Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Should we have an ‘Afro pride’ day?

..to help us celebrate the 'afro'/'nappy' hair type, make people get over the notion that it is an aberration of nature, to challenge the fear and non-acceptance of the hair type as valid and beautiful.

Would a ‘afro hair day’ (or week), give each of us bw the necessary support and encouragement to embrace our unique hair type, in the knowledge that as we walk around there will be sisters ‘freeing the fro’ all around us! This might break down the shame and the fear of being the lone sister with the afro and all the snide remarks and singling out which is enough to put most bw off.

Maybe a day or week like this would force upon the conscience of society that black hair must be accepted as it comes, in afro variety and it is neither shameful nor abnormal, because right now and as has been for generations there seems to be a concerted effort to shame the hair type into hiding!

That’s the part that we didn’t address with the Don Imus incident.

Apparently the natural hair on black head is the most offensive attribute of blackness. Whether you call it afro or nappy it is maligned the world over, to be tucked away and kept out of sight. A mark of some sort of ‘unevolved’ state.

These days black skin is normalising, black noses are in vogue but the appearance of the real black hair brings shock, with people (black and white) crossing to the other side of the road to flee such an abomination and avoid being associated with it by the question, “Is that how your hair grows as well”.

Three women were chosen to help design the recent Tony and Guy shampoo collection; Erin O’Conner, Helena Christensen and the shampoo for black hair is fronted by the singer Jamelia. It seemed like such a coup that a bw would front a mainstream campaign and black hair was being 'included' into mainstream as well. But in the ads, Jamelia has wavy hair down to her back; clearly a weave!

This made me very uncomfortable because we are talking shampoo here, and I was expecting an acknowledgement of the black hair type unless we are talking about shampooing a weave!

Indeed I went ahead to review a widely distributed CD on incorporating the shampoo into styling. The black woman they choose to go through the process had bone straight hair as any Caucasian (She was clearly mixed race)! I mean I am ok if they had to straighten the hair but the fact that they were so uncomfortable to start with the afro texture, threw me for six! Is the hair type that abhorrent to mainstream eyes!

Why is there this discomfort about acknowledging that our hair grows nappy? Has the wider society picked up on our anxiety that they would rather go along with the notion that straight hair sprouts from black scalp.

I forced myself to watch the white hairstylist (apparently well known), work on the Caucasian models just so I could compare notes and indeed, never once did she use the world unmanageable, nor frizzy and never once did I see her do the uncomfortable face twitching and the sucking in air thing she kept doing, as she referred to various aspects of the black hair type and the immense effort that would be needed with ‘it'. The Caucasian models hairs were approached with so much enthusiasm like she was so happy to get stuck in.

I totally get why bw feel a need to hide their hair type, there is no denying that we face rejection (particularly from BM), criticism, face being mocked for showing what God created us with. Bw already have it hard and it can become harder from the dating scene to the workplace if they go natural, so no one can convince me to blame sisters one bit for trying to get by. Indeed those who talk about pride in blackness and all that, make me want 'to tear my hair out in frustration' because they never want to grapple with fact that bw will face a tough journey for this choice. They dont want to talk about how we all can asist this process, they instead expect and want each bw to brave it alone and without any upholding, beings made of steel that we are. They get 'incredulous' that many bw might just not want to deal with all that. I guess bw dont deserve to safeguard their feelings and sanity, I mean how dare they think of personal safety and comfort!

I think the situation feeds off itself because white and black folks don’t learn to become comfortable with nappy hair, when we ‘hide’ it and this non-acceptance further causes us to continue to keep up the impression we are born ‘straight’.

So would a ‘Afro/Black/Nappy/Natural’ day help begin changing the climate, begin offering the support and safety in 'general outing' that would begin to encourage sisters to embrace their authentic self?

Any thoughts?

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