Black Hair Town Hall: Four words that sparked the interest of Black women all throughout NYC to assemble together in support of one another's unique appearances. An event coordinated by Antonia and Abigal Opiah, the co-founders of Un-Ruly.com, the entire evening was spent with a crowd full of expressive women and girls voicing their thoughts on the websites' Black Hair Is... video series. A project made in conjunction with hair care line Smooth 'N Shine, it is a sequence of "shorts" that act as a "debate, led by six women with relaxed hair and six women with natural hair that explores ideas of what Black Hair should be and what it actually is, by looking at the divides that exist in our community."
Hosted by The Wing at their SOHO location, it was a melanin-empowering sister-to-sister kind of night.
"The event is an extension of the video series, and what prompted the video series was to stir a conversation around our and those particular pain points. Those judgments," clarifies Antonia. Her outfit for the night screamed afro-Parisian, because of her combination of box braids with Parisian-reminiscent beret.
Now, onto the video conversations. If you're aware, you realize how serious Black women are about their hair — like seriously, this is no joke. Black hair is something that needs to be treated with a lot of TLC (spray-on loads of diluted coconut oil or some Biosilk Silk Therapy serum for that press on top of it, and you're good to go). Black women also need a lot more support in trying to accept their hair because our kinks, protective hairstyles, and thick and "unruly" hair textures are not always seen as the most attractive to others because of their own social beauty standards.
"People are not going to like this, but yes, I do think that White women can be a part of the natural hair community," says featured video-speaker Nikia. An exotic looking lady, with brown freckles and mini-fro featuring a skillfully made stitch-twist design toward the left-side of her head, had a more inclusive outlook in her interview for the "Can White Women be in the Natural Hair Movement?"
"Maybe they don't have the deep cultural impact and roots that we do," Nikia continues. "But they're experiencing it on their level and that is all relative."
As she primarily mentions, not everyone was in agreement with her, including other women featured in the video.
"Not today, I mean it's..." began Shaina. Her free-flowing 'fro with effortless volume because of her (more than likely overnight) twist-out. "Black women need a safe space for themselves. The natural hair movement was created from this idea that we need to step out of society's norms and love ourselves for who we are."
"A White woman could embrace her curls or embrace her natural pattern. It's kind of intrusive for them to come in and then say, 'Hey, we're just like you, too. We have the same hair issue as well'" added in Tranée, blatantly saying that the natural hair movement is a Black girl-thing. Her bun with fulani braids reminding me of the many fun hairstyles Yara Shahidi's models on "Grownish."
Each perspective held its own substance and outlined two different ways to illustrate to whom the natural hair movement belongs to. Personally, I'm not against inclusivity — if White people with hair that's more-or-less curly as my 4A-pattern hair want to talk about their perspectives, why not? Yet, I do understand that cultivating your self-esteem as a Black woman is also not always the easiest feat, and self-love is usually easier to cultivate around others who share the same cultural norms.
"Yes, our hair is dividing us… big time," says Dana, starting off the discussion in the "Is our hair dividing us?" video.
Oh, really? Dana's statement only made me hyperfocused on what each lady would say afterward.
"The more we can be different the better-off we all are," affirms Pamela, sporting some shoulder-length micro-box braids.
Both these commentaries make sense, as the silent competition of "good hair" has always existed. Black women, at all ages, usually feel or have at one point often felt as if their hair is not beautiful if it is not bundles of effortlessly-manageable coils.
"It's all about self-love. I think there is a way to get past all the hate amongst ourselves in our community if we start loving ourselves and accepting other people's differences," says Lelia, with two cornrows adorning the sides of her slick-gelled afro-puff bun.
I couldn't agree more. It's up to ourselves to love each other for who we are, and no amount of debating is going to do that for us. If you work on yourself inwardly and are in complete acceptance of your outer-appearance, then you'll be more accepting toward others regardless of their skin color, hair texture, etc.
"The struggle is as real as you make it. If you continue to work at it and continue to really look at yourself, see your hair, see your texture, and you're able to recognize the beauty in someone else's, then we can get past this hair talk," Nikia says, wrapping up the talk completely. (Just a brief FYI, I was in love with everything she was saying the entire night!)
As a self-proclaimed natural hair fanatic who learned how to effectively manage her hair over the past six years, I was in love with the conversations we had. I believe that accepting your natural hair, especially as a Black girl, is a precursor to cultivating one's self-esteem and establishing one's confidence. Without these two things, where do you stand?
Check out the rest of the content on Un-Ruly.com, a website that is truly meant for all your Black hair needs and questions, or just to enjoy some hair product shopping or explore some interesting reads.