Bantu knot out results, big and huge curls

7 Thoughts On The Natural Hair Movement

what is the natural hair movement?

1:

 In recent years, there has been a swell in the number of women choosing to style their hair without the help of chemical and heat straighteners. A swell so noticeable that it’s been given a name: the natural hair movement.

Amongst colored women, there are those who praise its benefits. Some even go so far as to shame the women who choose to continue using relaxers or to straighten with heat. There are others who believe the movement only belongs to a certain race, or even hair type. (See: “curlism”.)

Many women reject the entire political aspect of the movement. They claim it has nothing to do with them. I’m not sure where I fall on this scale, but I do see where this last group is coming from. I have only just defined and experienced this movement as it relates to me, personally. Before I really did my research, I associated the natural hair movement vaguely with the feel-good 1960s slogan “Black Is Beautiful” and the militancy of the Black Panther Party.

2:First, I must explain that I am Belizean-American. Raised between two cultures, it has taken me a while to figure out what that means to me.

Growing up, I always felt separate from black people. The history section about slavery in school was for them, and for me to merely wonder about because even though my skin was black — they had long since made it clear to me that I was not one of them. I didn’t speak like them, I didn’t eat the foods they did, and I didn’t dress or style my hair the way they did. I was OK with this, as I related more to my friends from Mexico or Panama on all those levels anyway.

It wasn’t until college, when I met the woman who is still one of my best friends, that I found myself feeling like I had become part of the black experience in America. You see, she was black. She had grown up in the Denver Public School (DPS) system, surrounded by black people who never once tested or contested or taken away her blackness like they had mine. They could tease her for reading books and being white-washed, but everyone knew she was still black.

The more I hung out with her and got to know her family, I realized that the disconnect I felt – which comes from a dangerous habit of pigeonholing the black experience – had kept me from reaching my full potential as a black woman. Because I thought there was only one way of being black, I had never felt black before.

Because of this, I felt that the natural hair movement had always belonged to the truly black girls in the same way I felt the civil rights’ movement had been theirs and not mine while growing up.

stylish black girls ;)

3: Ruby, now my sorority sister and roommate of over three years, is the one who was interested in going natural in the first place. I watched as she got to know her hair better, and it slowly became noticeably healthier, bigger and softer. As kooky and new age-y as it may sound, she grew into herself. I had met her in the middle of her Black Power phase, and everything about her revolutionary personality started to make a little more sense to me when she stopped straightening her hair every day.

As she discovered new things, she would tell me about what a protective hairstyle was or which new oils she was trying out, but I would brush off her suggestions that I try them out. I was halfway interested, but in my mind those remained hers.

4: My initial reason for looking into the natural hair movement, so to speak, was to reclaim my curls. It was not a political statement, which I think is true for many black women who are going natural these days. It was my response to how robbed I felt by the fancy straightener I had purchased with the intention of combating the humid Floridian air one summer while visiting my mother. I felt personally victimized by the extent of the heat damage I had accrued in not even a year. My once vivacious hair had taken on a limp, lifeless persona.

Even then, with all my indignity, I could only muster the most half-hearted of transitions. I fell off the horse repeatedly. I had actually forgotten how to take care of my hair naturally, despite only doing so a couple years before, and I let it get dry and brittle and downright scary looking.

5

What eventually convinced me to give it a healthy go was, first and foremost, a picture of what my hair had become. Yikes! I was almost too ashamed to post this, but in the spirit of full disclosure…

asdfsdf

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IT IS A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES

The second reason, which you can see peaking out in the picture above, was new growth.  What I originally thought to be strangely stubborn and wildly fluffy patches compared to the rest of my hair, I came to recognize as my natural hair pattern which had the potential to curl up as lusciously as Ruby’s hair had begun to.

Bantu knot out results, big and huge curls

I started to properly care for my hair, moisturizing it regularly and paying attention to the ways in which it changed. Over time I began feeling more and more resentful toward the dead hair hanging from my could-be curls, until I couldn’t stand it anymore one day and chopped it all off.

My big chop results! So short!

6: What surprised me most about this journey, and I know it may sound silly, is that I ended up feeling more connected to myself and feeling beautiful in a much more natural way. Considering its called the natural hair movement, I’m not sure why this is the part that surprised me the most.

I thought I was so enlightened, so now in tune with being black, yet I was ready to literally burn my hair every two weeks or so because I felt uncomfortable going anywhere nice with my hair all frizzy. I loved when my hair sizzled because that meant it was going to be extra straight that time. I was convinced it was easier to do that way, that it would say nice longer, whatever that meant.

Straightening my hair constantly or using heat to get the more perfect looking curl was blocking me from getting to know my own texture and my own curl pattern. Instead of learning how to properly care for my hair, so that it could reach its full potential, I was fighting against it as much as I could.

I had the audacity to think of my own natural hair as wild and unkempt looking.

7: It may not be militant or overtly political, but I don’t think it’s right to disregard this – or one’s involvement – as being part of a movement. The conversation around natural hair is being shaped and is still changing every day. In addition to providing tremendous resources and a sense of community to the women involved, it has opened up discussions like this one:

I know not every woman feels like going natural is a statement, and that’s true. It’s definitely not. But it is indicative of a cultural shift that’s taking place, and we can’t ignore that.

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6 thoughts on “7 Thoughts On The Natural Hair Movement

  1. So I read this and watched the video you linked talking about natural hair. And I have come to the conclusion that wearing natural hair does not have to be a political statement or only for black people. It can just simply be you allowing your hair to “do its own thang” by flowing freely without ugly heat and chemicals being added to it. Its a way to feel more connected to yourself, as you said yourself, and to just be you because no one can be you better than you. 🙂
    Just my little input because you got me thinking, which is always a plus. 😉
    I absolutely love natural hair!!! Especially extra curly, big big BIG hair. Sometimes I wish my hair was super duper curly, but it’s not. So then I must embrace my dark, straight locks in all their glory as they spill over my olive toned skin. I say to myself, “You probably would get sick of curly hair if you had and you would have to talk to yourself into accepting it either way. Love it now and forevermore as it is.” 😀

    1. It’s true, the grass is always greener on the other side! Thank you for commenting, hermana, and I’m glad I made you stop and think. That’s always the goal 😉 ❤

  2. Thanks for writing about Natural Hair Movement…Hermana Marissa told me about it this evening and I just had to read it!! Keep up the good work!!! Reminds me to have pride in my curls!!!

  3. I get stuck on the word “natural,” because to me, any styling at all is not natural. Furthermore, shampoo is not natural, nor are hair cuts and moisturizing creams. But at the same time, it is all natural until you get into weaves or wigs, because it is growing out of your head, no matter if it’s straightened or not. So when people say “You should go natural.” I don’t know what it means. I have an idea of what they mean from what I’ve seen of this movement, but I think it should be called “chemical free styling” or something, because not even joking, this thought is on a back burner in my head about 10% of the time, which is a lot and it confuses me trying to understand what “natural” means.
    Aside from my confusion however, I don’t think I necessarily agree with the movement anyway. I think hair is one of the cheapest, freest, and truest forms of self expression, ever. So if you (general) will cut your hair to your liking, why not treat it to your liking as well. In your specific case, you seem to like it better “natural,” but I love my loopy curls and in order to get those, I need to hop on the chemical bus. I like my treated hair better because it is easier to put together in the morning and I love sleeping in as much as possible. I also like the way it moves and my natural hair doesn’t do that. The only “natural” styles I can do with my hair are, dreadlocks, waves, or an afro. And although these are cute styles, I have played them out (minus the dreads) for one, and they are harder to maintain for two. Basically, I think people should do to their hair whatever makes them feel fly, flawless, and happy. From bald, to brushing the ground behind you when you walk, if you dig it, it works.

    1. Essentially, I agree with you. I think hair is a beautiful extension of your self-expression, and I don’t think anyone deserves to be judged for the way they choose to style their hair (much in the same way no one should be judged for how they like their sex to happen or whether or not they like peanut butter). At the end of the day, it’s all just a personal choice.

      But I think even the fact that we have these opinions about hair, so carefree and whimsical, show just how much has changed in just the last few years. We can’t ignore the historical context of this movement. We can’t ignore that beauty has been centered on a European aesthetic for centuries, and while we think it may have shifted to something more encompassing — we still value girls with mixed hair and mixed features a little bit more than the rest because we get the sexuality of a black woman wrapped up in “softer,” more “delicate”features of a white girl.

      I don’t think of this as a movement in a sense that there’s an elected board and official meetings every other Saturday. But something has MOVED in our culture, there is now a space in this world for people to talk about their curly hair and the best ways to do it, and I think that’s too beautiful to write off as merely a personal choice and nothing more.

      I think motivations also play a big part of it: I was damaging my hair because I was convinced my hair looked ‘unkempt’ when it was left curly. I also call this a movement because even if it is just a personal choice of yours and you don’t want to be seen as being part of a movement, it still opens up questions like “Is it OK to wear your hair ‘natural’ in the workplace? Is that considered professional?” Two questions whose answers would have been a straight up no, not 30 years ago. ♡

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