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Untangling Roots

From cat walk to casual, the rising trend of natural black hair seems to be growing. But what is the reason for this rise in popularity? Could it be the increased use of natural hair gracing the runways? Are black women tired of dishing out time and money on weaves, relaxers and trips to the salon? Or is it not a trend, could it be a much bigger movement of self-love?

Concordia Student Angelique Chase, is a 100% natural haired black girl, she responded to this hair trend or movement question saying “I think black women are embracing their hair because there seems to be a shift in what was “in” at the time. Nowadays, there is a huge movement about loving the skin you’re in and being yourself, and I think that opened the door for us [Black women] not to be afraid or ashamed of what was growing out of our heads.  Big Curly hair is all over social media, and the appearance of this love for diversity has helped us realize that our differences make us magical and unique and that is something we should show off.”

Before The transatlantic slave trade brought Africans over as slave laborers and forced them to assimilate to white colonialists ideals of beauty; black people did not view their hair as bad. There did not have disgruntled feelings about their hair texture. They though their hair was beautiful.

In Africa hair is not just hair for many tribes, the history of hair is a long and impressive. There are different hair styles for different reasons such as age, religion, your marital status etc. of course there are different hair styles for occasions such as mourning, war, marriage etc. Hair is and was such a great way for personal identification that someone from one tribe can identify someone from a separate tribe just by the styling of said stranger’s braids. Hair is a part one’s identity and community.

Fast forward to 2016 and It is now far easier for black women to get the exact style of hair they want; from wigs to weaves to chemical straighteners. But many women seem to be opting out of those options and deciding to do the big chop (chopping off chemically straightened or damaged hair to grow out your natural hair).  Could this sudden change be due to tightening of purse strings or wanting to let their hair flow free?

Angelique, has had her hair natural her whole life, when asked why she says. “Honestly, at first I felt like there weren’t many options when it came to my hair, it was either I had cornrows or hairstyles that were childish. And the option of straightening my hair was appealing because I would look and feel older. But then I was introduced to twists and I fell in love with them! I look older and I can style my hair tons of different ways. The best part is my hair is in its natural state. I feel as I got older I learned that different makes me stand out, and that as long as I loved what I had, the rest of it is just background noise. It helps that our society is becoming more inclusive and I have seen women be more free and outspoken about their hair. It helped me love mine for sure.”

Angelique’s Younger sister Kendra Chase who has also been natural her whole life reflected on why she too goes natural. “I’m natural because I realized that there is not restrictions when it comes to determining what is or isn’t beautiful. Just like in many cases we are taught to shape ourselves into a way that is acceptable in society’s eyes. As if there is only one category of beauty. Embracing your natural hair is one step to embracing the real you, just like your character and beliefs, never alter something about yourself just because someone else says it’s not acceptable. Black hair is beautiful just like all types of hair. The moment when we start labelling what is acceptable and what isn’t, we constrict ourselves to seeing Beauty as one category. ”

Black natural hair has been viewed as “unruly” or “bad “Chris rock’s documentary “Good Hair” is a great example of the struggles and feelings that go along with having black hair and the challenges that black people across the world face with having natural hair. From not being hired because of your hair to being told to change your hair at school. Black people around the world face discrimination for something that occurs naturally to them creating a global sense of body dysphoria across the black community. Angelique put this global pain in plain terms saying “I think for as long as I can remember and as far as biblical times hair has been such an important part of a woman’s beauty. Women in general are very picky about their hair, because it is something we love and cherish and associate with being beautiful. For black women it is such an issue because we have been taught that our natural hair is unruly, nappy, unkempt or wild, making it ugly or of less attractive. So we were given products and treatments to straighten it so it would look like pretty white hair. This constant oppression and condescending outlook on our hair has made us work twice as hard to be seen as beautiful in our society. It is a topic we are VERY sensitive to”

Kendra also added “Ever since I could recall, people have always been saying that black hair is not “acceptable” unless it was straightened or braided. Anything would be acceptable as long as it was not out in its natural “kinky” form. I think women are realizing that there is no such thing as good or bad hair. accept that it is all unique in its own way. Just because one is more easily maintained than the other ,doesn’t mean that its better”.

Kendra also acknowledged the struggles of owning black hair saying. “Black hair is beautiful just like all types of hair. The moment when we start labelling what is acceptable and what isn’t, we constrict ourselves to seeing Beauty as one category.  Challenge of the day, gain the trust of your black friend and put a comb through her/his hair.(like root to tip) I’m not talking about a part of the head but the whole thing. Feel the beautiful struggle we have every time we do our hair.”

The trials and tribulations that have come along with owning black hair can be overwhelming like those countless hours sat on the floor in front of the T.V. while one of your parents tried to even out your hair to braid it. The sharp sting of those bobbled hair bands hitting you in the back of your head and those early hours spent trying to get your hair ready before school. But the strength resilience and history that come along with it makes it worth the struggle.

Angelique’s final thoughts on the subject were. “I’d like to say that it is a challenge; washing, drying and twists could take up to 8 hours. It is a day’s work and it’s time consuming and tiring and frustrating sometimes, but the end result is always so rewarding. I think our hair resembles us as black women; strong, resilient, rebellious, free, big, and beautiful; able to change and adapt to different situations come hell  or high water and still come out the other side; a jewel that should be appreciated and cared for because it is in fact black girl magic.”

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