I wear my hair in a natural style called Sisterlocks. The style affords me great flexibility with my natural hair. It has also grown to be quite long. For a black woman this garners me a lot of attention. I have been stopped countless times by men and women who were astounded that as a black woman I have been able to grow my natural tresses below my mid back.
Most often I am asked is all of that my real hair. The looks I receive are ones of astonishment and awe. With joy I share a resounding YES! This is all MY hair! Recently I was stopped at the gym by an elderly black woman with the same questions and with the same look of admiration and astonishment. I began to explore within myself her looks of astonishment, awe and admiration along with my own sense of joy. After all, it’s just hair. Or is it?
For many black women the decision to wear our hair natural versus processed has been a real struggle. Our own natural coifs if not of a certain texture deemed to be “good” were not seen as a thing of beauty. For many our hair was a source of shame. The heart of the shame was the belief that we were inferior. Our hair diminished our value. If we couldn’t grow long silky or loosely coiled hair then we were not as valuable as other women, black or otherwise, that could. I as a woman with very tightly coiled kinks would have been labeled and categorized as having nappy or “bad” hair.
This label was a great source of pain. The pain went deep not only into my soul but through my scalp with oozing chemical burns from futile attempts at taming the hair beast with relaxers. When I finally decided to embrace my natural hair it was no less than a spiritual experience. It was a way for me to assess who I truly was inside and who I wanted to show up as in the world. It was a bold and brave declaration to myself that I was good and pretty enough even in the face of a (former)spouse that verbally berated my new look. I stood strong and stood boldly choosing to love and accept a part of me that for so long I was ashamed of.
I by no means am saying that women who aren’t natural do not love themselves. For those women who are able to love themselves naturally or otherwise they are able to see and clearly choose what it is that they want based on whatever suits them. For others, however, fear is the subconscious motivating factor. Beneath their hair “choices” are deeper fears of not being seen in their natural state as good enough, pretty enough and worthy enough. Becoming comfortable with our natural hair for black women isn’t just about hair. It’s about discovering our value and knowing that as our authentic selves we are valuable. With this awareness and understanding comes the power of choice.
For women who have not healed from internal pain brought on by many different experiences of being shown or told that they are not attractive in their natural state there is no true awareness of choice. Weaving, wigs or relaxers are then done without thought as a way of masking shame. Some women believe they have no choice if they want to look polished, professional or the big one, if they want to get or keep a man. With facing who we truly believe ourselves to be and how our image of our hair plays a grand role we can heal the powerful internal dialogue that speaks dishonestly about our perceived inferiority. We can then decide for ourselves if we WANT to go natural rather than be forced into not being natural due to running from our fears and pain.
I believe for those who are astounded and admire my hair, both black men and black women, my hair represents a dismantling of our limiting beliefs. As a professional black woman with confidence and nappy hair my appearance for many debunks not only the myth that black women cannot have long hair but more deeply and profoundly that we are not beautiful and attractive enough. We are enough in whatever state we choose to wear our hair. We are stylish and versatile and are able to break a sweat and not miss a beat due to our hair. This awareness gives options and heals hearts. Whether you want to shave it off, wear it long, weave it or straighten it go ahead because your value is your birthright and is not diminished by your hair.