The Emancipation of The Afro: Black Women And Natural Hair
In today’s digitally obsessed age, one’s hair pretty much indicates what’s trendy and hot right now or as it’s so commonly said, “LIT”. And for black women, this has arguably always been the case. The embrace of natural hair for black women has never really been accepted, or in some cases allowed, by society – Western society in particular.
From black actresses in Hollywood having the sleekest and most expensive weaves to office prejudice towards black natural hair, it has been, and still is, a struggle for black women to embrace and express their identity through their natural hair. But much of this is changing.
Black women across the globe are coming together – via the power of the Internet and YouTube – and building a progressive movement none other than #TeamNaturalHair. So I used the opportunity to ask various black women, who are members of the movement, the simple question: “What does your natural hair mean to you?”
As expected, each answer was different from their fellow naturalistas. For some it’s simply a form of expression, for others it’s a true representation of their identity and culture. In the case of Asake, 22, a commercial service specialist, natural hair to her is “a part of life” which she has embraced boldly since childhood, but believes the importance and value of it change depending on her location.
On the other hand, Lola, 24, a mental health nurse, perceives natural hair from a more scientific angle. She believes natural hair is “basically hair that hasn’t been chemically altered to change the hair’s pattern or texture.” From her point of view, she argues that being part of the natural hair movement doesn’t mean one cannot wear weaves, extensions, wigs, or even using heat on it. Similarly, much of her argument has been the topic of debate on social media, particularly “Black” Twitter.
But, the question still resonating in my mind is: What does natural hair actually mean to black women? I’ve met and come across different black women, some part of the #TeamNaturalHair movement and some not, who are simply on the natural hair “journey” because of the trend. However, Tobi, 28, believes there isn’t a problem in that. The HR specialist sees the journey and trend as a great motivation and exposure for black women, especially because embracing one’s natural black hair “is not easy and it’s something that consumes you with a lot of work being put into maintaining it.”
The natural hair movement is increasingly growing, with various black women projecting their journey on YouTube to inspire and teach others. But natural hair, irrespective of the movement and momentum currently behind it, is still a struggle for some black women in the West and even in Africa.
Understandably, black natural hair is not the easiest to maintain and because of that many black women have resorted to wearing weaves and all kinds of wigs, giving Western society the misconception that black women hate their natural hair and would rather have “hair weaves like Europeans”, as Miss Lauryn Hill so perfectly put it. But for most black women, natural hair should be more than just a trend. Frankly, all trends come and go. It should be more than just an expression; simply and truly it should be a representation of who you are. But, what do I know? I’m just a black man with a skin fade haircut.