Last weekend, I went with a close friend of mine at a hair salon in east London. My friend was getting a weave done, however, just sitting with her was such a ripe opportunity for me to observe how some black women act within the space of the hair salon.
10. The sharp smell of smoke that was piping out of one patron’s head as she sat underneath the dryer! I never noticed how thick the plumes of smoke can get.
9. How the rattail combs poke in and out of people’s heads as they undo their braids underneath their long weaves.
8. The stitching together of weaves could be a metaphor of how we need to stick together as black people.
7. The hot comb in its’ burning parlour sticks to the hands of the stylists as they form curls and straighten them for paying customers.
6. The glee of young children running around the salon, as their mums wait to get served.
5. All the stylists (more than 5) had relaxed hair bar one.
4. The sandy-coloured barnet of one stylists is the lightest in the room.
3. The unveiling of a long weave by one patron, track-by-track, reveals a much shorter do. She instantly looked uncomfortable.
2. The only males present are the babies.
1. I’m the only Afro girl present.
I. Langalibalele said:
Your post made me think: Hair and capitalism! Sounds like a good title for a book.
Francis L. Holland said:
It’s time to stop trying to subdue our hair, as white conquerors subdued and eventually annihilated the natives on the American continent. Does every attempt to forcefully subdue others involve at least a little bit of annihilation of at least some aspect of them.
And so we have to ask ourselves how much we are willing to annihilate our hair as part of our efforts to subdue it. Some of us hate our hair so much that we intentionally burn it and bathe it in chemicals that are as deadly as lye and chlorox. If we hate our hair that much, why not just cut it all off once and for all, as the white conquerors almost totally did to the population of Native Americans.
I know. Hair grows back. That’s why we have to chemically poison the roots and even rip out the hair follicles from beneath the surface of the skin.
Good luck to us. If we are entirely successful in our efforts, then our heads will be as natural and aesthetically pleasing as the reeking chemical factories that border Route 95 in Northern New Jersey. Just as those chemical factories are potential sites for terrorist attacks, let’s not forget that Michael Jackson once set his head on fire because his hair was full of flammable chemicals during the shooting of one of his music videos.
Is your hair a toxic waste dump? What would happen if you drank the chemicals that you are putting on your head?
Francis L. Holland,
You know when women started putting Orcre and henna on their hair, that started the trend for chemical enhancements. Why do black women have to be so much more purer than every other woman on earth?
Don’t tell me that henna is somehow natural, all things are made of chemicals and some thing that we think of as natural may be true, but doesn’t mean they are not harmful.
Nice post. I really feel for Black women. I love natural hair and I see the whole process of sewing someone else’s hair into you your for any reason as little off…
Alice Franklen said:
Rodolfo Valentin from New York also feels and take care for black women. The superb and famous hairstylist ( his salon is located in the middle of the glamour of Madison Avenue) takes care of the afro american girls. Visit his website and see his expertise. Great and unique in hair extensions, hair coloring, haircuts, etc.
Before and After
@I, Langalibalele, it is a good title!
@Francis, I think the topic about a black woman straighten her hair goes deeper than just chemicals.
@Hathor, I don’t think black women have to be the purest. But I do think we need to ask ourselves why we do things.
@mgrey, no comment.
Good questions “We do have to ask ourselves why we do things?”. Here is a book with the perfect answer “A New Earth, awakening to your life’s purpose”. But maybe read “Living in the now” first. Same author. I’ve been a natural for years, although breakage and new growth I still love my hair but I also love every other black woman’s hair natural, relaxed, weaved or bald. As long as they feel they are happy and feel good about themselves its okay for me. But all of them, us and every person on this planet will find the answer to why any of us do the things we do, be it, their hair, the way they dress, how they act, striving to be successful or beautiful or have power over others, depressions, blaming, playing the victum and so on. After reading this book I’ve learned to love most people as they are. Let me know what you think.
Francis L. Holland said:
Aulelia, I agree that issues of Black women’s and men’s hair go as deep and much deeper than chemicals, just like slavery went much deeper than shackles. That’s why I wrote this post called “Free Your African Hair” – to discuss this from a cultural, political and aesthetic perspective.
I remember being in Paris and being directed to the Chateau D’Eau Metro. It was full of wig shops and salons that catered to black women who had “hair issues.”
The amount of energy, time and resources that go into hair indicates that this a psycho-spiritual problem. We’re not talking about adorning or enhancing hair, but obliterating it, which is analogous to how much of our culture, our value has been denigrated, obliterated.
And many if not most of us are in denial about it because to see it that way would mean getting off of the addictive, hair butchery roller coaster and looking at what the behavior really means. And changing.
Personally, I love a natural woman, remember when Afros ruled in the ’60’s and 70’s. And they WERE beautiful. Its painful to see so much burned hair in Hollywood and in the White House. What a statement that makes.
And women who had really soft, nappy hair that naturally spiraled weren’t exactly welcomed in the realm of Afro-dom.
The Afro was just as fake in the psycho-social sense as the weave.
The Afro was fake in what way?
I’m sure there were people who had issues with less wooly, straight hair on a brother or a sister, but how is conked or burned hair “fake” like an Afro?
@thefreeslave, I think you make some valid points there about to what extent people change their natural hair.
@Hathor, I have to disagree fully here. How are Afros fake? Not all Afros are circular, some are floppy and loose. Ones curl pattern does not make you less black in my book.
You had to be there, to understand the full dynamics. I was speaking more about sixties and seventies. But it is still here. As for brothers one can take notice of my generations reaction when you change your hair from natural to relaxed. Freeslave is unique.
@Hathor, thanks for explaining in more detail. I just hope people know that there are some crazy lost fools out there that hate other black people’s hair for silly reasons like looser curl patterns but I for one do not.
Ramiie MRA (No Offence) said:
If Black men didn’t like artificial hair, and actively sought out girls with natural afros, would black women still use these hair pieces? I suppose my question is – are black women solely resoponsible for perpetuating the European look, because that is their choice, or are they influenced by the male gaze?
Most Black men pretend they like natural hair but would go out and get other women pregnant so their children do not have Black People’s hair. I was once told by a guy, he did not want a Black woman he wanted to have pedigree kids with nice hair. I told him he was stupid. Likewise, there are some women who say the same thing. They are only interested in non-Black partners. Black People at times are awful when it comes to hair, if another Black person has more hair than they do, it has to be a weave or wig and they wont’t stop sneaking a peek at your head in front of others. They ridicule you and act very silly. What if someone has hair issues and they have to wear a wig or weave or whatever because they are not comfortable with what their present situation is why does it have to be anyones business and be judge inaccurately.
DeBorah Ann Palmer said:
Just wanted to add that sometimes age forces Black Women to go natural. I’m going through Menopause as are many of my sisterfriends. Most of us have found that once estrogen production increases our hair starts to thin or change texture and chemicals go out the window.
When I was a teenager during the 70s I had my proud AfroSheen natural, then I went to the relaxers in the 1980s, the last being the Jheri Curl. For some reason in the late 1990s my body chemistry began to change and I had to stop relaxing my hair. The hair fell out into the sink as I combed it. Scary! Then and there I promised God that if He would restore my hair I would never relax my hair again! I have kept that vow. At the end of Feb. I’ll be 51, in the midst of the “Change of Life” so I cannot ever relax or straighten my hair again even if I wanted. Right now I’m sporting cornrows. Great for a cold climate like NY. Grace & Peace peoples.
marilu adamaer said:
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