Hair As A Symbol Of Black Feminism

Hair As A Symbol Of Black Feminism


Kearah Armonie, a Brooklyn College Film Major, sits in front of her computer, waiting for the screen to come alive. Her lips covered in black lipstick mouth the lyrics to an Erykah Badu song playing in the background. She tugs on the locs she started about a year and a half ago, which she says is "a symbol of black power". She logs into her Tumblr account, ILoveBoxBraids, with over 29,000 followers, and scrolls through pictures of women of varying ages, shapes, and shades of the black girl spectrum.

“ILoveBoxBraids is a Tumblr blog, and a big trend on the platform is to make a photo blog where you post pictures of a certain theme based on what your blog is about. You also accept submissions. ILoveBoxBraids is for natural hair inspiration but mostly extensions and African hair braiding styles."

"Good Hair," a documentary film produced by Chris Rock in 2009, was made after he realized his daughter did not think her hair was “good”. His goal for the documentary was to attack this concept of “bad hair” which plagued black girls in an era obsessed with sleek straight hair, even if it meant using cancer causing chemicals such as a relaxer, colloquially coined the “creamy crack”. Kearah sites Good Hair as one of her many inspirations for her blog. “Years to come after that film, the whole natural hair movement was booming, I didn’t even realize I made my blog in the middle of all of that”.

Afros, braids, and locs are often considered “unprofessional” hairstyles that have kept women of color out of jobs, schools and other spaces of advancement. Black girls with thick and curly textures started to question this. Why is the natural way my hair grows from my scalp inherently wrong? Why do I have to completely change the pattern in which my hair grows, through harmful chemicals, in order to be accepted?

The natural hair movement became more than a conversation about hair but a worldwide discussion on race and gender. "One act of feminism apart from fighting patriarchy is representation. It's putting women out here. It’s showing that I am a woman and I am here and I am your equal and I deserve to be in this space. So an act of black feminism would be putting black women out there and saying this is who I am, this is my skin tone, this is my hair texture and I am here. We are here. So for me just posting regular black girls with their booty length box braids taking a mirror selfie in the school bathroom is an act of black feminism."

A reflection of this global transition of hair and mind can be seen through hash tags such as #blackgirlmagic or #naturalhairdontcare. These revolutionary hash tags are statements of resistance. With resistance often comes consequence.

In November of 2012, Weather woman and meteorologist, Rhonda Lee, was fired from her anchor position at KTBS 3 News, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La, for wearing and defending her natural hair. In 2013, 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke was threatened expulsion by her school in Florida for her natural hair. In an interview for WKMG, she stated “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.” Kearah's blog is a celebration of girls like Vanessa. She shares photos of everyday black girls with thousands of reblogs, likes and comments. This encourages girls to embrace their natural hair the way Vanessa has. Scrolling through her blog, Kearah shows me many comments made under the pictures she posts such as, "I can't wait to do this to my hair" or "this is pretty, where can I get a style like this done".

Since the start of her blog Kearah has received thousands of questions about hair. Many of those questions delve into the politics of hair. "When a white girl asks me if she could get braids, one if you have to ask then the answer is probably no." Kearah explains that although she is for women of all ethnicities, a non person of color wearing braids and locs "rides the fence of cultural appropriation". She goes on to explain the discrimination women of color face for their hair. "Like you want braids but you still probably won’t hire me in your establishment so that’s my personal inner conflict"

Rocking natural hair to many black girls like Kearah is a political statement in opposition to anti-black rhetoric such as "unruly" or "nappy." The transition from a relaxer into natural hair to many women of color is a reclaiming of their blackness. It says, I am here unapologetically, whether you accept me or not. Kearah Armonie’s blog started around March of 2011 out of a lack of representation for girls who she says “look like her”. “When I wanted to submit a picture of myself to different Tumblr blogs I realized there wasn’t one dedicated to me or braids, which I thought was weird so then I made it."

This seemingly simple reasoning became one of the main catalysts that helped thousands of women of color transition into their natural hair and find protective styles like braids, twists, and locs. "People come to me and tell me that they started new hair remedies, and taking care of their hair, and wearing their hair naturally because of my blog".

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.


I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Dear Young Voices Of America, Stand Up, Speak Up, And Do Something

Our time is now.


Dear young voices of America, I think we can both agree that we are sick of being told we are America's future while simultaneously being told our opinions don't matter. Now I personally do not listen to the people that tell me I'm better seen than heard; however, I know there are people that are a little timider when it comes to raising their voices. I am here to encourage you to be loud and speak up on topics that matter to you. There is no better time than the present to make your voice heard. Whether you are advocating for change in your school or the government, your opinion matters and is relevant.

We are the future of our country. How are we supposed to evoke change and reform if we can't have our voices heard? I call bullshit and I think it's time to take action. Even if you're the first or only person to advocate for your cause, be that person. Don't be afraid of anyone that tries to stand in your way. The only person that can stop you from speaking up for yourself and your cause is you. No matter how many nos you have to hear to get a yes or how many doors you have to knock on to get someone to open up, never give up. Never give up on your cause, never give up on yourself or the people you're representing, just don't do it. There is someone out there that supports you. Maybe they're just too shy to raise their voice too. Be encouraging and be supportive and get people to take a stand with you.

It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future or to take action. But don't hesitate to say something. The sooner you start speaking up, the sooner you have people joining you and helping you, and the sooner you start to see and experience change. So get up, make that sign, write that letter, make that phone call, take part in that march, give that speech. Do whatever you feel fit to get your point across. Shout it from the rooftops, write it on your profile, send it in a letter, ignore everyone that tries to tell you to give up. Maybe they don't understand now, maybe they don't want to listen, maybe they're afraid to listen, but the more you talk about it and help them understand what exactly you are trying to get across, they will join you.

Even when it feels like you have nobody on your side but yourself, I am on your side. I will cheer you on, I will march with you hand in hand, I will write letters and make phone calls and help you find your voice. My life changed when I found my voice and yours will too.

So dear young voices of America, the time is now. Your time is now. Don't be afraid of the obstacles that you may have to face. Someone is out there waiting for you, waiting to grab your hand and march on with you. As Tarana Burke once said "Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something."

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