Ten years ago, when I made my first attempt at valuing the naturalness of Black hair by locking my own hair, I had no idea that I was in essence making a powerful commitment to my own liberation of Black people throughout the Diaspora. As I look back on my own process, I am impressed by the similarities that exist between my process and the process of many of my clients and colleagues. For many of us, the decision to explore the natural state of our hair meant also exploring the stigmas and internalized oppressions that have been locked within our very consciousness.
Whether from Louisiana or Senegal or Haiti or Jamaica or Brazil, we are descendents of people who experienced the social, political, physical, cultural, and economic devastation of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. Our bodies and yes even our hair tells the story of what we in the persons of our ancestors faced and how they faced it. The devastation that we were subjected to cast our hair as nuisance, impediment and even horror as we cleared the swamps, farmed the plantations, built the roads, and mined the quarries. It is no wonder that the word “unmanageable” was applied to our hair. How could our hair be anything but unmanageable under conditions that were so unbearable?
Now we live at a time in which we can see natural hair worn by Black actors, professional basketball players, lawyers, politicians, police officers, doctors, hip hop artist, models, journalist, college professors, CEOs, and artists. You name the type of Black persons and there will be someone in that part of our community wearing their hair natural. We have resurrected the Corn Row and Afro of the 60′s and 70′s to rejoin that primordial Braid in a revolutionary marriage that is funked up with the Locks in a way that we have never before seen since ancient times. Baby we are bad and I am so glad to be a part of this moment in our hair-story.
My formal education in natural hair care was well developed at Locks ‘N Chops in New York City. There I learned about client services, technique, and the culture of natural hair. Having apprenticed there for three years, I was given a strong foundation upon which I could advance. I am so grateful to the tutelage that I experienced under its founders, Adémola Mandela and Orin Saunders. Each of them provided me with unique opportunities to grow and develop as a master stylist and natural hair culturalist.As the owner of my own private practice,
I have drawn upon those early lessons to advance our movement a step further.My unique contribution to our movement is the ability to challenge myself and my colleagues and encourage my clients to be “unmanageable” in the living of their lives. We must be unmanageable in the way that we respond to the remnants and modern day manifestations of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. We can’t afford to be managed. We must be unmanageable, unrealistic, and unreasonable because to be otherwise means to be complicit in our spiritual and cultural demise. Therefore our hair must reflect our unwillingness to compromise. As I work with clients we explore each other’s ability to be unreasonable with the social order.
We experiment with the destruction of the falsehoods parading as truths about what black hair is and what it is not. We confirm for ourselves that our hair is in the process of creating and co-creating beautiful natural hair styles we are healed and we are liberated.