By: Deric Muhammad
Growing up on Houston’s northside, Jheri Curls were popular. Either you had one and you mattered or you didn’t. My mother, a licensed beautician at the time, used all of her professional powers to try and make my hair look like Michael Jackson’s, but her powers failed us. No matter what chemicals she used to make my hair straight, wavy or curly my African roots just kept rising up and rebelling. Once I figured out that the curl wasn’t for me, I tried to get waves like the rest of my friends. They told me all I had to do was brush my hair constantly. I did, exactly, that and never saw one wave. All I got were headaches for brushing my hair. I just ended up wearing a low cut and eventually shaving it all off.
Unfortunately, for Black women and girls it’s not that simple. I remember being told I had “bad hair” (my grandfather called me “Jim Nappy”), but I don’t remember feeling bad about it. But a female’s hair is considered her crown and glory. It is written that in 15th Century Africa a woman’s hair signified her social status, genetic pedigree, her profession and even her power. The Black man and woman’s experience under the yoke of white supremacy forced on us the notion that the features of the white female were the standard of beauty. The more straight, stringy and long it was, it was considered “good hair.” Four hundred and fifty-plus years up from slavery we are still suffering from this sickness.
The past few years I’ve noticed an unusual number of Black women doing what is termed “going natural”; swearing off relaxers, chemicals and straighteners. From dredlocks, twists, short afros and close crops, there is a movement afoot to rid our community of the social demons that suggest our natural hair is not good enough. This makes me, as a Black man, proud. For when you know your natural self and love your natural self then you will cease to be ashamed of your natural self.