When I was growing up, I knew that I wasn’t, and could never be, the type of beautiful that was popular.
Without visible role models in the media for me to emulate, low self esteem began to take root. I wasn’t yet ten years old the first time I permed my hair. I remember my scalp burning. Later, my scalp peeled, but I didn’t care because now I had straight hair. And with straight hair I felt good. Now, I was at least in the running towards becoming beautiful.
The idea that I had to change, or hide, my natural hair to be accepted and desired was a belief that I carried into adulthood. No shade to my sisters who wear weaves, or continue to perm their hair. It is a choice that is solely yours and does not mean you do not love yourself, or your culture.
But getting back to the multitude of young Black women who no longer care how their kinky hair makes others feel, I applaud you and I thank you. It might seem trivial to some (after all, it is just hair) but those that have never struggled with their identity in such a way cannot understand. To constantly be bombarded with images of Black women portrayed mostly one way—with long, straight hair, which is not natural—leaves a lasting effect on a little Black girl every time she sees her reflection.
I am on a journey towards self love and self acceptance. It’s been a long and bumpy road with many peaks, and valleys too. I’m not alone of this journey. I would dare to call it a movement. A movement that has scores of young Black women embracing their natural hair, or wearing styles inspired by our African sisters.
As Black women we can control our image. We can make sure that young Black girls see that our hair isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s something to be celebrated and should foster pride.
The kink in my hair may be different than the curl in my cousin’s hair, and the dreads down my mother’s back are not the same as the twists on my homegirl’s head, and when my sister did “the big chop” last year and shaved her head she was her most beautiful.
To me, this is the meaning of the natural hair movement.