Combing Through the Roots: A history of African American hair
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Something so versatile with various textures like no other, African American hair. Being a woman of color myself, I can remember being very young when my grandma and I would sit at the stove for hours in the kitchen as she pressed my hair.
Magic Hands Salon owner Liz Reimonenq could easily relate and said, “We spend a lot of time making sure our hair is in great condition, especially with our race.”
Walking into a space with faucets running, heads in sinks, hair dryers blowing full speed, and even the smell of heat from a straightening iron makes me think of a place where confidence is built. A hair salon, especially in the Black community, is a place where history is deeply rooted.
“Black hair, I think that it’s becoming a more of a topic where people are accommodated to what our natural (hair) is,” said Brandi Wilford, who’s worn her natural hair for 10 years.
Despite society’s expectations, many women of color, like Wilford, have grown to embrace natural hair.
So what is natural? Natural hair is free of chemicals such as temporary straighteners, better known as relaxers.
According to Reimonenq, there are different key curls that you can look at to determine your hair texture - from straight to curly, with tight or loose curls. Some hair even mimics a zig-zag pattern.
“One starts at straight, and you can go all the way up to a six or seven, really depending on what type of key curl you’re looking at,” she said.
I expressed to Liz Reimonenq that I personally knew many Black women who are so prideful when it comes to their hair.
So I asked, Reimonenq, “Do you think that dates back to our roots as far as maybe trying to escape oppression, of trying to look like other people?”
She said, “You know society told us what was right and what was wrong. Just seeing what people or women looked like on television and in magazines back in the past, so we didn’t know. We didn’t have a lot of education on our hair, and so we did what we thought was correct, and most of the time to straighten it.”
Reimonenq explained that Black hair goes far beyond just hair on one’s head, but it’s more so a sense of identity.
“Hair has just evolved from the 1600s up until now, with so many different styles and trends - from pressing comb to relaxers to temporary straighteners, extensions, braids, etc.,” Reimonenq said.
An act was introduced in March 2020 to prohibit race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and schools -the CROWN Act, Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.
“I think that that’s very good,” said Wilford. “I think that it would protect those feelings that Black women face because we’re able to walk into our workplace and not worry about how we appear to others or would we get in trouble or would someone say something negative about how our hair is.”
Remoniq said that in her salon, Black hair is an open book. She offers a variety of services Black women didn’t have decades ago.
“I’m just grateful that we are now able to be educated,” she said. “We can go to a lot of different trade shows and get the information that we need. We also have the internet that is so accessible, which wasn’t so accessible when I first (started).
“I think our hair just speaks in itself by itself. If your hair is not right, you’re not right.”
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