All Articles Tagged "black hair"
For centuries, braids have been making women of color feel powerful. To highlight how braids continues to make Black girls feel magical as well as the history of the intricately expressive hairstyle, Artist Shani Crowe decided to document her relationship with braids at Brooklyn’s Museum Of Contemporary African Disporan Arts (MoCADA). Appropriately titled, BRAIDS, Crowe told Refinery 29 what inspired her to curate such an exhibit.
“As a child, I would get my hair braided every two weeks by one of my aunts or an older cousin. I picked up the skill from watching my relatives braid, and practicing on dolls. When I was around 11, and my aunts couldn’t execute the designs I wanted, I began braiding [on] my own. I was a walking advertisement for myself, and ended up attracting clientele,” Crowe said. “This project is an unapologetic assertion of my pride in my braid art, my culture, and my African ancestry.”
Refinery also asked Crowe for her thoughts on the Kardashians or other non-Black celebrities trying to make braids trendy. Revealing that she’s grown tired of this particular conversation, Crowe still dropped this gem on the matter: “I’ve learned that spending efforts to change someone’s opinion is often mute, as that person has to choose to change their minds or see new perspectives when they’re ready. The only person I control is me, and I choose to create and photograph beautiful braids to honor Black women and hopefully foster connectivity and Black unity.”
On MoCADA ‘s website, Crowe eloquently wrote: “BRAIDS is a series of photographic portraits celebrating the beauty and nuanced artistry of hair braiding. Influenced by an Afro-centric, non-linear time sense where past, present, and future are intertwined and concurrent, BRAIDS draws from a variety of eras. It is an amalgamation of inspiration from ancient artifacts, traditional African braid styles, popular culture, and Afro-futurism, filtered through my perspective. Each portrait can be appreciated at face value, but the imagery conjures a specific nostalgia for African American women who remember both having their hair braided and braiding someone else’s. The opportunity for deeper understanding among Black Women allows a paradigm shift, where a group seen as a double minority has an inherent advantage. By referencing an intergenerational collective memory, seated in the crest of the Black feminine experience, I create an instance of privilege.”
BRAIDS will be featured at MoCADA until July 10.
Check out a sampling of Shani Crowe’s pieces below.
Right about now, we all should be giving a round of applause to Janice Celeste, the founder/Editor-in-Chief of Successful Black Parenting Magazine. Just a few days ago, Celeste shared a video on Huffington Post to “educate those on the other side — the non-black side” about the beautifully textured tresses that naturally grow from our scalp.
The animated video titled “13 Crazy Things White People Think About Black Hair”, harps on the many myths that non-blacks have about #teamnatural. In the past year, we’ve seen a heinous amount of natural hair shaming ranging from young girls being expelled from school and banned at work to being belittled at salons. “It’s insanity at its best,” Celeste explained.
One of the preconceived notions that made the list was “Black natural hair, like Afros and Afro-puffs are a distraction.” The video goes on to explain, “Well that’s a huge insult and is borderline bullying. That’s how my natural hair goes when put in ponytail holders or when combed. Saying it is a distraction is like saying my face is a distraction because it’s what I was born with. Asking me to process or relax my hair to make you feel comfortable is like asking me to get plastic surgery so you can look at me.” PREACH!
Press play to watch the “13 Crazy Things White People Think About Black Hair,” and feel free to share it with a non-black person that doesn’t understand black natural hair.
Last month, we wrote about Andrew Jones. The Amite High School senior was named valedictorian of his graduating class. And while the valedictorian is highly recognized at graduation ceremonies, usually delivering a speech to the entire student body and their families, Jones was denied that right. The Louisiana honors student was told, during the day of his graduation that unless he shaved his beard, he would not be able to participate.
According to The Advocate while Jones had someone clean up his goatee by trimming it, he refused to get rid of it entirely, even at the request of his parents. The school asked him to shave it because the beard violated district-wide policy that stated:
“Hairstyles and mustaches shall be clean, neatly groomed and shall not distract from the learning environment nor be a safety factor for any of the school’s curricular offerings. Beards will not be allowed. Any hairstyle that distracts from the unique environment of a school shall be dealt with by the principal or his/her designee of that school.”
While three other students arrived with beards and shaved so they could participate in the ceremony, Jones, who earned a 4.0 G.P.A., said he refused to comply with the request because the rule had not been enforced throughout the school year. The school took his gown from him. Jones and his family say they know of other students in the district who were able to participate in graduation ceremonies with beards.
Democratic state representative Katrina Jackson and Rev. Roosevelt Wright, in response to what they believe was unfair treatment, sponsored a graduation ceremony for Jones.
According to the Epoch Times, The ceremony was held at the African American Heritage Museum in Hammond, Louisiana on June 17. Students from Jones’ graduating class were set to attend.
Jones, who played on both the football and basketball teams and worked a part time job, was also awarded student of the year. This fall, Jones will attend Southern Louisiana University, where he earned both athletic and academic scholarships.
Jackson said that when she initially heard Jones’ story, she believed he should have just cut his beard off. But once she learned that he was allowed to participate in other school activities with facial hair, she thought the rule was being unfairly enforced on a very important day.
In a statement, Jackson and Wright said, “He was unfairly excluded from the most important day of his life. A beard should NEVER upstage academic excellence.”
Jackson continued,” It’s wrong to enforce that policy on a young man who had worked so hard to achieve his goals. Students are responsible for following rules, but we as adults are responsible for enforcing them. As adults, we can’t arbitrarily enforce rules. This was a rule that was never enforced until graduation.”
I happen to agree. Obviously administrators didn’t take the rule too seriously throughout the school year. Furthermore, this reads as yet another attack on our hair. The trend of shaving mustaches and beards is a very European one, while many Black men (and Black women) prefer facial hair. We all know that beards are all the rage these days.
But that’s another story. I’m happy that Jones got to have the ceremony he deserved. And with achievements like the ones he made in high school, I’m sure with the places he’ll go, all of this unnecessary drama will one day be a distant memory. Life is so much bigger than high school.
Last week we published our exclusive interview with actress T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh where she talked about her acting career, diversity in the industry, why she retired for a while and her thoughts on Raven Symoné’s comments on “The View.” But when it got to the topic of her hair, Keymáh had a lot to say. So we decided to break up our conversation into two parts. Check out her hair journey below.
I know that you wrote a book about natural hair. And I don’t think I consciously recognized that as long as we’ve seen you on tv, you’ve been natural. How was it received back then and how is it received now?
I wrote a book about it for a reason. Laughs. Actually, for a few reasons. I decided to write the book early on. When I was still on “In Living Color.” And I didn’t actually write the book until some years later. I was on “Cosby” when I finished the book. There was a while when I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t really need to write this book anymore. People are starting to wear their hair natural.’ Because when I started there was no one. No Onnnnne. You might find a couple of people with locs, a couple of people with a short afro. But no one was styling natural hair so they did not know what to do.
I remember when I came on the set of “In Living Color,” and the hair person looked at me and she said ‘Look at all this hair. I love it!’ And then she reached for a hot iron. And I said, ‘No, no, no.’ And she said, ‘So…what…oh…um…” And I knew right then, I’m in trouble aren’t I? She didn’t know what to do with my hair and no one on the show did and no one that they knew did. And this was the show—In Living Color’s crew was phenomenal…everybody on that lot was at the top of their game and they didn’t know anybody. So I did it myself and they watched me.
They didn’t even try to do it after that.
The beauty of that show is that it allowed for that completely because we wore wigs on the show and so it didn’t matter what my real hair was doing because you didn’t see it until the end of the show. And I could do whatever I wanted at the end of the show. Had I begun working in television on a different kind of show, I don’t think that would have been acceptable because someone would have had to comb my hair all the time and no one knew how. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been ok…but maybe not.
So, at that time it was very frustrating that nobody knew how to comb my hair. And I thought, ‘I’m going to get them a book on how to comb my hair.’ And there was not one. There was not one book on natural hair in 1990. So I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should come up with something so nobody else has to go through this.’
At the next job I had, which was “On Our Own,” they went and got somebody from the hood and brought her in to do my hair. They didn’t want me to have to do my own hair because it wasn’t just a minute at the end of the show. They looked and couldn’t find anybody in the industry and we ended up bringing somebody in, who eventually joined the union. And that happened time and again. And I’m very proud to say that I got people in who probably would have not. Because it’s not easy to join any union.
Over the years, more and more people started wearing their hair naturally and now, it’s a revolution and not at all a thing.
But early on, I was told straight out by casting directors, ‘Oh, you’re so pretty, if you would just do something with your hair, I could hire you for this role.’ My hair just was not considered attractive. It was not considered acceptable and people didn’t want to deal with me with my hair naturally.
You can look at movies, even now, at who’s wearing their hair naturally and who’s not. And the kind of roles you get with natural hair and the kind of roles you get with straight hair. I was offered things that negative characters have natural hair, positive characters have straight hair. Downtrodden characters have natural, curly, kinky, nappy, coily hair and you get cleaned up and have straight hair. And that’s the fairy tale lie we’ve been sold and I hope never to buy into that. That would do a disservice to every girl of color, every girl of kink in the world.
I call it my David and Golith…I’m there with my slingshot and Golith has got that big ole hot comb.
It’s changed a lot but you don’t have to look far to see the meaning, in film and television, of natural hair vs. straight hair. The battle is not over yet.
So did you never have a relaxer?
Oh yeah! I grew up by the stove with every Black girl of my generation, hiding burnt ears on picture day and at funerals. And learning that I was unacceptable as I was, learning that I was not attractive as I was, that I could not take a proper picture in my natural state. That something had to be done with me, to be pretty, acceptable. And so, I was in that group, absolutely.
As I got older and friends started getting perms, I didn’t understand it. I thought permanent meant you did this thing once and you couldn’t go back. And when I went away to college, right before I went away, the lady, Mrs. Lee, who lived on the corner of my block, gave me a perm. And I thought, ‘This will get me through college.’ And a month after I get to school, my new friends are telling me, ‘Girl, you need a touch up.’ ‘What’s a touch up?…Oh no, you mean someone other than grandmother or Mrs. Lee or my sister is going to have to do my hair?! Nhhmmm umm. Not going to happen. So I started cutting my hair and by the time I came home for Christmas, I had a short, curly fro because I was putting whatever in it, Pink or something. And I had cut out the perm by the time I came home for Christmas. Shocked everybody. But I liked that freedom. And that was my first foray into natural hair.
Then, when I pledged a sorority, the pressure of looking “acceptable.” I said, ‘I better get a perm so these girls will like me.’ So I got my second perm. My hair wasn’t having it. I had this permed natural, the whole time I was on line.
But I kept that going. After school I came back and I started modeling. And because of one of my teachers and mentors, I started investing in wigs. And I got a wig that looked like what my hair looked like when it was straightened and curled. I would go back and forth between the wig and the real hair and straightening it and wearing it naturally. And I missed that freedom that I had when it was natural and I never got another perm again. I got touch ups but once I cut that out, I never did that again.
So, I was modeling and I got called for something called “Relaxed Look.” And I’m naive still, I’m thinking it’s something that looks like your hair’s relaxed even though it’s not. And they started talking about money and I’m spending that money in my mind. And they had only called for models with natural hair. So I’m thinking it’s a natural hair product. So cut to they love me, they want me… When they said, ‘And if it takes…’ my mind didn’t hold on to that. So by the time I’m sitting in the chair, getting this chemical slapped in my hair, I realize ‘Oh, I’ve got a curl!’ It was actually a wonderful campaign… and the commercials aired on “Soul Train” which made me really cool. But I didn’t like having a curl. And I never got even one touch up. And if you think that your hair will break out after a perm if you don’t get a touch up, get a curl.
Not long after that, I guess maybe the next year, I auditioned for “In Living Color.” So my hair was broken off so bad, I had it braided tight to my scalp. And I didn’t ever wear it out. And it was like that when we shot the pilot. It was nothing that I could do with it. And when I got home from shooting the pilot, I went straight to a barber shop and I said cut off everything. And I have worn my hair naturally since then. And that was in the summer of 1989.
So you were way ahead of the movement.
And you know what tickles me–I remember the day that I was watching “Soul Train” and Cicely Tyson came on that show with those braids. And I thought this has to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m sure that that was somewhere in my brain, the whole time after that. And thank God for her! To show me what was possible in me.
When I was questioned whether or not to write the book, I started doing my research and I saw, ‘Oh there are a lot of other books on the market. I don’t need to do this book anymore.’ Then I look at my fan mail and it’s still people saying, ‘How do you do your hair like this?’ And I thought, ‘Well, people still want to hear from me about my hair.’
And most of the books [about natural hair that existed before mine] were informational and not attractive. And no offense but I noticed that none of them were beautiful. None of them said this is how beautiful Black women are. This is how beautiful natural hair is. And I discovered later why. It’s because beautiful books are very, very expensive. So most of the books, if they had pictures, they were smack in the middle or they were in black and white. You didn’t pick it up and ‘Wow.’ So I said, I’m going to make it beautiful as I possibly can, which meant full color photos for every style. I want them to have the Cicely Tyson reaction that I had.
And what surprised me– I thought the women that are thinking about wearing their hair naturally, the women who’ve just converted and they don’t quite know what to do next will buy this book. And they did. The book was very successful. (I’m working on the second edition.) But what surprised me was the single dads or weekend dads that wrote to me saying, ‘Thank you so much because so-and-so was looking tore up because I just didn’t know what to do.’
And the White moms saying ‘Thank you so much, I have such a better relationship with my daughter now that I know how to comb her hair.’
And I thought, ‘Wow, I did not see that coming.’
And the other thing that trips me out is when I see an older women with the natural hair and I want to go up to her and say, ‘Hey girl, you’ve probably been doing it a long time before I.’ And they say, ‘Oh, you were my inspiration.’I get a kick out of this wave of people who, thank goodness, have a no memory of natural hair being odd.
You can purchase Natural Woman / Natural Hair: A Hair Journey, here.
One of the best things about summer is the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sun. Rooftop pool parties, lunches on the patio, dancing around at festivals, and tropical vacations give us all a much-needed opportunity to soak up some rays.
When you are in the sun, it’s important to stay protected. And your hair needs just as much protection as your skin, or it could suffer from summer sun damage and end up dry and brittle.
But how do you know that you’re getting a little too much sun to the point that it could hurt your hair? The signs of sun damage are easy to spot — if you know what to look for. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve collected several surprising signs here. Plus, we’re presenting you with all the ways you can protect yourself while you’re enjoying the outdoors (without having to wear a hat).
One thing that always shocks, saddens and infuriates me are the ways in which people underestimate the intelligence and capabilities of young children. They’re brighter than we think and with each passing day, they gain more clarity about the world around them. And while it can be exciting, it’s simultaneously terrifying as these same children are picking up on the negative messages about our world as well.
We’re all familiar with the Kenneth and Mamie Clark Doll test. Their experiment has been referenced and even duplicated often to show the messages children, both White and Black, are internalizing about race and subsequently themselves. Those messages come from somewhere. Family, friends, school, teachers and even the media. So it’s imperative that young children, especially young children of color, view programming that affirms and uplifts their identities. It makes sense. And it would stand to reason that a children’s programming creators would not only recognize the importance of such a concept but seek to ensure that their programming reflects that choice.
Sadly, one cartoon dropped the ball on this front.
It happened during a scene from season 1, episode 12 of their show “Winx Club.” The show, the first Italian animated series to be sold in the United States, is about a teenager who discovers she has magical abilities and eventually enrolls in a school for fairies. At fairy school, the teenager and a group of girls form Winx. The show didn’t get picked up by Nickelodeon until season 3. So, while the offensive episode didn’t air in America, “Winx Club” is currently shown in over 130 countries. Children of different cultures and ethnicities all over the world saw this particular episode.
In it, the show’s lone Black character laments the fact that her hair, which is “usually straight” has puffed up into an Afro. She doesn’t call it an Afro though. She doesn’t have a name for the perfectly coiffed orb. Instead, she spends an entire minute wailing about the abomination that is her hair, that is the hair of so many Black girls and women across the world.
The implications of the scene cannot be overstated. With every sob, the message about the perceived ugliness and unacceptability of her now less than straight hair, her undeniably Black hair, is driven home into the impressionable minds of young children.
And the reactions of her friends to this hair is no better. At first, I thought they would try to encourage her to embrace this new texture. Instead, they poke and prod at it, cringing at the feel of it. Another group, the enemy of The Winx Club, a group of witches, sarcastically congratulate her on her new look, sending her running off down the hallway, still crying at her “misfortune.”
The scene has since been edited out of that particular episode but the fact that it ever passed inspection not only speaks volumes; it is extremely terrifying to think of the message children, especially the little Black girls who watched this cartoon, received from it.
— Val Smith (@MamaGameWinner) May 26, 2016
If you thought a little relaxer being snuck into your shampoo was bad, the truth is that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the trauma Black women are subjected to at the salon and Twitter just laid out each and every one with the hashtag #BlackSalonProblems. Be prepared to laugh out loud (and experience a twinge of PTSD) as you remember the struggle that is the Black salon.
— Aprill (@HeyAprill) May 26, 2016
Black women have always had a special relationship with their hair. We’ve all spent years having a love-hate relationship with it. Some days we fight with it, others day we turn heads because of it. But we all eventually learn to embrace it (or decide enough is enough and cut it all off).
And whether you wear it natural, you’re a weave chameleon or you keep it fried, dyed and laid to the side, Black hair teaches us a lot of lessons about beauty, about what our strands can withstand, and about the world around us. It’s true. Sometimes those lessons are for us, sometimes they are for the people around us. But Black hair always makes a statement, and part of the Black girl magic is being able to listen up.
What lessons has your hair taught you (or those around you)? Let us all know your black hair magic knowledge in the comment section.
Months ago, when Kim Kardashian was credited for making “boxer braids” a thing, Brande, our managing editor, was sure that we were being trolled. I wasn’t. I’m never too quick to dismiss the ignorance of White folks when it comes to Black culture, particularly Black hair. Even though Black girls and women have been wearing corn rows for centuries, I’m not sure that White people pay enough attention to us to even notice. Or perhaps, they were so busy learning how to recreate the style, they forgot to learn the actual name. I don’t know, can’t be sure.
But the most recent incident of cultural appropriation or example of revisionist history comes from Vogue.
This past Monday, Lupita Nyong’o stunned on the Met Gala’s red carpet. It wasn’t just her shimmery jade green dress; but it was the hair, sculpted to point up toward heaven, that had the people really talking. Of course it was African inspired. Black women have been crafting our hair into gravity-defying shapes for centuries. And most Black folk and cultured others could see that. Unfortunately, Vogue was not among that group.
While they reported that Nyong’o herself cited Nina Simone as an inspiration for her hair; in an attempt to bring a White woman into the mix, the publication dug through their archives to locate a picture of Audrey Hepburn rocking a beehive. And to add insult to injury, the headline asked:
Is Lupita Nyong’o the New Audrey Hepburn? Celebrating the Star’s Met Gala Hair
Instead of placing Lupita next to the woman she actually named as her inspiration, it was Audrey Hepburn. They mentioned that folks were saying her hair was reminiscent of a character in Dr. Seuss’ “Whosville.” They referenced a Marge Simpson meme before trotting out that picture of Audrey Hepburn’s updo from their 1963 photo shoot.
They didn’t stop there.
“And the similarities between the two ingenues extend beyond hair; both, like Hepburn’s famous incarnation of Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady,’ have mastered the art of transformation, from head to toe.”
Now, we’re likening a fictional character’s transformation to a real woman? I’m confused. Not only is one fact and one fiction, Lupita is nothing like Eliza Doolittle. If you recall, at the beginning of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle was busted and disgusted. She was dirty, couldn’t speak clearly and had never been anywhere or seen anything. That’s not Lupita’s story. Her father is a politician, her mother the leader of a cancer foundation. She attended Yale’s School of Drama. There is no struggle story here.
Even if Vogue wanted to compare Nyong’o’s character Patsey to Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle, it still doesn’t compute. Patsey was literally whipped for her desire to be clean, while Eliza was content to be filthy.
But if we’re talking about Lupita, the actual woman? From the moment she burst onto the scene, after 12 Years a Slave, she was flawless, fly, red carpet royalty. There was no need for a transformation.
Fascinating that because Lupita seems to have gained the approval of the mainstream that she must be likened to someone White people know, someone White people loved, someone who looks like White people, in order to be fully appreciated.
Not only is Lupita her own woman, she just wasn’t looking to Hepburn on the night of the gala. Furthermore, Hepburn’s stylists in the sixties would have likely been unwilling and unable to create that style on afro-textured hair. It’s a completely different process and an entirely different look. And Vogue knew this BECAUSE LUPITA TOLD THEM.
Their choice to ignore the information, to redirect the attention back to a White woman is more than just a matter of being ignorant, failing to take the time to do the research, or not having a full grasp of cultural appropriation. It’s just irresponsible. And, as Brande said at the top of the year, it is indeed trolling. They know better at this point and are simply refusing to do better. And that decision not only represents a clinging to the past, a refusal to update with the times and be more inclusive, it is truly disturbing in the way it attempts to silence yet another Black woman’s voice and her decision to pay homage to the Black women who came before her.
Thankfully, Lupita, with all her grace, handled the situation very tactfully. She created a slideshow featuring her real hair inspirations, all Black women, and @ mentioned Vogue in the caption.
If it were me, in addition the “think piece” above, they would have gotten this gif.
After six years of living in New York and one expired Missouri driver’s license, this morning I decided to transfer my license over to New York City. Which meant I had to go to the DMV. Which meant a trip down Harlem’s legendary, famous and infamous 125th street. I was walking from West and East. And in that nearly 30 minute journey you can truly see the diversity of Black people. There are the African woman offering to braid your hair, the Afro-Latinos who still surprise me when they start speaking in Spanish. There are the teen, native New Yorkers who are always speaking about nothing of importance with the utmost seriousness. The Caribbean immigrants coming out of the few health food stores. And then there are the Black Israelites, also known as the Hotep dudes.
I walked past all of these people but it was the Hotep man who spoke to me…or at me this morning.
“Who has more fun, blondes or Black women?”
For those of you who don’t know what I look like, over two years ago, I dyed my locs blonde. So, he was clearly speaking to me. But I was walking so fast, I was out of earshot by the time I would have been ready with a response. But the question, and more importantly, the implication behind it, lingered in my mind. I didn’t stop to engage with him so I don’t know the true intention of his comment but obviously it was said to elicit some type of reaction. And I wondered if he was trying to suggest that having blonde locs was somehow contrary to being Black; after all, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be Black and blonde.
In all honesty, this is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment about blonde being “un-Black.” Those who didn’t celebrate the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, took the “Becky with the good hair line” and ran with it. I saw several social media comments and even a meme or two that questioned the line, coming from Beyoncé, when she wears blonde wigs and weaves. The suggestion was that Beyoncé coveted that good hair so much, she’s worn it for years. So, it was a bit hypocritical for her to be mad at another woman who was born with that hair. [Faux] Deep.
Truth be told, when I contemplated coloring my hair, it took me a while before I was comfortable with even saying I wanted blonde. To me, the color I selected was more like gold but seeing as my hair is not metallic, it really was blonde. For a good minute, I wondered what my decision said about me. Was I falling into some type of subconscious desire to be a White girl?
It wasn’t until my mother sent me this image that I was able to make peace with the decision.
It wasn’t just the picture but also the Black, American Black people in the comment section who shared pictures of their Blonde-haired babies, relatives or selves, that helped solidify my decision, assuring that it wasn’t rooted in some Eurocentric worship. Blonde hair looks great on Black skin. And no one will every mistake the texture of my locs with a White woman’s hair. It’s drastically different. In fact, the blonde color makes the undeniably African texture of my hair even more apparent.
People tend to forget that the human race began in Africa. So all types of genetic diversity can ultimately be traced back to the continent, even the mutations.
But more importantly, we have to stop finding ways to separate ourselves as Black people. Ultimately the color, texture or style of someone’s hair doesn’t necessarily speak to their thoughts and priorities as a person. And even if it did, trying to have a discussion about it, as a stranger on the street might not be the best venue.