A New Hair Social Order


by Dori Phelps

So, first of all I want to state some givens. I’ve been black all my life. I don’t know what it is like to be anything else. My life experience consists of the fact that I have never been skinny: never very large but svelte is not a category I would fit in. Nor have I ever been reserved or without opinion; my personality bubbles into every situation. And I’ve never met a stranger.

However, I am in American culture, the other; too dark, too big and too loud. Basically, I am taking up too much room, heard too much and seen as well. That thought experiment can be parked for now. I mention that only to say I am not stranger to otherness. For to add to that, I have short hair and wear it naturally.

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Texas Court Rules in Favor of Hair Braider Isis Brantley



This natural hair movement has taken off so rapidly that we forget how it even got started. As bloggers take the spotlight, accompanying us through our personal hair care lessons together, we can now stop briefly to appreciate one of the pioneers of this movement. Isis Brantley was one of the first women to notice the need of spreading the art of braiding from one woman to another. Not only did she live for this, she fought for this.

And now she is celebrating a major victory as last week a federal judge declared that the set of laws that were preventing Brantley and other braiders from teaching students to braid for a living, were in fact unconstitutional.  This has been a long-fought battle for Brantley, who in 1979, Brantley opened up the first natural hair salon in Texas. In the late 70’s natural hair had a different image, a different message. In my interview with Brantley she shared that “The word ‘natural’ was a negative word, so I helped people to challenge their jobs and change their perception and began teaching hundreds of people how to braid, twist and loc hair and potentially make it their business.”  In 1995, the state came to her storefront to disclose it was illegal to braid in Texas for profit.  Brantley recounted how in 1997 “seven law enforcement officers barged into my building and handcuffed me to go to jail for braiding without a cosmetology license. I got out of jail, got a lawyer and in 2007 they grandfathered me in as a licensed braider.” 

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Congress Demands U.S. Army Grooming Standards to Change



On Tuesday, March 27th, 2014 we published an article titled Are the Proposed Army Changes Discriminatory to Women With Natural Hair?. This post outlined the new regulations the U.S. Army's AR 670-1 created on natural hair. 

Reclaiming the word "Nappy"

PHOTO CREDIT: MARC BAPTISTE


Nappy was never a word you wanted to hear or be associated with when I was growing up. I’m a part of Generation X, the latch-key kids, Atari players, the generation after the baby boomers. If you were born between 1965 and 1980, you are a part of Generation X.

It’s safe to say that as a black child in this generation, your hair was either pressed or relaxed. Having natural hair (or what we called nappy hair) was unacceptable and made you an easy prey for ridicule. There was no alternative. You had to straighten your hair in some way and if your hair was not funky, fresh laid, you were bound to get teased. Negative labels were hurled from the classmates and playmates who had learned them from their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. Nappy was not a sentimental word used to tell little girls how unique and beautiful their hair was.

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My Curly Hair Was Holding Me Back at Work



When I first went natural I was terrified of going out into the world with my new hair. It was my own hair but there was no straightening, wig, or weave to cover my curly texture.

It was just me.

I was received with welcome arms from most, but I did notice the silent stares by others. Despite that, I can honestly say I was treated no differently. Then, I switched jobs and it was like going from day to night. My immediate supervisor (who did not hire me, by the way) made it known that she did not like my curly/coily hair. The few times I would straighten my hair she would shower me with “ooohs” and “ahhhs” and “it’s so pretty this way.”

The last time I wore it straight to the office, she went so far to say, “it’s professional when you wear it straight and you should keep it this way.” I was stunned, infuriated, and high-tailed it to the ladies room to ruin my style with water and my spray bottle. Needless to say, it was the beginning of the end for that job and yes, there were other problems but the main problem was me not being accepted as me.

Lupita Nyong'o- "There is no shame in Black beauty."



On Thursday night, the stunning actress was honored at Essence’s 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in Hollywood, where she delivered a powerful speech on her quest to accept the skin she was born in. Like most young children growing up, her perception of beauty came from what she saw celebrated on her television screen, and it wasn’t until she saw a model that looked like her, walking the runways that she began to embrace her beauty. She also revealed that she spent years praying that she would wake up a lighter complexion, but she learned over time that beauty is so much more than the external. Beauty is compassion for yourself, and those around you. You can’t just consume it, it’s something you have to be.

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