It seems not too long ago that I challenged myself (as I usually do) to cut all of my hair off and start growing it all over again, but in fact, it’s been two years; and this Sunday, the 14th of December marked my two years anniversary!
To say I’m ecstatic is an understatement.
I quickly learned that cutting all of my hair to a length akin to that of an average teenage boy, is called the big chop. I did the ‘big chop’ for several reasons, but not too long after I started what I now fondly call my natural hair journey, those reasons became even more significant than I could have ever imagined.
You see, I’ve never been the type to fret about hair. In the past, I would never bat an eyelid even when I mistakenly cut a piece of hair while trying to take out my hair extensions or braids. To me, hair was just that- hair. It grew, it shed, it grew, it cut off, it grew; but either way, I was unconcerned. It was just hair and as long as I took care of it, and it looked good, all was well.
So when I did the big chop and started caring a whole lot about the condition of my hair, and not mainly how it looked, I could tell there was a difference.
Why a difference? Well, to begin with my hair was no longer in an altered state. Now void of any relaxers and harmful chemicals, my hair was able to take its true form- a texture that defied gravity. And as I continued to learn more about how to take care of these new roots that I had been denied the joy of knowing, I understood that the Black woman’s hair was not just hair. It was a statement.
I then understood the angst of fellow naturals who hated random strangers touching, or even asking to touch their hair. This unfortunately has happened to me by strangers whom I firmly tell no, and friends whom I’m happy to educate about the joy in going natural.
Even in a shrunken state, you stand tall and make a statement. They wish to know your magic.
I can go on and on about how I love my natural hair. It’s like this new extension of me that I never knew. The Afro hair is a wondrous thing!
With a splash of water, it shrinks back into tight coils, like an oyster safeguarding its precious pearls; and with a blowout, springs up, challenging its beholder to deny its splendour.
With a gun to your head, you were force fed. How can you call that choice?
When I hear some relaxed hair folks say that not having their hair natural is their choice, I laugh. I want to ask them, how can it be choice when your hair was relaxed even before you could read the 12 times table? How can it be choice when you’ve never known your natural roots for even a second? That’s not choice my dear. You were given none, when you were robbed off of knowing the whole of the physical you. However, I don’t say this, because I’m not one to argue with someone who is not open to receiving and thinking for themselves. I just pray they get it one day.
Like how can you say it’s your choice when you know nothing about the second option you should be choosing from?
You weep, but I don’t blame our mothers, they knew no better.
When you follow the history of Africans through the slave trade and colonialism, you begin to see that years of white supremacy and inferiority complex, continues to dictate the standards of beauty. How can a mother know better when the ones before her were brainwashed and made to hate what was theirs?
You go back through generations, and you find that most women don’t even know when they first got their hair relaxed. They don’t know this because they can’t remember, and they can’t remember because they were too young to be going through this deep rooted inauguration to self-hate.
“She can’t teach you what she doesn’t know.”
So mothers who only know relaxed hair and were never allowed to learn for themselves about their own roots and how to maintain it, do only what they know best. From as young as four or five years, they take their young daughters to the salon, or perhaps by themselves, relax their child’s hair.
As a result, this misinformed tale of the Afro hair being too difficult to manage or ‘handle’ gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of denial(from one’s true self) and hate continues to perpetuate itself.
They see us marching and taking a stand, returning to what we should have been, and they’re scared. Our hair is a political thing.
When you join a movement, this one being a hair movement, you begin to notice things you didn’t before. These could be subtle things, or glaring in your face things, but all the same, without wanting to draw any attention to yourself, attention finds you.
It’s old news about the many cases that have been reported of young girls in American schools being sent back home or expelled from schools for growing their natural hair. Heck, even the armed forces tried to censor what the black woman can do to her own hair.
This begs the question- If I can’t be natural and be the me that God created, what else can I be?
They see our changing mentalities, and that we’re loving ourselves and arming ourselves with knowledge, and self-love, that we’re now awake, but they will rather see us deprived of our true selves. They want us forever shackled. No longer in physical chains, but in that of the mind that takes self discovery and inner power to overcome.
You say you love me but you’d rather hide me. You’re ashamed and still not free.
Again, I laugh when some folks say “Oh, I’m natural underneath (under the weave), but their roots have never felt the kiss of the sun.
Just to make it clear, I’m not against weaves or braids. I still wear them whenever I please. However, I don’t ‘hide’ my natural hair in them 365 days of the year. I leave my hair out for at least a month in-between extensions. Mine, is not a guide on how to carry your hair, but I hope you get the gist.
Your hair is yours and you can do whatever you want with it, but when you’re ashamed to leave your house with it or let even your closest friend see it, then there’s a problem.
You cannot say you truly love and still be ashamed. For example, if you marry the love of your life would you keep him/her locked in doors or would you gallivant around town for all to see?
To such people, I believe you’ve taken the first step, but more work has to be done to get to true self love.
What excuses have I not heard? I say it they don’t matter! If there was nothing like hair extensions, hair straighteners, hot iron combs, and blow dryers, what would you do? Sit in the house for the rest of your life in order to hide your hair? *Sips tea*
I defy the laws of gravity, how am I not special?
I LOVE my hair and care nought what anyone has to say about it. Call it coily, kinky or nappy, it all translates to one thing- beautiful.
Before I went natural, I remember that I never cared or even worried at all when I combed my hair and saw that several strands had come off. However, now, with every strand that sheds as I wash in the shower or comb afterwards, I almost weep. I’m sad at the death of every strand. I’m that obsessed and in love with my ‘real’ hair.
I caress it and kiss it when I can. I’ve found something unique that was taken away from me and I’m whole.
I feel that you begin to own real self love when you can embrace the whole of you and still think- ‘I’m beautiful’
Don’t lie, I never had a chance! All you did was try to feed your conscience and say that you tried. But did I really stand a chance?
Some people ‘have a go’ at being natural for like 2 weeks or a month and then throw in the towel and say “Oh well, I tried!”
You were force fed with relaxers from birth, don’t think embracing your natural roots would come easy or without any troubles.
It took you up to a year to learn how to walk, don’t think relearning all that you thought you knew about you wouldn’t take as much time. Give it time.
I’ve had my moments. Those infamous bad hair days when I dislike my hair texture or colour, but even in those moments I knew it was all a phase and would pass. So I fully understand when some people try at being natural but then turn back to relaxers.
However, I will never say being natural is not for everyone because I find that saying silly. Like how can being your true and authentic self not be for you? But, due to the way these people have been conditioned from birth, I accept that it’s their choice to do whatever they like with their hair. But could you please not also force feed your future children with relaxers?!
Teach them with love, the beauty of their own true roots, and when they grow they can decide for themselves if they ever want to use relaxers. That would be true choice.
I know I can be stubborn and wilful, but with your care and love, I’ll blossom. I’ve seen it, and this I know is true!
Put simply, going natural is hard. It takes patience, an open mind to learn that which should have been learned, and time. But most especially, it takes you to believe in you and deciding that no matter what, through the good hair days and the bad hair days, your hair would be yours and yours alone.
It also takes you to understand that irrespective of what society may think, or even those in the black community who are blinded by this truth, your hair is UNIQUELY yours and BEAUTIFUL.
Never forget that!
I am not against weaves, braids or relaxers(if you truly choose this), I’m simply saying it’s about time you get the dust out your eyes and embrace the reality of the real you. If you’ve not truly given ‘going natural’ a chance, you ought to.
I went natural in order to ‘experiment’ and challenge myself into finding out what my hair would be like without relaxers. At that point all I remembered from when I was a toddler was broken combs and teary eyes whenever it was time to do my hair, so as you can imagine, I was very nervous to cut all my hair off and go natural, but I love a good challenge, so I did.
However, my reasons for going natural immediately shifted from an ‘experiment’ to a journey of true self discovery, which was not only about my hair, but the history and symbol it carried whether I liked it or not.
Now all I say to myself is “You should have done it years ago! Imagine the big afro you would have had by now?!”
But you know what?
Better late than never 😉
Photography: Angela Ogunfojuri