I remember when I first decided to go natural with my hair. I had gotten fed up with the perm ritual and realized that something was wrong with applying something to your hair that could burn patches of flesh from your head. It just didn't seem right. I remember a little black girl who lived in one of our apartment buildings in Detroit who had a severe burn to her head. She couldn't have been no more than 10 years old and she had such a severe scalp burn that it was still red, bloody, with puss oozing out and no bandage covering it. I thought then that it was something wrong with doing this to a child but yet I continued putting it in my own hair and had even experienced small burns myself. What are we doing to ourselves and our children, I thought? Is looking and being like someone else so important that we would subject ourselves and our children to this torture for straight hair that's not how we are naturally. The moment of truth came after I gave birth to my daughter Aliyah. I took a picture the morning after she was born and as I looked at the picture I remember thinking to myself, this isn't my hair. That look, that shine, that straightness wasn't mine. Why am I doing this to myself. My oldest daughter had many perms by that time but came home for a visit one year with nice, long healthy looking hair, having used my advice of watering and not perming. Why wasn't I practicing what I was preaching?
Two of my other daughters had only been permed about two or three times in their lifetime and my conscious for them kicked in as I explained to them why I didn't want to perm their hair. I remember them looking at me as if to say, “why can't we have our hair permed or straightened since you perm and straighten yours? They felt like my perception of beauty was straight hair since I took the the time to do all of that to my hair. Oh what a hypocrite I must have looked like to them. Do as I say but not what I do. Yeah, the old switcheroo on the rules when telling your children that something isn't the right thing to do but yet your do it anyway. That still wasn't enough for me to stop the poison perm madness. I continued to bake, cook, fry, broil and toast my hair with every unnatural, unhealthy method you could throw at your head.
My styles were becoming increasingly challenging for my hair due to the breakage and thinning out that had been taking place. I had also been using hair gel that literally aided in breaking my hair off around the edges and thinning it even more. When I begin to realize how weak and thin my hair was getting, I finally said enough is enough, I can't take this anymore. I begin to feel like a failure for not realizing this much sooner. Even though I am almost 10 years younger than my husband I felt so unattractive and undesirable. The scripture that talked about the daughters of Zion and their hair really rang true for me. I felt horrible and defeated because of my breaking hair.
Now, lets get down to the real nitty gritty. To add insult to injury, I remember going to my husband and telling him that I wanted to go natural with my hair. I even showed him how my hair had been breaking off around the edges. I showed him some pictures of other natural sisters and attempted to explain to him how important this was to me because of the issues I'd been having with my hair breakage. After all of that, all hell broke loose. He looked at me and said I don't want your hair natural and if those women want to be natural, that is on them but I want your hair straightened or permed. He then proceeded to tell me that natural hair looked messy and unkempt. I remember feeling so low that I literally wanted to cry. I then went into woman mode and asked him some very sarcastic questions such as, “so you want me to keep burning my scalp, frying my hair and cooking my brains so that I can have straight hair for you to gaze upon? I felt like being natural was something that some of our men thought was unnatural and just a way to be lazy about caring for our hair. I also felt like natural hair was looked at as if it was some kind of disease or deficiency of beauty. It's as if they despised our natural look and had been hypnotized by straight hair and wanted it for us by any means necessary. This was truly a sad time for me to know that my husband didn't want to see me looking like nature intended for me to look. I felt like the man that I love wanted me to live a lie so that he could have whatever satisfaction he was looking for in straight hair.
I felt like I was in a whirlwind of emotions and chaos over how I, as a woman, was to deal with the hair on my own head. You have many religious teachings that suggest that a woman must simply obey and not ask questions when her husband tells her what he desires. So what that says to me and many women is that even if your health or life is at risk you must do as your husband wishes out of obedience to his will without question. That just didn't sit well with me on a subject such as this. I think this uneasiness in my mind and sadness in my heart opened up the door for a much more serious conversation with my husband on this very sensitive issue
After the dust settled, the air calmed down, and we agreed to reason with one another and I asked if he could watch Chris Rock's movie, Good Hair, with me. As we watched together, we both had an even greater understanding of what had truly happened to us and our perception of good and bad hair as a people. We both then agreed that the decision to go natural was a wise choice and that we also needed to instill this in our daughters. That was the last time I had purchase any type of perm. I still straightened my hair a few times after that which is why I looked at my picture after Aliyah was born and said, it's time to get my hair locked up. And that is where my real journey began.
With all of this still came more bumps in the road. I remember when we had children from the community come to our academy and one of the young men would tease my daughters about their hair. They would wear afros, twist or sometimes braids. All with no perms or straightening. One day, the young man looked at my daughters and said, “Yall need to do something with yall nappy hair. Get a pressing comb a perm or something.” The look of embarrassment they had wasn't so much about their natural hair but more about everyone at the table laughing them to scorn.
Believe it or not, after the dust settled on that issue, my girls stepped it up a notch and took an even more bold stand with their natural hair. They were invited to a social event and showed up with afros. They were determined to respect themselves regardless to how clueless black folks felt. The great thing about this bold stand of there's was the great reception they got. They had a couple of young people who questioned why they didn't comb their hair before coming to the event, but all the older people were impressed and amazed at their bold stand. Some even took pictures with them.
Right now, me and my girls embrace and love our natural hair and wouldn't have it any other way. Even my husband and our oldest son have grown to love natural hair. Our son even spoke openly about loving to see so called black women with afros and hopes that his future wife is one who embraces her natural hair and beauty. I guess some struggles are worth having when the end result is in loving your natural self.
Hi Deborah Yah, thanks for sharing your story. This is such a great idea because for so many women self esteem goes hand in hand with how she feels about her hair. The confidence a woman has in her hair definitely reflects on the inner being (It is our crowning glory). I have noticed such a positive reaction from some people when I wear my afro, especially impressionable, young men. This young man approached me and my daughter in law (who is also natural) and said "I love your hair, you don't see women confident enough to wear their hair natural." Another said, "you look fabulous." it is a statement that you are comfortable with your heritage, especially in light of the racial undertones of a society that isn't comfortable when we embrace our ethnicity. For me, going natural was just a part of the spiritual/physical changes I have made in this walk. I have even come to acknowledge my gray hair and that was really a hurdle for me. The scripture says gray hair represents wisdom and why shouldn't I be proud of that? It is a testament to Yah, how He changes you when you totally give up your will and submit to His will for your life. HalleluYah!
Wonderful! All praise to YaHuWaH !! Abba YaHuWaH willing I will begin to catalogue this information.
Thanks for sharing your story. I've always been an unusual person. My mother died when i was 3 so i was raised by an abusive father and on weekends i spent quality time with my grandma and her friends. I had no friend so i loved learning from the elders.one thing tey taught me was to be happy with my looks and hair. Mrs. Jean use to always tell me how perfect Yah had made me. I love her for that. So i never had weave issues or problem with hebrew men's thoughts about me.
The struggle is real when it comes to choosing what is best for our hair. great story Sis DeBorahYah I have a video that I will share on my pg about why I went natural
Thank you for sharing your hair journey with us. I too struggled for year with letting go of the perms, wigs and extensions. It was hard to transition to my natural hair because of the industry I was in... especially since I also had a Hair Line Distributorship and had to wear my extensions for demonstrations. (You got to be a product of the product right?). You see I was and still am a hair stylist and the struggle is real. The hair industry thrives on the European standard of beauty and for a long time natural hair care was very unnatural indeed. I share the same history of struggling to conquer my fears being accepted. So I adapted to the worlds standard of beauty and fried it, dyed it and laid it to the side too, until one day I realized all the abuse to my hair was causing female pattern baldness. I thought to myself why is there even such a thing as female pattern baldness. That is definitely not natural. At that point my hair thinned so bad that you could see my scalp. I used to joke that my hair was so thin I didnt need a blow dryer all I had to do was blow a few breaths on it to dry. I took the natural leap in 2010 and absolutely love it. Having my hair locked was so liberating inspite of the critism I received from every one around me including my husband. He wanted me wearing long wavy blond hair which totally rejected my natural beauty. I began to bombard him pictures of beautiful wimen with locks and say wow isn't she beautiful and look at her hair, those locks are so long and healthy. Eventually that changed his percerception of natural hair and he finally said he didnt care what I did to it. I hurried up and locked it with the quickness before he changed his mind...lol. I love my natural hair and it has grown so much (just wouldnt grow without breaking and thinning before) and thickened tremendously... no more balding. HalleluYah!