#TeamNatural at Carnival 2013- Rio de Janeiro

Hola Chicas,

Remember my Brazilian adventure with the homie, Nina Silva? Well, they're celebrating CARNIVAL and homegirl's at the front of the line... the 'Queen', leading her group, Afro Zimbaue, and doing it with all the swag in the world. #GoGirl

Natural in London: Sharron’s HairStory

by Shelli of Hairscapades

Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hey all! I’m Sharron from London, England.

What do you like most about your homeland?
I think London is a great place to be in the summer … such a nice atmosphere being in the heart of London when the sun’s shining. I also like that it’s very multicultural.

What is the hair norm for black/brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
There’s definitely more weave and relaxer wearers than there are naturals. But, I see a lot more natural ladies nowadays. It’s no longer perceived as an oddity to wear your hair natural. I love seeing someone wearing their natural hair; I always give a little smile. I just find all the different styles you can achieve by wearing your hair natural refreshing.

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
I remember my mum doing ‘chiney bumps’ (similar to bantu knots?), when I was younger and I remember her greasing my scalp with Dax, lol. My hair flourished under her care. When I started doing my hair myself, I use to do some crazy stuff to it. I actually cringe when I think about the abuse I bestowed upon my poor head!! I used a hell of a lot of gel … nasty, alcohol-ridden gel. I would use hotplates to dry my hair from damp as I didn’t have a blow dryer at one stage … *shudder*. Let’s just say, I’m surprised I still have hair. In my era, everyone had natural hair anyway, so it wasn’t an issue wearing my hair natural.

Natural in London, England: Rella’s HairStory

by Shelli of Hairscapades 

Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hi! I’m Rella J. I was born and raised in London, England, but both my parents are Nigerian. I am a singer/songwriter/musician/university student/natural hair lover

What do you like most about your homeland?
I am a very proud Londoner. Mostly, I love the diversity. I have truly been spoilt growing up here and sometimes I forget that the London demographic isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of England. I love that there’s anything and everything to do and I love how many different cultures you experience by growing up here.

I wouldn’t really know how to describe London in a couple of pictures or sentences. It’s a really busy/bustling city, but then you have quiet residential areas and big parks all within 15 minutes of each other.

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
I would say that relaxers and weaves are the norm, but natural hair isn’t shunned. It definitely is becoming more prevalent and I love that. I love walking down the road and seeing more fellow naturals. But, I also look forward to the time when I don’t use the term fellow natural, if you get what I mean?

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
What was my hair like? I wouldn’t know. My childhood. I have very vivid memories of my mum calling me to sit between her thighs and get my hair done. The afro comb, the wooden parting comb and the tub of Dax or Blue Magic; weapons in the war that was doing my hair (lol). My hair was always hidden away in thread, single plaits and then canerows/cornrows. At 15, I graduated to weave and the only time I saw my hair was to take one weave down, wash and put the next one in. It was always something to be hidden away.

Black in Berlin...

Why My Natural Hair is Unnatural in Germany

Generally speaking, Afro-Europeans see my natural hair as something that needs to be fixed with perm or covered up with a wig and this kind of thinking frustrates me. Living in Berlin I can honestly say that I miss seeing women wear two strand twists, afro puffs, dreadlocks and other natural hair styles. Apart from the occasional American tourist,black women in Europe typically rock straight hair, weaves and extensions. I imagine the pressure for a women of color to appeal to the European standard of beauty must be stifling in Germany.Ironically, that pressure doesn’t come directly from the Germans themselves but from other Afro-Europeans.

I experienced similar peer pressure in America when I went natural ten years ago. The most vocal critics of my decision were my black family members, colleagues and friends. The naysayers took their own insecurities and misconceptions about natural hair and tried to pass them off as the overall perception of the dominant culture. I see the same behavior here in Germany but even more so, as if to wear your hair in its natural state is an indicator of being “too black to handle” or unwilling to conform to the German way of life.

The pursuit for long, straight and “manageable” hair sometimes creates casualties. Not only does the quest take its toll on the tender psyche of young German colored girls but concern for overall hair health is thrown out of the window. The primary motivation of many is to cover up, not cultivate their hair so little time is spent learning how to keep their locks growing healthily. When I take a quick visual survey of Berlin’s colored girls, I often see missing edges, fried ends, matted extensions and poorly executed weaves. I do not have hard statistics but I am amazed at the number of side-eye-worthy heads I have seen during my time living and traveling around Europe. The women here seem to prefer “damaged yet straight”over “healthy and nappy.”

There are a few contributing factors to the state of black haircare in Europe, beginning with black women don’t make up a significant percentage of the population. The small brown numbers result in less demand for products which leads to less hair care techniques and tools, leaving stylists being years behind their counterparts in places like America. There is almost no pressure tohave any representation of black women in the media due to the low buying power of the black woman in Europe. There are no magazines like ESSENCE and few websites like Parlour Magazineare published in European languages. Many women don’t have high expectations for their hair because they don’t see many examples of black women, never mind black women with healthy hair. Environmental Factors such as climate and water can also be damaging. Berlin has some of the hardest water I have ever experienced, it’s loaded with calcium and other minerals that leave my hair dry and damaged. It took me months to sort out the right routine for my dry scalp (hint: water filters are awesome).

Black  natural hair care in America is not perfect but it is light years ahead of Europe. Outside of major cities with larger black populations like London and Paris, black women in Europe rarely take advantage of their hair’s versatility and usually linger around the straight end of the spectrum. Permed hair, weaves and extensions are not bad but they seem to be the only options many women entertain due to limited education about natural hair.

Weigh in!

Student Barred Because of her Hair & Clothes

by Marques Travae of Black Women of Brazil

As you might have noticed by now, the topic of hair in Brazil continues to be a hot topic that sparks debate and controversy; especially if it is dealing with black women's hair. If you've followed the posts on my blog, you will remember that we covered the controversy involving two songs deemed racist because of their lyrics depicting black women and black women's hair in derogatory manners. We have also seen an intern at a Brazilian university become the target of verbal assault on the job because of her hair. We have also published various articles detailing the struggles of black Brazilian women in accepting their natural hair textures, be they curly, kinky, wavy or somewhere between. This case is no different. But also, as in the case of the intern who was assaulted at the job, I sought the opinion of a Brazilian friend in regards to this case. This friend is a hairdresser in the city of São Paulo. After reading the story and seeing the photos, she told me that, in her opinion, the girl has every right to wear her hair any way she sees fit and shouldn't be barred from anywhere, but that her hair was badly done. What do you think? Check out the story and photos.

Student is barred because of her hair and clothes; accuses school of racism

The secretary of state of the northeastern state of Maranhão is investigating an alleged crime of racism against a 19-year old woman. Ana Carolina Bastos, a student of the Unidade Integrada Estado do Pará, on the outskirts of the capital city of São Luís, reported that she was barred from class by the director of the school on the first day of class.

According to Bastos, on February 23rd, the director, Socorro Bohatem, stopped her at the entrance of the school and told her that she was dressed in an "inadequate" way. Following an objection by Ana Carolina, who defended herself by saying that another young, (white) girl, wore a more low-cut dress than hers and was not barred, to which the director explained that she could not get into school because of the "black power" hairstyle. According to the student, the director was astonished by her choice of hairstyle, asked why she wore her hair “in that way” and told her leave the building. "The other student wore a top and a very low-cut dress. It was my style that didn’t please her. It was a case of racism. Later I found out that this was not the first time something like this happened”, said the student.

The local media get details about the incident from Ana Carolina Bastos

The student who continues to attend classes at the school where the incident occurred, filed a complaint with the police and now intends to enter a complaint against the director in the State Public Ministry of the State (MPE). The teacher also continued performing her duties as normal.

In an official statement, the government replied that it "will hear the parties involved and take appropriate action." On Friday of last week, dozens of students and members of the Movimento Negro held a protest carrying banners and signs against the action of the director in front of the school. To the students, the director said that she had not behaved in a racist manner. The local press tried to talk to the teacher, but the Secretary of Education reported that she could not give interviews in order to preserve the investigation process.

Racism is a crime

The young Ana Carolina is part of a group that plays African-oriented music in São Luís. Her dream is to be a sociologist so that she can fight for minorities in the capital city of Maranhão. "When I was barred, my sister cried and I was horrified. A lot of people were looking at me. It was a massacre. I wasn’t start anything. I go to school to be someone in life”, said the student. "I have a black identity and I will not change it,” she added.

Ana Carolina (in black top) with her sister

This is the second episode involving actions of racism in Maranhão in less than a year. In July, the rectory of the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA) opened an administrative procedure to investigate a complaint that a teacher, José Cloves Verde Saraiva, had humiliated a student enrolled in the Chemical Engineering course, Nuhu Ayuba. So far, the investigation has not been completed.
Participants of public rally

According to Claudicea Durans of the group Raça e Classe do Maranhão (Race and Class of Maranhão):

"black men and women have experienced situations of humiliation and racial slurs on a daily basis in different public spaces and these acts are often expressed in different ways: racist jokes, police beatings, moral and physical aggressions, that often go unreported because of the embarrassment, humiliation, sadness and frustration that its causes the people that denounce them", but, Durans continues, "they must be reported in order to serve as examples and may in fact be punished because racism, according to Brazilian law, is a non-bailable and imprescriptible crime."

Education without racism

“Racism has different facets. The use of negative stereotypes and ridicule of physical characteristics and traits is another aspect of racism, which is in our analysis, at the same time silent, cruel and violent, it acts to deny the black identity, destroys cultural, historical, and physical values of this population, destroying their self-esteem.

Claudicea Durans

"The fact that this discriminatory attitude occurred in school leads us to reflect that this situation is common in the school environment and that the school has historically been an instrument of reproduction of dominant ideologies, and racism, one more element to ensure the oppression and exploitation of blacks."

More articles by Marques on CurlyNikki--
Brazilian Woman Takes Story of Racism to Press
Hair and the Politics of Good Appearance in Brazil

The Curly-Haired Ones- Iranian Curly Group

On January 21st, in Tehran’s Mellat Park, curly haired Iranians gathered in celebration of their glorious tresses. They called it The Day We Had Fun. Jennifer, a CN reader, wrote in and shared the links with us a couple of weeks ago. I, like many of you, was intrigued, and did a bit of follow-up research. I tracked the 'Curly-Haired Ones' down, reached out for an interview, and quickly learned that like many of us (1) they're learning to embrace their curls despite societal pressures, and (2) wearing their hair naturally is not a political statement.

CN: What led you to start 'The Curly-Haired Ones' Facebook page? What purpose do you hope it will serve?
M: The only thing that made me create this community was its absence in Facebook. Curly Heads are normally divided into two groups: Those who are fed up with their hair because of its annoyances and those who despite its problems, love their hair (like taking care of it, giving it style, being mocked by other people, our afro hairstyle being unusual for our society and many other things that you are aware of). I used to see a lot of people not having any confidence when in groups of friends- - this page was made to show the real beauty of curly hair and to turn a negative thing for some to a positive, and to be proud of their hair.

The biggest goal of this page is the smile it brings to its members. We mostly like to joke about famous Iranian poems, phrases, sayings and important events happening in the world. These jokes are made by linking them to curly hair which needs creativity. So one of the other goals of the page besides making you laugh, is to be creative in what we do, and to inspire. Most of the phrases used in the status section of the page might not be understood even after translation, but I’ll give you an example:

Straight hair does not exist in the world, as a long time ago people thought the earth was straight too.
In general this page tries not to focus solely on people with curly hair and it’s just an excuse to laugh and be happy.

CN: What sparked the meeting at Park e Melat in Tehran on January 21st? Was the turnout bigger than expected?
M: Truthfully I have to say no particular event sparked this meeting. I receive a lot of pictures, and every now and then, I would make a music video out of them and share it to show the beauty of curly hair. But this wasn’t enough, so I thought it would be cool to have all the curly haired people in one big panoramic picture, to show how small things can turn into big events. I started to market this idea one month prior by distributing a poster of the music video. Approximately 250 people came to the gathering which was more than I expected. A lot of people thought no one would come, but after seeing the pictures they regretted not coming.

For boys in our society, having an afro is very unusual. The feedback we got after the gathering was that the curly ones were proud of themselves, and learning to love their curls. Also people with straight hair wished they had curly hair!

CN: In a time where there are so many political causes, what is your reasoning behind not making this a political movement?
M: Taking into account the goals on which the page was made, you can see there is no use politicizing this issue. This gathering with all of its problems happened and made for a memorable day.

CN: What are your favorite hair products? What are the popular products in Tehran?
M: There is a lot of variety in the products. As I said before, we don’t really put much attention to these matters on our page, but we do have a section where people talk about how they style their hair and what products they use (in which there is no similarity between them in choosing hair products). Most mention famous brands which are used all over the world.

CN: Are you the founder of the group? Can I please have a picture of you to share?
M: Yes I am. Unfortunately I cannot share a picture of myself. One of the main reasons of the pages’ success is that no one has taken a leadership role and every member has an equal role. No one of the members knows whom the administrator a.k.a. founder is.

CN: I've seen the articles about mandatory haircuts in Iran. Are the rules enforced, and how does it affect the 'Curly-Haired Ones'? If you feel comfortable sharing, do you plan to abide by these rules?
M: These rules have been passed but they are not strictly implemented, so you are not forced to style your hair to a particular standard and you can see different styles of hair throughout the city. What we’ve done has nothing to do with protesting to these rules.

CN: Is it hard to get a job with your curly hair?
M: For girls no, but for boys with really long curly hair, it’s hard to get a job because for the majority of the society, it is something unusual.

CN Says;

As active participants in the online natural hair world, we're more than aware of the many ongoing debates. An overarching one is whether natural hair is a lasting movement or simply a transient fashion trend. The answer... yes. Whether or not natural hair is a movement or trend is up to the individual. Period. Now that we have many more prominent examples of beautiful black women with natural hair (more than even five years ago), people envy that and want to adopt it as fashion. In this sense, it is a trend and it is trendy. On the other hand, natural hair is also a movement (embracing the curls, accepting yourself, re-educating yourself about hair care, etc.), because some of these people decide to make it apart of a larger life change- - a change in the way they interact with society, a change in the way they see themselves, and an overall self-esteem improvement.

I for one take heart in the notion that these young Iranians, with every reason in the world to become political, choose rather to embrace their curls simply to make themselves happy.
Love it :)

Want to see more pics of the Curly-Haired Ones? Check out their Facebook!

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