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WRITER: TEVA HUTCHINSON

TITLE: STRONG BLACK HAIR

 

 

“I got good hair cause I got Black in me”. I saw the above statement on a pretty, light blue t-shirt being sold on 125th St in Harlem over a year ago. I keep planning to go back and get one, but well; I just haven't gotten around to it. I cut my hair off, last July, and since then I have attracted Britney-like attention in my own tiny circle. Questions abound, like,"OMG were you stressed?" The inevitable “Why would you cut off your beautiful (processed) hair?"

 I told most people the truth, which is that I have a scalp problem, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I process my hair with chemical relaxers.
To some it seemed as if I was making a statement, and my friends who know me for my infamous statements that always backfire, decided they would just wait to see what happened. But I wasn't making a statement. I just wanted to stop getting burnt by chemicals, which, we are told not to put on our scalps by the way (yes it says so on the box, and again on the container).

As time went by I began to notice how I was perceived based on my hair style. I live in Brooklyn, in an area filled with Caribbean immigrants. Naturally when I wear Rastafarian jewelry, or my Jamaican colors, it was assumed that I had natural hair because I am a part of the neo Black consciousness movement. Rastafarian men call me sister.

On the other hand preppy, metro sexual, young Black males allow their eyes to glaze over when they happen to glance my way. This recent phenomenon has made me a bit predatory, especially as I am newly single. I find myself mentally willing these men to look at me, recognizing that it has also given me the power that I always felt they had. Men in my community, prior to my hair loss, would give me the once over, sometimes even staring at me. Making me feel at times uncomfortable, at times flattered.  I always wondered if every strand was neatly in place during these scrutinies. Now I could appraise men as well, and quite frankly a few of them did appear slightly ruffled.

 Interviewers have been noticed glancing ‘up there’, as if entranced. Wondering I’m sure, what the hell is going on up there, and why my hair doesn't look like the corporate Condoleezza Rice hairdo. I did refer to popular Black hair magazines, however unless I considered dreadlocks, there were no style opportunities for the Black woman who chose to keep her hair natural.

Since July 2007, I have since worn wigs, braids with extensions, and an afro. As a feminist, I advocate a woman's right to choose. As a Black woman, I have the right to change my hairstyle without being placed in a box. Some people with whom I work find it necessary to comment every time I change my hair.  The lady wearing the dreads says she feels betrayed when I turn up in a flowing wig, beautiful I think, with red highlights. A non Black male coworker man thinks it is okay to counter my comment about not liking processed food with the retort that I wear processed hair so processed food should not be an issue-why yes, I do, and so can you! Another exclaims every time I wear a hat. Others are downright rude, begging me to grow back my hair, telling me I should get a grown up style. And this is New York.  I do not live in some isolated place, where I am the only Black woman for miles.
If tomorrow my scalp condition is healed, and I feel like getting a perm, by jove I shall. If I feel like locking my hair, or braiding it with synthetic/ horse hair, so I shall. I have good, strong hair-I got Black in me!

Actually watch out ya'll, I've just added Thriller to my playlist and I just might be bringing back the 80's Michael Jackson jerry curls. It's all up to me, because I'm a woman with hair strong enough to give me choices, and what I do with it is really all up to me.

 

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