Reflecting back on my hair journey, I now see that it was finely woven in other aspects of my life. The analogy is clear. Imagine, sisters of the Diaspora, the state of your hair before you sit at the lap of a freshly anointed African braider. Your hair asserts a life of its own, and for the moment it is free, unrestricted from the boundaries of braids and the boundaries of life imposed by other people—significant and insignificant.
Freshly washed, she parts your hair and The Transformation begins. You are at her mercy and confined by her competence. The hairline is tugged and stretched, frequently to the point of pain. You sit, for hours at a time, only to emerge a new woman with a new identity, framed by your hair.
Since 1996, my natural hair journey has run parallel to my life’s journey. After an emotional broken engagement, I needed healing and for reasons that now escape me, I used my hair to restore the broken self-esteem. Thumbing through Essence, I came across a hair ad of a gorgeous chocolate brown sister whose smooth strands flowed like a black silk river. I wanted to look like she did, smile with renewed confidence and joy, and possess a crown of healthy hair that created its very own breeze. It was settled. I was determined to divest of the damage that relaxers inflicted on my once beautiful tresses. I was even more determined to get rid of everything that had damaged my spirit.
During that same season, I knew I needed God more than ever and so I pressed into Him, spending time in worship. I accessed Him through prayer. I found scriptures to plot my path and grow my faith. It wasn’t an easy journey, but once I made up my mind to let go of one dream in exchange for a future vision, I learned to find comfort in His promises. I wanted beauty for ashes and to be honest, I wanted an external and internal beauty that defined a woman comfortable with her own style, in her own skin, and on her own terms. It took time, but my butterfly emerged.
It also took a couple of years before my hair was back to its natural state and I was grateful for every lesson learned. I was blessed with stylists such as Chelly Blackwell Haygood, Stacy Gilchrist, Chris Burke, Lisa Evelinn and Mary Long-Pannell, who pressed, conditioned, colored and clipped every strand on my head.
During the process, I acquired a wealth of information about ethnic hair care, and what parts of my identity were valuable and what parts were the values of other people. Now, I am determined to never put a relaxer in my hair again; my natural hair offers countless healthy styling options. It has taken time in the mirror with numerous hair care products and watching YouTube videos late into the night and early in the morning, but I am confident that I am my best and most honest stylist. I am the best person to navigate my growth, inside and out.