The Grind: A Black Academic’s Non-academic Response to “Going Natural”

I did it, y’all! I took out my extensions which held my relaxed hair beautifully for the last two and half months, and I did the BIG CHOP (BC)! I now have a TWA (teenie-weenie Afro). It’s a vibrant shade of brownish red. I’m loving it!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that relaxing my hair has been an affront to the race or anything. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed having my relaxed hair. I say this is a non-academic response because, of course, I’ve read many-a-article about the significance of hair in the black culture. I’ve written about hair in relation artists like David Hammons, for example, in my dissertation! I actually had to recently revisit Angela Davis’ article, “Afro Images: Politics, Fashion, and Nostalgia” [Critical Inquiry, vol. 21, no. 1 (Autumn 1994), pp. 37-39, 41-43, 45] for something I’m working on now. So, I know how to break down the sociological and psychological meanings of black hair in the American society. But this is not the space for that…right now.

For me, it was just time to change. Perhaps since I’ve had change so much with my move to Wellesley, why not one more change?! There is something nice about being at a small liberal arts college that makes you feel like you can be who you wanna be with great acceptance. Living essentially on a women’s campus makes me feel even more comfortable. I had no idea what my natural hair was like. I, too, succumbed to the jheri curl at an early age (maybe 10 y/o). I know that it is going to be a journey only because I will have to learn how to take care of my hair in a different texture.

What really worried me was being in Boston (no offense to my New England sister-friends). I knew I’d feel much more comfortable transitioning if I were able to get to my stylist of 11 years in Philly. She’d be able to hold my hand and make sure I didn’t look wack along the way. So, I decided to head down to Philly to get the job done at Asanti Hair Studio. Phew! Haircut was a success. I think the greatest complement that I received from my good, good girlfriend was that my haircut and color match my personality: chic, fun, and not conservative (the way my relaxed hairstyles seemed to suggest). Here is a sample of photos taken from August 2011 to January 2012.

August 2011-Relaxed and highlighted

December 2011-Beautiful, no-fuss braids

January 21, 2012-The Big Chop!

I think the color really sets the style off!

I’ve visited a lot of websites to help me along the way: curlynikki.com (how could I not?), missjessiesnaturallycurly.comAfrobella.comKim Coles’ You Tube adventures, along with other blogs and twitter feeds (#naturalhair). I even had some twitter followers encourage me along the way. I feel comforted and guided. It’s so cliché, but I do feel liberated! Yes, liberated from the chemicals. Liberated from feeling the need to straighten my hair in order to know what to do with it. Liberated from insecurity. Me, insecure? What?! My friend warned me that I’d feel a little more vulnerable, raw perhaps. I do feel exposed, but in a good way. Hey, this is ME! Take it or leave it!

For more stories on how I’m on The Grindclick here.

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