I decided to wash my hair so I could put in another protective style. My new growth was about 2 inches so the transition was becoming more noticeable. Since my hair was in two textures—manageable relaxed hair and kinky curls—it was vital for me to detangle my hair so that my hair wouldn’t tangle in itself. Unfortunately, I didn’t detangle the beast on top on my head and guess what? That beast fought itself and turned into one big knot. It looked horrible! I tried for hours to untangle it to no avail. Midnight was approaching and I was tired so I did what any lazy person would do, I cut off all of the hair that had a relaxed texture. All that was left was 2 inches of unprocessed tight-knitted coils. I lived with my mom at the time and when she saw what I had done, she stared at me, tilted her head to the side and ran away; she did that as if she were in a horror film.
The next morning after waking up from this night of horror, I finally came to terms that I had a "T.W.A." better known as a teeny weeny afro. I rocked my unruly afro for a few days and then I went to the barber shop to get it coiffed. The afro worked for me; I wore it proudly, finally set free from the chains of braid extensions, relaxers, and weaves. That was until I showed my hair to the douchebag that I was dating at the time. In 2009, the movement of black women being comfortable with unprocessed hair hadn’t reached its full popularity. Many black women were afraid to wear their hair in its natural state and many men denied its beauty. The douchebag that I was dating was one of those men. I told him that I cut my hair and of course he wanted to see a picture. I texted him the cutest picture of me with my T.W.A. and in so many words, he said I looked ugly. Ugly? Me? Well at the time when he told me, I thought I was and I had to make myself pretty again. I thought that having long hair equated to beauty and I went back to wearing braid extensions and weaves. It wasn’t until December 2010 that I said “To hell with this!” referring to me keeping up appearances by rocking extra hair on my head to be “beautiful”. I knew that I wanted my hair to be free of extension but I didn’t know how I wanted to wear it. Was it going to be in an afro? Was it going to be twisted into locs? After getting positive responses from my mom and my friends on Facebook about getting locs, I started the loc journey in January of 2011. I decided that during my journey that I would embrace my hair – the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I sported my locs and gained confidence, my beauty became evident. Strangers and friends alike said that I had a glow. For once in my life, I was in love with my hair.
It’s been almost 6 years since I started my loc journey and I learned so much about myself and the beauty of black women. I learned that being beautiful doesn’t mean that someone has flaws. Being beautiful means to accept the flaws and to be in harmony physically, mentally, and spiritually. It means to exude an internal aura from deep within the soul that is alluring. Black women are often told that we need to fix our physical appearance to be beautiful yet are often emulated by other cultures. I think in order for Black women to truly embrace our beauty that we must learn to love ourselves—mind, body, and spirit—and resist societal brainwashing to meet expectations of how we are to look. Once that occurs, our beauty will be emanated and others will have no other choice but to see our beauty, accept it, and embrace it.