My Black hair is something I grew up hating, that I now I wish I had understood to love. The grace of the many different textures that come with it. The simple importance of black hair that many don’t know about. The love behind it and the power that follows. Hairstyles that always come with a story to tell that last generations. Passing down the techniques and lessons that come with each braid. It’s something that can bring a whole community together.
Starting back in Africa, African hair was something that was a part of your identity. It was a way to tell which tribe you came from and could identify your social status, including if you were royalty. Slaves would even use cornrows to create maps and escape routes in runaway slaves’ heads as well as hiding seeds for food later on. African hair was a way of survival. Around the time of the abolition of slavery, African Americans were still made to feel bad about not only their skin color but also their hair. Wearing a fro back then to white people meant our hair was not kept and “nappy.” A lot of that hate turned into self hate within African Americans wearing their natural hair out. Many started to perm and use hair care products on their hair to straighten it. Back then most saw white people’s hair in a better light because that’s what was being put out by white society. This is still an issue in the African American community.
I used to wish I could have long straight blond hair. It always seemed easier to take care of. I hated that I couldn’t go swimming without wearing a swimming cap because the pool chemicals would make my hair dry. Braids were my enemy as a child, having to sit for hours while I cried, because I was very tender headed and could not sit still to save my life. I got made fun of by the boys I went to school with as a kid, which made me hate my hair even more growing up. I remember when we would have “ Crazy hair day” and I would wear my hair the way I would to bed in a protective style tied up with a scarf. I thought that was quote, unquote crazy, when it really wasn’t. I watched all the white kids wear afros or curl their hair to make it seem nappy, which I didn’t realize was not right until I was the age of 14. It’s the racism of it all being brought up from the 1860’s that a lot of us still don’t know about.
Madam C.J. Walker, the first female African American woman to become a self made millionaire, is now one of the most important Black women in history to African American hair products. She went from being in poverty in the South, to becoming one of the wealthiest people in her time of upcoming. Ms.Walker had a scalp disease which caused her to lose most of her hair; it also came with the stress of all the physical labor she was put through. After Ms.Walker’s second marriage, she decided to change things around and joined a team of Black women who were all entrepreneurs, one of them whose hair products she had used in her own hair. About a year later she got married for the third time and launched her own hairline products and straighteners for African American women with not that much money in her pockets. She invented something called the hot comb, a straightening tool for Black hair, as well as wigs. which many Black women and men still use to this day. It was a terror to me when I was little but I grew to love it. Her products carried on all the way to this century. It’s crazy to think about how much of an impact she had on Black hair products.
Many people I know are hair stylists. It runs in my family, not me, but I’ve always found myself lucky to know somebody who was able to do my hair. It’s often hard to find Black hair stylists, especially for Black women and girls.
“ I used to practice on my dolls while my mom would braid my hair. I knew once I got older doing hair was something I wanted to do,” said Kirsten Montogomery on the dream of going to cosmetology school for hair.
That’s where it starts for most girls, the braiding hair of a Bratz dolls head that brings back so many memories. I always looked for Black Barbie dolls, but there weren’t many when I was growing up, especially with my type of hair. This is what caused a lot of me wishing I had straight hair as a kid. Once middle school hit, I started to feel as if I needed to have straight hair to fit in and feel pretty. I used to come to school with my hair braided or in a bun and people would touch my hair without asking. I felt like a pet. This happened a lot at my predominantly white elementary school as well, and it wasn’t just the kids, it was the parents too. I never understood why that wasn’t right until I got older, but even as a kid it didn’t feel right. During 7th and 8th grade I would straighten my hair so much, which isn’t good for most black hair, especially 4a/4c hair. 4a through 4c hair is more of a tighter curl pattern for black hair. I also straightened my hair a ton these last three years of high school, until about November of 2019, when I stopped because I noticed my hair was breaking off more and more. I haven’t straightened my hair in over a year now. I’ve used protective styles such as box braids, lace fronts and even wearing my natural hair out. I’m very proud of my hair journey because I’ve grown to love my hair. Black hair is beautiful and always has been and I’m glad I was born with it. I hope one day I am able to teach my kids to love their hair before society ruins their image of it. It’s always been beautiful.