Big Play for Naturalistas

I grew up in a Jamaican Pentecostal church, as I’ve mentioned before. After one particular service, a female minister accosted me, demanding to know why I was wearing extensions and braids. My childhood church was—is, actually— very conservative, and I remember perennial debates over how women should wear their hair. To the female minister, I answered frankly that I braided my hair to manage it more easily, in return she flashed: “Comb whe’ God gi’ you fi’ comb!” An overly simplistic and nonsensical response, to be sure. We didn’t have much to say to each other after that, and the controversy fizzled out.

Well, a lot of Black women are wearing their hair natural these days. Most want to break away from corrosive chemical treatments, and damaging weaves. The discussion about wearing natural hair and styling “what God gave you,” is no longer exclusively church terrain, or that of our ultra-progressive, dread lock wearing, left-leaning sistren. Those of you who are on a hair journey, or contemplating one, might want to check out this article in The New York Times. It’s about African-American bloggers and video bloggers dishing out advice on caring for natural hair. It ran in the newspaper last week. Looks like there might be a few more additions to the blog roll!

Before CurlyNikki, MopTopMaven, Naptural85 or any other hair bloggers came on the scene, the women in my church were passing around this book by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner. You might recall “Good Hair” yourself, or maybe you’ve read Brittenum Bonner’s other books.  She had been a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, but I think being a “hair memoirist” and forerunner to a hip new wave of hair bloggers makes her even more interesting.

As for me, I wear my hair chemically straightened. And I attend a different church, where no one really gives my head a second glance. I still keep in touch with a lot of my friends from my old church, and occasionally visit. But I try to blend quietly into the background and not draw any attention to myself. (Yeah. Good luck with that, with the mixed family and all.) And besides. Considering that the Bible offers no compelling clues or absolute doctrine on this issue—it preferred to admonish adherents to love their wives and parents not to provoke their children to anger—I never jumped on the natural hair movements that occasionally bubbled up at our church. Besides, I really wanted to spend my time writing stories, reading the classics, plotting my route away from home. That sort of thing. So whenever a minister rapped the back of my hand for cutting my hair into a super short boyish style, I politely explain that I chose the cut because it suited my perfectly shaped head. One woman minister glared at me and my braids—judgmentally, I presumed—from the rostrum during a service. I directed my gaze right back at her until she wilted. She’s probably off somewhere with the woman minister I mentioned earlier, the one who tried to jack me up in the pew after a service. Maybe they are praying for me right now.

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