This webpage was launched in 2006 after Cynthia McKinney was attacked for slapping a congressional guard because he inappropriately grabbed her. She and I decided something should be done to explore the issue from a different lens. It's dedicated to the appreciation of natural Black American hair styles and naturally curly hairstyles of ethnicities throughout the world. We felt it was important to address this head-on...all pun intended!
Carla Brown, hair historian, has joined our direct-action think tank to present the health implications that are derived from life-long harsh chemical skin exposures.
[note] It seems Google Ads has been providing a link to some hair straightening bullcrap. Please pardon the ad if it appears.
a b o u t G o o d H a i r G o n e B a d
Make no mistake, the politics of hair and ethnicity is no light topic. People get hired or fired over it and people are treated differently because of it. No matter whether it's a concern to you personally, there are those who would deny that which you are qualified for and have worked for because of your hairstyle.
A friend who watches "makeover" shows, and has very curly hair, mentioned how it made her mad when the show would take someone with beautiful curly hair and just straighten the crap out of it. Straight hair is wonderful, unless it's an unspoken [and spoken] mandate, as it is in the case of Hampton University's ban on dreadlocks and braids. It's straight[ened] hair for social advancement that is the problem. And let's not forget, naturally curly hair is beautiful.
In full disclosure, your concept-weaver had straightened and multi-colored hair; a mohawk [punk rock, not jock] and angleheads of many types 1980 - 1991. Prior to that I proudly sported various afros. Now [1991 to present] I have locks, a bit longer than shoulder length. In traditional business situations I pull them back in a neat ponytail. Otherwise I let'em fly free. :)-
w e w a n t t o h e a r f r o m y o u
We ask that you send us your hair stories at: email@example.com r e a d y o u r w o r d s
When Chris Rock's daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head!
This documentary was one of the worst framed docs, actually resulting in supporting the "unbe-weave-ably" damaging cultural model that's so prevalent in the Black community.
Seeing this initiated us to do a documentary based on this website "When Good Hair Goes Bad," which preceded Mr. Rock's effort. "GHGB" will get to the root of the matter...for real. The release is scheduled for June 19th [Juneteenth] 2012. Stay tuned...
The first natural hair style video created by swtebnyqueen. The "guy" that is referred to in the song, is of course a perm.
This is an excerpt from a discussion about natural hair and the pros and cons of using chemical relaxers. This clip is from outside the United States, but presents synonymous issues. The next logical question; Is there a global social construct of straight hair being dominant over curly or kinky hair? If so, what are the personal and social affects?
Some Black Hair Pioneers of the 80's & 90's
AFTER THE VIDEOS - CONSIDER SOME ISSUES
Neal Boortz was at the forefront of the "Black hair" issue. Though he said Cynthia McKinney looked like "a ghetto slut" and "It looked like an explosion at a Brillo factory," there was very little outrage in the mainstream media or in the Black community. This was a year prior to the "nappy headed hoes" comment from Don Imus, which seemed to be much more concerned for the respect of the ladies that were maligned. There was a slight groundswell of support for Cynthia...and bunch of venom as well.
- the original Neal Boortz audio / transcript click here
- the debate outside the beltway was no different click here
Susan Taylor, executive editor and longstanding face of the nation's leading magazine for black women, backed out of a speaking engagement at Hampton University, Essence Magazine confirmed today [4/12/06], after learning that "braids, dreadlocks and other unusual hairstyles are not acceptable" for majors in a five-year master's of business administration program at the university. With the Cynthia McKinney issue still broiling, this Richard Prince article explores the deeply rooted biases and issues surrounding natural Black hairstyles. click here
"In 1990, as a member of the first President Bush's foreign policy team, Condoleezza Rice clashed with an overzealous Secret Service agent on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport. While Rice was waiting in a reception line to say goodbye to departing Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, the agent ordered her to move off the tarmac and get behind the security blockades. When she refused, the agent blocked and shoved with her both hands. There are many distinctions [between this incident and Ms. McKinney's]."
Writer, Jabari Asim goes on to say, "One, Rice was wearing the required pin identifying her as a White House official. Two, unlike McKinney, who reportedly hit the Capitol Hill officer with her cell phone, Rice simply got the agent's name and reported him to his superiors. Three, although Rice was the only black member of the presidential delegation, she didn't make a racial issue of it. And she was as ticked off as McKinney was. 'I didn't like his attitude,' Rice later told a reporter. 'He was right in my face in a confrontational way, and that provokes a confrontational attitude from me." [read the entire story]
Though the writer clearly supported Cynthia in the hair political arena, he seemed to be more in favor of Condoleezza's let's-just-keep-this-between-us approach. History has told us, the more we speak up and clearly document our collective experiences, the less people can deny individual instances when they're being pointed out to the general public. As these incidents are kept like dirty little secrets, we as a society will remain unprepared to deal with a multi-ethnic present / future where the current leaders are merely competitors in a global economic war...and there's no such thing as an "American advantage."
Perhaps the greatest irony of his ‘ghetto slut’ slur is that ghetto folks are the least likely — at least, from what I’ve seen — to wear natural hair styles. But then, America (or AmeriKKKa, if you prefer) has a weird fascination with straight hair — and if it’s blond, even better.
What fascinates me, however, how Boortz’ insult shows the confluence of kinky hair and class perceptions amongst Americans. From the earliest days of pomades and hot combs, straightened hair — or at the very least, properly oiled up and laid down hair — was marketed to black folks as a sign of upward mobility and (by extension) proximity to whiteness. [read the entire story]
When delivering a commentary about the Cynthia McKinney vs D.C. Capitol Police, George Curry said, "Cynthia McKinney learned a long time ago that many African-Americans will give you a pass if you merely scream racism, regardless of whether it's true. I am fed up with public officials yelling racism merely to deflect attention away from their own misbehavior. Discrimination is still rampant in this society. And if the specter of racism is raised when it does not apply, my fear is that when genuine cases arise, they will be discounted because of previous false claims."
He continued, "If McKinney felt she was being racially profiled, she should have noted the officer's name and badge number and taken the matter up with his supervisor or in Congressional hearings."
This was the general timbre of the entire beginning of the commentary.
Then near the end of the story, " McKinney's conflicting assertions do not mean there aren't deep-seated racial problems within the U.S. Capitol Police. Others have complained of ill treatment and Blacks on the force have filed racial discrimination lawsuits against the agency, some of them still pending. If the agency is found guilty, it should be assessed the stiffest possible punishment." [read the entire story] If the later paragraph is true, and there's no reason to believe otherwise, wouldn't that inform how the entire incident should be viewed? When you read the editorial you would notice an absence of a few basic questions. How often do officials enter without wearing the official pin? Is there a pattern of who has been allowed to enter without it? What were the thoughts of those who have lawsuits pending? What is it like to frequently interact with authority figures at a place of business that is known to have "deep-seated racial problems?"
In a refreshing change of pace, The Sisters discuss the challenges in styling their hair, from natural to perm, taking a look from a very thoughtful perspective. Too bad these women couldn't have been interviewed on 60 Minutes during the Imus controversy.
Robin Givhan got in the mix April 7th 2006. Remember the date. "In January, at a commemoration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, McKinney was at the pulpit in Ebenezer Baptist Church. Her hair was loose and a flattering shade of brown. It spiraled out and away from her head in a mane of tight coils. It was an example of the kind of controlled chaos that defines a fresh twist-out. It looked good."
She continues, "Everyone has a bad hair day, whether it is straight hair that goes limp, curls that turn frizzy or kinky hair that becomes unruly. So it would be reasonable to think that McKinney's hairdo should not have elicited anything more than a shrug or a knowing and sympathetic whisper among black women, "Girrrl, did you see her head?"
"Instead, talk turned ugly on blogs about her news-conference hair. It became the impetus for all sorts of racially driven insults about her locks and their natural texture. A black woman's hair is an easy, timeworn source of racist mockery. It has become an exhausting cliche of self-loathing whether it is kinky, hot-combed, braided, locked or chemically relaxed. (Indeed, plenty of black folks see all kinds of dire race-traitor undertones in Condoleezza Rice's smooth, controlled cap of hair.) A black woman's hair is a bottomless source of inspiration for essays, books and documentaries."
And now for an ironic twist.
"Most women tend to choose a hairstyle based on some combination of its flattering effects and ease of maintenance. Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence, for instance, wears braids that suggest sophistication and polish. McKinney's agenda seemed to combine ease with something else entirely. The style seemed calculated to portray her as the underdog. It was purposefully out of fashion. Aggressively not slick. Ostentatiously humble." [read the entire story]
Did she say Susan Taylor? This was written April 7th 2006. Susan Taylor's Hampton University incident [she declined an invitation to speak at Hampton University due to the university's ban on dreads & braids] happened prior to the writing of her commentary. Why did Ms. Givhan fail to mention Ms. Taylor's run-in with the politics of hair and how that could possibly be factored into the understanding of the controversy? What was the point of Ms. Givhan bashing Cynthia's look, because Cynthia doesn't perpetually maintain Ms. Givhan's ideal hairstyle.
It appears that many Black women have such a poor opinion of natural nubian hairstyles that they seem to have an underlying conflict with those who refuse to change their hair to make themselves more acceptable to a Eurocentric ideal of beauty. Because Cynthia's hair-do was to Ms. Givhan, past its prime, she deserved to be viciously ridiculed as if Cynthia had walked by a group on the corner in the hood and was like, "Damn girl... Only a week girl, only one week... Maybe her check didn't come yet." We should expect more from an educated and worldly Washington Post staff writer, accepting the appearance that she is primarily a fashion writer. It should also be noted that Ms. Givhan is sporting a "Black Barbie" hairdo, which might further have influenced her hairstyle opinions.
"...so much of her public persona, from the moment she arrived in Congress in 1992, has been based on her hair." Excuse me? Susan would do good to remember that Cynthia McKinney was the first person in the U.S. Congress to ask the most serious, and still unanswered question, "What did the Bush Administration know about 9/11...and when did they know it?" Maybe a mention of the fact that she was hated by many for being, in a number of cases, a lone voice in government speaking out for the concerns and issues of the Black community.
This point is less about Ms. McKinney and more about the fact that someone [possibly you] could achive so much for over 14 years of service to your community and yet be judged from such a base perspective.
I found this book, More Beautiful Braids: Ten New Braid Styles for Beginners and Experts (Paperback) by Patricia Coen, by doing a Google search with the criteria, braided hair "for the office". This book is being sold as "...easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and clear illustrations that will teach you how to create ten popular braid styles exactly right for any occasion. The young girl who loves to have her hair done, the teenager trying out a brand-new look, the working woman who needs a professional image for the office, and anyone who wants a smart new profile for a special evening can adopt a great braided style from these pages." How can there be so many "credible" sources claiming the strategy to climbing the corporate ladder, while there are alleged bans at universities and even more so in the workplace.
Then continuing to look within the selected criteria I found Vault Guide to Conquering Corporate America for Women and Minorities; Professional Appearance in the Corporate Workplace.At the very bottom of their career advice article that featured bullet points to achieving in the corporate workplace, I know you're shocked it was at the bottom, I found, "African-American women can wear neat braids or short natural styles; elaborate colored extensions and dreads should be avoided." Apparrently they've not heard about the Hampton University's ban; "braids, dreadlocks and other unusual hairstyles are not acceptable"... for majors in a five-year master's of business administration program at the university."
The Richard Prince Hampton University story had supplied the pivitol piece of the puzzle. In a March 27 by Leesha Mckinzie on Black College Wire, Dean Sid Credle of the Hampton School of Business "said he stands by the code and said a more clean-cut look can be an asset to almost any student seeking advancement in the corporate world."
Now we get to the root of the matter. With whom does the power to define "clean-cut look" reside? It would be fair to assume, there are very few people-of-color, possessing any hair texture, at the decision making level in the power corporate community. [a relevent aside] My office is in an area of NYC that you see very clearly what the power corporate look is. Most people-of-color that are at high levels have mostly conformed to "conventional" standards, so they would be less likely to advocate for expanding the definition of "appropriate" nubian hairstyles in the board room and/or the corporate workplace.
As a good friend of mine would say, "Nuff said."
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