Going Natural

By Ugochi Obinma, Natanya Toomes & Lauren Holmes

Google search “why is black hair...” and the first suggestion Google gives in order to complete that sentence is nappy. 

Kinky, nappy or coarse. Regardless of how one might label it, the acceptance of black people’s hair texture has been a struggle. Stripped of their culture and eventually their self-worth, African Americans’ standards of attractiveness were molded into the idea that fair skin, skinny noses and straight hair were more appealing than darker complexions, wider nostrils and curler hair.

Mass media pushes the idea of straight, long, and “tamed hair,” but African Americans are making a statement and embracing their tight curl patterns. 

In recent years, celebrities and runway shows have adopted black hairstyles such as bantu knots, dreads and cornrows. Is natural hair a trend or statement?

Naturals began to resurface in the 1960’s when the phrase “Right on” was hip slang, the Black Power Movement was urban rebellion and civil rights activists like Angela Davis helped transition the afro from just a hairstyle into a symbol of Black empowerment. 

If the Black Power Movement ever had a logo, it would be the afro. Shaped like the perfect glass sphere, it represented the idea of throwing away the creams, hot irons and anything else that resembled the assimilation into white culture. African Americans refusing to fit into society’s box of hair beautification reinforce the idea that curly heads aren’t back, they were never gone. 

Danielle Scott, 24, used to perm her hair and ended up damaging it with different chemicals. But in 2008, she chose to go back to having curls. 

“The reason I went back to being natural was because of my mom,” Scott said. “One day she told me, ‘Hey. You look like you’re going bald right here’ as she pointed to my upper right temple. From that day on I stopped putting chemicals in my hair. The fear of being bald at 18 was beyond terrifying.”

Scott said transitioning back to her curly hair was time-consuming and took a lot of patience.

“My transition back to my curly hair was long and painful because the ends of my hair were super straight, had no volume and didn’t fit with the rest of my hair,” Scott said.