You know the song, “I am not my hair?” that came out in 2006 by India Arie? Remember how you felt when you first heard it or saw the music video? The many hairstyles India showed and hearing the song on the radio and lovin the lyrics? The song was, and still is, flat out inspiring. It told black women and little black girls that we are allowed to wear our hair however we please, because it’s "not our hair not even our skin that defines us, but the soul that lives within." Even though India Arie taught us, social media and surprisingly many people in the community think differently. In 2009, around the time social websites like Facebook and Twitter were becoming apart of the fabric of our lives,, my sister and many other black women were going natural. While I supported them, I stayed in my salon chair waiting for my stylist to base my hair and tell me how much new growth I had…again.
The natural hair movement became a liberating time for most black women. More women were loving on themselves, not giving into society standards on what “good hair” is or even just realizing how to better take care of their hair and having a healthier crown. It seemed like an exclusive club that you just had to either cut your hair or grow it out to get in! This change was amazing to see, but there is a flip side to this movement that I don't believe gets enough attention: the judgement. All of a sudden, everyone was up in your head, literally! Some women began to shade other women for staying relaxed. "If you continue to relax your hair then you don’t embrace your true self," was a constant party line I would hear. While others would talk about getting a perm equates to not accepting your blackness and the history of our people and our heritage. This became battle of the hair amongst black women in the hair community real quick, and I was not here for it.While this was happening, natural women were also getting their share of backlash. They were being told to go and get relaxers again, and favoritism was showed to the long straight styles. From all sides, I understood where they were coming from.
Personally, I also had many trials and tribulations when it came to my hair so I share in these experiences. I was never formally taught how to take care of my hair, so for a while, all my hair did was get relaxed. Never washed in between relaxers, no hot oil treatments or even deep condition treatments. Just a straight relaxer every six weeks. My sister, who was a year or two natural at this point, began to help and guide me to certain websites that would help me learn about my hair. She even gave me some products to use that helped her on her natural hair journey, things she still uses in her weekly regimen! I began to quickly notice that many of the “natural hair products” that her and many other natural women were using were also helping my chemically treated hair. So why all this discussion about differences? It's not a matter of relaxed or natural, at the end of the day it’s really just our hair, our beautiful black hair.
I am excited that places like Coil Beauty exist for us now to not only celebrate our differences, but find the similarities in each of our beautiful journeys. It is rare to find a place that doesn't place an emphasis on one vs. the other, and I for one am very pleased. Our hair is beautiful because of the fact that it’s our hair! Our hair is constantly getting looked at, ostracized, mimicked and judged by many other races of people who refuse to understand the history and legacy that our hair offers. So, we should embrace our hair, whether it be chemically straightened or a curly puff, because it is not our hair the defines us but who we have on the inside of us.