“Good hair means curls and waves bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
It’s time for us to redefine who we be”
– I Am Not My Hair
I often joke that India Aires, ” I Am Not My Hair” is the natural hair anthem.
Women like India Aires have been a great encouragement to me in choosing to wear my hair naturally. I stopped relaxing my hair 3 to 4 years ago. I had a conscious desire to affirm my beauty and challenge the beauty standard that often excludes black women and deprives them of their inheritance as women.
The Maafa “The great disaster” ( the Swahili word for the Atlantic Slave trade and colonization) propagated very evil lies about our worth, beauty, and humanity, and along the way, we started to believe them. These lies are still with us today. And as silly as this may seem to some people, wearing the hair that naturally grows out of my head is how I chose to resist and decolonize.
Furthermore, going natural is helping me confront my notions about “good hair” vs “bad hair”. For most of my life my hair has been a source of anxiety- what people think of it; “do people realize its longer than it looks?”, why can’t I style it? and is an afro even feminine? I realize a lot of the anxiety black women feel about their hair stems from consistently being compared (and comparing) ourselves to women who look nothing like us. For example, my hair defies gravity and naturally grows toward the sun. So why am I constantly asked how long my hair is as if it grows down. Is that even a fair question? What if I asked people with straight hair how much volume their hair had. I don’t think I am overeating because a lot of black women have been made to feel ugly and it’s not right. In all honesty, I don’t expect or encourage black women to rely on this society to validate their beauty but instead to find their worth in God, learn to love themselves, and work on creating spaces in our community for dialogue and healing. This is because community members have internalized the idea of more kinky hair being” bad hair” light skin as more beautiful and continually perpetuate it.
Similarly, black men need to be included in the conversation of beauty because as someone so beautifully articulated on twitter” the same message black women get that they are not beautiful black boys learn that black women are ugly” and its wreaking havoc on relationships. We need to do a better job of reminding little black boys that they are handsome, their brown hues, rounded noses, naps, kinks, and curls included. Thus putting them in a position to love themselves and help affirm black women if need be.
Ultimately, as a Christian, I understand that beauty is fleeting and passes away. I don’t want to be self-obsessed and won’t encourage others to be either. Nevertheless, I realize people have genuine concerns and I wanted to address them. As Marcus Garvey, the famous Jamaican Pan-Africanist said. ” God made no mistake when he made us black with kinky hair… Take those kinks out of your mind instead of your hair. Now is the time for us to love ourselves, each other, and strengthen our communities.
Nana Akua is an aspiring writer and youth organizer. She has pioneered ProjectDreamBig and is passionate about youth engagement, cultural reform, and mentorship. She hopes to use her voice to shape culture.