By Imani Williams
Sitting around the brunch table with my sistas one Saturday, the discussion once again turned to race relations and inevitably to what’s acceptable to whom when it comes to grooming and hair.
I have certainly had my own hair struggles. As a little black girl growing up in Detroit, I had to get in where I fit in. My mother, though well intentioned, was not blessed as a hair stylist. I got nice hairdos when a cousin came by or when my mom made me a hair appointment to go the beauty shop in her hometown of River Rouge. At the shop, Miss Johnny Mae pressed my nappy locks until they shined and then curled me up in beautiful Shirley Temple curls. As long as I did not sweat out my press, and it didn’t rain, my hair was safe.
The whole process of what to do with one’s hair becomes a struggle for people of African descent. During my preteens cornrows, French braids and the Afro were popular. I thank goodness for my childhood friend Juana who had mad skills in braiding, and could give a style complete with beads that would last up to two weeks free of charge. I tried the Afro during my youth, but it didn’t work with my hair until I was well into adult hood.
What was interesting is that in the 1980’s and 90’s many lawsuits evolved over the appropriateness of ethnic hairstyles in the workplace. In 2004, the question continues concerning popular braids, cornrows, afros and dredlocks.
What the above styles have in common is they are natural and, for many, offer a sense of freedom in being who we are. Many African Americans run as fast as we can from our hair being in its natural state. Kinky hair that is nappy and free to grow scares a lot of folk. Many ears have been scarred and scalps have been burnt due to pressing combs and damaging lye products used to modify the natural curl of black hair.
I freed myself from the hair-war prison by starting my locks six years ago.
My locking experience has been filled with self-awareness and pride, and I have been deemed a “hair goddess” and quizzed by many on the attributes of this style. Strangers stop me in the street and ask questions about my hair. This doesn’t just happen to me – it happens to many who have chosen to lock their hair. My locks are very personal and spiritual for me. I don’t view them as a fad. I am proud of them, and I stand in defense of them.
For this reason and many others, I celebrate nappy, happy, free hair. To my young brothers, sisters, and you older ones as well I say – experiment with your hair and love it as you love yourself. The Creator doesn’t make junk.
Peace, Love, and hair grease,