Working out the kinks

Black girls are learning to embrace their natural hair, leading to a level of self discovery they never knew existed

Molly House, staff reporter

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Last month, New York passed a law that made it illegal for companies to target people based on their hair or hairstyle. But why is there a need for such a law in the year 2019?

In a country rooted in racism and Eurocentric ideals, beauty in the media has often meant blue eyes, skinny figure and straight hair for women. But what does this mean for black women? For women with curly, kinky or coily hair?

For some, it has meant decades of feeling societal pressure to hide the natural beauty of their hair; to alter it to fit in with the guidelines set by society.

PHOTOS BY CLEVELAND PUBLICATIONS
“I feel like black hair is a big part of the black community, so when you learn to love it, you open yourself up to this new part of the world you haven’t seen yet.”
MIA DABNEY
Freshman

Freshman Mia Dabney was tired of other people telling her what her hair should look like. She recalls former classmates – mainly white girls – trying to convince her to change her hair, to see what it would look like straightened. She wrote a poem about it and shared it with those who doubted her hair’s natural beauty. It changed the way they saw it. It also changed the way she looked at her own hair.

“When I was younger, at first, I really didn’t like [my hair]. It was just something I had on my head, because everyone else’s was straight and black and not like mine,” said Dabney. “As I got older, I learned that it’s here, I might as well learn to love it. So, I did and then I started to embrace it, try different hairstyles, and express my personality through my hair.”

When Dabney learned to embrace who she was through her hair, a whole new community opened for her.

“I feel like black hair is a big part of the black community, so when you learn to love it, you open yourself up to this new part of the world that you haven’t seen yet,” said Dabney. “I found black, female YouTubers that inspired me to be myself and open myself up to the world.”

Hair is made of a protein called keratin, but it’s so much more. It’s part of who you are, how you identify within your community. How you identify with yourself.

Senior Kortney Duncan flat-ironed her hair every day in middle school. She was almost afraid not to. The main reason was because a boy made fun of Duncan’s natural hair in the fifth grade.

Up until that point, Duncan didn’t really pay any attention to her hair.

“After that one boy … made fun of my hair, I was conscious about it,” Duncan said.

PHOTOS BY CLEVELAND PUBLICATIONS
“For so long, you wanted to have you hair … straight, but the movement to keep your hair more natural has been fairly impactful.”
MAKAYLA CARTER
Junior

Going into middle school, Duncan was determined not to suffer from criticisms about her hair. She said she received the most compliments when her hair was flat ironed, so that’s what she did. But eventually, all of the heat and chemicals became too much for Duncan’s hair, and it started to become damaged. It was time for a change.

On her eighth-grade graduation day, Duncan chopped off her whole ponytail. It was a cathartic moment for her. The summer before ninth grade, she wore her hair naturally, and her hair appreciated it.

“I wore it in the curly state, so it could be healthy,” said Duncan. “It’s my natural hair, so I’ll leave it alone.”

If you spot Duncan in the halls now, you’ll see a girl rocking her natural ponytail, not caring what other people think.

“I love every part of my hair. I fully embrace it all,” she said.

Growing up in Puyallup, a predominantly white city, junior Makayla Carter felt out of place with her curly hair.

“I used to not like my hair … and I kind of felt out of place. Everyone had straight or wavy hair. I thought my hair was too curly, and I didn’t want to deal with it,” Carter said.

When Carter and her family moved to Seattle, she went to a more diverse school and saw more kids with hair like hers. This is when she realized that she should embrace her hair the way it is.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really grown to love my hair,” Carter said.

In the black community, with the Black Lives Matter movement, Carter has noticed a shift to embrace natural hair.

PHOTOS BY CLEVELAND PUBLICATIONS
“I think natural hair is extremely beautiful … it’s beautiful no matter what you do with it.”
JORDAN O’NEAL
Junior

“For so long, you wanted to have your hair either slicked back or straight, but the movement to keep your hair more natural has been fairly impactful. There’s more products available, and more salons that are able to cater toward you,” said Carter. “It’s a comforting feeling.”

Jordan O’Neal has also seen a shift in society around natural black hair – specifically in the media. Although the junior remembers seeing a lot of black girls wearing straight hair on TV and in movies growing up, O’Neal thinks things are looking up for natural hair on the screen.

“I’m seeing a change in the media, which is great … when you look at the movie “Black Panther,” everyone is wearing their hair natural, and it looks so good,” O’Neal said.

She believes that a few years ago, the media promoted straight hair as the best way to keep your mane manageable, but that’s now changing.

“I feel like now they’re promoting actual hair products for wearing your black hair naturally. I think natural hair is extremely beautiful … it’s beautiful no matter what you do with it.”

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