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The nostalgia of natural hair--going back to their ethnic roots

afro by Joseph Earnest

Two Black women appear to be in elysium--a state of ideal happiness, inside the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina—Photo by Joseph Earnest


by Joseph Earnest  May 31, 2014


Newscast Media HOUSTONAs we end the month of May, Newscast Media would like to usher in a new month on a lighter note, to soften the blow of the hard-hitting news articles we've been delivering in the past few months.


This topic pertains to the nostalgic element that appears to be trending with Black women of my generation and younger, particularly when it comes to hair.


If one is not in tune with pop culture, one may not be aware of the movement by Black women to return to a natural lifestyle like the women of the 60s, 70s and 80s.


The most poignant afro images of that era that come to mind are those of women like Kathleen Cleaver, Pam Grier and Thelma of Good Times (real name: Bernadette Stanislaus). Below is a video of Kathleen Cleaver dropping some knowledge:



Yet for the past two years in Houston and other places around the country, one notices more and more women embracing their African roots by sporting natural hairstyles whether it's dreadlocks, Afros or even braids.  In Houston, there is actually an annual "natural hair" festival called Nzuri Hair Festival, which is apparently the largest of its kind in Texas.


While at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, I stumbled across two girls from Chicago featured in the photo above, who too were proudly displaying their natural African hairdos, since they believe the authenticity of natural hair has an appealing quality.


The question is, why is there a segment of the population that is reverting to the days of simplicity?  


The answer, perhaps, is that people are seeking a sense of identity in a world saturated with media images that try to define what's culturally in vogue, and what's not. People with originality are less likely to embrace the cultural definition of what others think they ought to be or look like, and are more likely to define their cultural constructs on their own terms.


Men on the other hand have found a simple solution to maintaining simplicity--most simply chop off their hair.


However, men in the 80s went through the "Jheri curl" phase which I always thought should have been called a "jelly curl" due to the jelly-like look it gave men's hair. Of course leading that era were people like Ice Cube, Lionel Richie, MJ, Eric La Salle (Coming to America), Full Force and many more.


Around the late 80s and early 90s, Black men transitioned to natural hair, particularly fades.  The movie House Party by Kid 'n' Play really was a trend-setter in terms of men's hairstyles.  I myself must confess I did have a "high-top fade similar to Kid's haircut and went though the stage of wearing ripped stone-washed jeans.


I remember very well asking my Dad to buy me a pair of those ripped jeans when he went on a trip to Canada, however, he came back with normal jeans.  I asked why he had bought me normal jeans and his answer was: "These will last longer.  I could not justify spending three times as much money on torn jeans, yet normal jeans cost a third that price."  Those were the days though.


The late 90s saw a resurgence of dreads that were once restricted mostly to Rastafaris.  Both men and women discovered locking hair was an easy way to maintain ethnic hair. Some dreads were kept short (like the lady above on the left side of the photo), while others grew theirs out.


The 90s also marked the "bald" look which many credit to Michael Jordan, but in reality it was Karim Abdul Jabbar who popularized it, though Jordan made it hip after his multiple championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. The bald look is still popular for many men, but appears expensive to maintain.


More popular than the bald look is the trim that is extremely short or semi-bald.  Black men have also become tricky and innovative in regard to the hairline.  There is a "spray-on fake hair" formula that a lot of these brothers use to hide the receding hairline, that gives the impression of a youthful and defined crown.  Some even spray it on the beards to make them look fuller. But if it works, more power to them.


Black women in the 90s opted for wigs and weaves while natural hair was frowned upon. Weaves and wigs have also been the accepted corporate look in America, yet many women who are now awakening and are more conscious of their blackness are beginning to opt for natural hair over synthetic.


Even in White communities where balding men once did the "comb over" to fool people into believing that their hair was growing from one ear to another, shaving the head now seems to be the norm, although some still hang on to the ponytail, perhaps as a reminder that they once had a full head of hair.


Embracing one's cultural roots will not be limited to exterior elements, but will also have a spillover effect in terms of nutrition, as people choose fresh organic foods over processed foods, GMOs, fast and canned foods.


Food is a huge aspect of culture, that's why when an Italian comes to America he looks for an Italian restaurant, a Chinese will look for a Chinese restaurant and so forth. Most who find restaurants costly just go to nearby Farmers' Markets and shop for their own ethnic foods.


It will, at some point, become necessary for Blacks in America to learn how to prepare ethnic food the way Africans and Caribbean islanders do so, as they continue the ancestral tradition.  Maybe then, we will see a drop in preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the Black community, since nutrition, health and wellness are not mutually exclusive. Add Comments>>
















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