Posts Categorized: Shop Talk

December 6, 2010

Are Natural Hair Blogs Too US-Focused?

Kagem from natural hair blog Charcoal Ink recently asked my perspective on this topic & you can read my thoughts over on her site. Thanks to Kagem for reaching out, but I’d also love to hear your thoughts.

If there is in fact a growing monopoly on the natural hair blog scene, is it something we’re intentionally contributing to & if so is this something that needs to be addressed.  No doubt, the growing majority of natural hair blogs do exist here within the United States, though if there is a direct a harm being caused to the natural hair community as a whole I admittedly failed to see it.

I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that the greater inspiration should be to want to share in our growing experiences no matter the continent, state or region. I’ve been a long time reader of Charcoal Ink, & other popular sites such as Natural Belle & Naturally Sexy, and continue to find  a wealth of information as well as inspiration.

Often times it’s simply a matter of perspective, yes? I was born here in the US and am sharing my experiences as that of a person who grew up with parents from the Caribbean, raised in New York & have a cultural history that greatly influences many of the decisions in life, including my decision to go natural. More often than not, I enjoy hearing about the experiences of others, where they were born, what inspired them to go natural, what obstacles they had to tear down in order to feel comfortable rockin a natural hair style…these stories I believe are what inherently drive this ‘movement’ & it is what will hopefully sustain it. I’ll always be open to hearing about a fellow natural’s hair journey…no matter the miles or distance that separates us…, but how to make this happen.

October 13, 2010

My Life, My Hair

It could be that I’m simply feeling the pressures and uncertainties of the daily work/school grind lately…but I’ve been aggravated and just a tad angry. Why?  Dunno…but sneaking suspicions point me to articles like this one posted on The Fresh Express recently. The comments, arguments and insinuations that have sparked from this debate have my nerves in knots.

Now, if every woman rocking a natural is doing it because it is trendy, let me be the first to say that they are well within their right to do so (no matter how wack I think it is).

I just want to know why. Where did this trend start? Who started this trend? I am a bit secluded from the world since I spend my days around mostly “educated” people in school and on Twitter. Is this wide spread among ALL women or just a small percentage?

With this whole viral age we live in, you can imagine how swiftly the comments began to troll in, but this is to be expected. On the other hand what continues to surprise me is the ‘debate’ that often always follows. Personally, it feels like an incessant circle leading to nowhere. Right hook…than left to see who’s attack wins the fight…who’s better and why.

I can tell you what came as a surprise after reading this dribble article…the varying perspectives many people still have about women who go natural. Duh…right? In 2010 we’re associating going natural with a sense of elitism, superiority, inferiority (are we allowed to have both?!) and all other buried complexes black women have had to deal with over the years.

Why did I go Natural? Mind you…there was never one ceremonious reason shadowing me over the years…I had several. Dang it…and rightfully so, that’s how my rational/irrational brain & I roll.

(as I bow my head for the upteenth time)…Because over ten years ago I saw something in the eyes of a stranger. A photograph of a young, black female in a major publication wearing a short cropped twisted  hair style, eyes gleaming…skin radiant and beautiful. Beautiful is what she was. At the time I was in college and could quite easily count on both hands the amount of times I’d come across this emotion while flipping through the pages of a magazine publication. I know…because I’d often save those rare emotions.

That was it….or, that’s all you get. Because often times choices in life are  in fact personal and need not be deciphered, picked apart & thrown to the unknown masses for no other reason than sensationalist blah…blah…blah. This is my right …God given or not & realizing this many years ago has enabled me to be more than comfortable with as many reasons I have & choose to carry around in my lucky brain.

If you are not here to support this ‘movement,’ ‘progress’, ‘trend’ (though I choose not to identify with ANY of these terms) and understand it from a place of sincerity, then I care very little for your intentions. That is all.

I know when and where issues with my natural texture exhorted from…and I wonder if the majority of the newly kinky/curly femmes also know for certain. I had them….MANY of them which had to be dealt with.

I still wonder if it was as traumatic for her as it was for me. There she sat in my dining chair, my beautiful 11 year old cousin* with a head full of matted, tangled hair. I stood over her slowly trying to pull my comb through it, cursing myself for thinking I could turn back the tide. “How did it get like this?” I thought. After more than an hour of sectioning and detangling I gave up, pulling her shoulder length hair into a ponytail, matted pieces and all.

More here.

A while back I stopped giving reasons as to why I went natural. If asked by another person entertaining the thought of going natural, I offer my own short-cropped response because…honestly my brain is bummed. We  both decided it was okay not to offer a three minute soliloquy on the issue unless the intent is to help another person reach some kind of decision. And if this person strikes me as sincere, all the better. Granted that even though my decision sucks at times, particularly at several of the natural hair meet-ups I attend… it’s come to be my decision. I don’t apologize for it & rarely do I explain why because with all due respect and frankness…it’s none of your business…nor is what you do with your hair any of mine.

July 23, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics | What’s Really in Your Shampoo?

The Story of Cosmetics, released on July 21st, 2010 at, examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo. Produced by Free Range Studios and hosted by Annie Leonard, the seven-minute film reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives. The film concludes with a call for viewers to support legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products.

This was a great introduction into a world we certainly knew existed but could not see due to bureaucracy and just plain money grubbing fools. Defintely not surprised to hear a few familiar top brands mentioned in the piece, considering they’re the leaders in hair care/skin care products sold across the world.

To read more about The Safe Cosmetics Act & to get involved click here.

*via The Health Beauty Project
July 22, 2010

Straight vs. Natural


First time I went natural many years ago, I hid. I shied away from family, friends and often times the same mirror I struck a pose for countless times as a little girl. I was afraid to show those in my life, who’d meant so much over the years- for the first time, my authentic self. It was a slow evolution – I donned hats in the summer, then slowly revealed tiny twists & coils to friends, then plaits to family & coworkers.  Time was necessary for all the right adjustments, yet soon enough being natural became more entwined with my sense of self than any other choice I’d made up til that point.

It’s tough. I really can’t think of anything else to call ‘it’ – it’s a complicated, sordid web of “am I or aren’t I my hair?” All of us, men/women come from similar/dissimilar backgrounds that lend themselves to each of our respective identities, cultures and reasons for doing what we do day in & day out. Wearing our hair – women, choosing to go natural and changing their own “norm” is the oldest form of self discovery – yet it’s still one that leaves us open to the most criticism.

Whether you need to step over the naysayers or tread all over them to find the better understanding you’re entitled to…do it. Do whatever makes you happy. Find your self, explore your worth and screw whoever intends to get in your way.

Interesting documentary, would love to hear your thoughts!

July 9, 2010

“I Don’t Have Good Hair…”

The above picture is of my halo fro after a humid inducing night in NYC heat, and it is what I instinctively thought of after reading what Tami had to say in another eloquent piece on natural hair. I continue to have my own reserved thoughts on the idea of ‘Good Hair’ and it’s negative implications on this natural community I’ve fallen head over in love for…but until I can saddle up my own functioning thoughts and empower them to paper, It’s great to hear another person’s thoughtful perspective.

This morning at the doctor’s office, a friendly African American nurse became entranced by my hair. She patted it gently while measuring my height. “I love your hair!” She stole glances at my thick chunky ‘fro/week-old twist out while taking my blood pressure. Then, peering closely at my head, she asked, “How did you get it that way?

Me: “I just put a few big twists in and took them loose.”

Nurse: “Hmmm…What grade of hair do you have? Does it curl naturally? Do you have good hair?”

Me: (pause) “Well, my hair is natural. I don’t have any chemicals in it.”

Nurse: “Oh, yeah, then you’ve got that good hair. It’s cute!”

Good hair. If there are two more loaded words in the black beauty lexicon, I don’t know what they are.

Here is what I find curious every time I have had this discussion since deciding to go natural (and I have had it numerous times): I don’t believe in the concept of “good hair,” but I know exactly what type of hair black folks are referring to when they invoke that phrase…and it ain’t mine.

My hair is not silky. I don’t have big, uniform curls. My hair grows out and is thus slow to reveal its true length. It’s super thick and not combable when not wet and well-conditioned. No one, back in my hair relaxing days, ever put the words “Tami” and “good hair” together in a sentence. In fact, my stylist used to make a big show of having to go in the back and get the strong stuff to tame my kinks. In its multiple textures, my hair reveals my racial heritage–most especially my African roots. I love my hair. It is great hair. But it is not good hair–not in the way my kindly nurse meant the words.

So, why do I (and so many of natural-headed friends) get accused of having “special” hair, when our manes are really unremarkable? I suspect it is because black women are taught that big, kinky curly, fluffy, non-combable hair can’t be pretty–that hair that reveals its African roots isn’t “good.”

I have written often of my weariness at white people exoticizing my black hair. But what makes me sadder than having my looks marginalized by the majority culture is when my own people, convinced as they are of our hair’s deficiency, communicate their conviction that only exceptional black hair can be pretty, when they marvel at my hair for doing precisely what theirs might do without chemicals or weave.

Now, I dig a compliment as much as the next person. If feels good to know someone else thinks my hair rocks as much as I do. But these encounters with other black women often leave me lamenting our collective lack of knowledge about our own natural tresses (this is what happens when you relax, weave and wig from the cradle to the grave) and how good they can look. I am left damning the the Eurocentric beauty standard and the hold the notion of “good hair” has on my people.

via what Tami Said

May 27, 2010

Happily Growing

I’ve only been natural for a little over ten years, & I say only simply because it was not until recently that I’d unequivocally & splendiferously… fallen in love with my hair. Hey, it does happen.

So it came as a surprise when feelings of envy began to slowly creep in after hearing & watching those who today proclaim their one year, three year or even one month ‘nappiversary’ to the world, allowing the naysayers & even those on board for the journey know that this does indeed go way beyond ‘just hair.’ After ten years, I’ve long since stopped marking these occasions, instead I look towards networking!

In the community of natural hair, there are connections to be made, twist-outs to admire, inspirational words to pocket and pass on to other naturals along their way, & for these things and countless more, I’m eternally grateful. Networking is a practice many mentors, colleagues and even a few high school advisers would often hint as the # 1 tool in procuring a job. Not only were they right, but using this tool in numerous other areas of life can reap some amazing results as well.

Ten years ago there wasn’t a Black Girl With Long Hair to turn to or a Natural to post beautiful pics of Fro on, there was simply a hand-held mirror, a bevy of doubt and a continual lack of support.  Today we have endless sites and blogs devoted solely to caring for natural hair, many whom have also gone above & beyond in planning local Natural Hair Meetups & product swaps in their respective cities. If you haven’t already attended a natural hair meetup, be proactive! Search for one in your town, city, congregation or better yet, start one yourself!

Thankfully today there is a strong support system in the natural hair community, one that is growing each day. If there is a social platform out there, no doubt the ‘naturalhair’ likes will congregate, discuss & be merry. As recently as last year, many natural hair women have taken to Twitter to discuss and support each other during an hour long #naturalhair chat on Sunday evenings, a concept that ten years ago I would never fathom!

There are entrepreneurs such as Fleurtzy of Texture Playground & BeijaFlor Naturals that have been birthed as a result of the natural network, many who are still waiting in the wings, already grasping onto the inspiration of those before them, anticipating the possibilities and excitements of ‘what if.’ What if natural hair became embraced by all & no longer needed a disclaimer or T-shirt when rockin the fro?

Because I still remember what wasn’t a little over ten years ago, I have continuing faith in what undoubtedly lies ahead for the natural hair community. Though, if you find yourself growing tired of all this talk surrounding natural hair, it’s politics & implications – try looking into the meaning of self-acceptance, sisterhood, camaraderie. No doubt you’ll still find a natural headed femme, rockin a fro, twist, braidout etc., looking fly, feeling fab & happily growing.