A Futuristic Tool Helps Viewers Access Black History

There is a much greater purpose in the creation of my "Crowning Our Hair-itage Program. Every February, Black History Month comes around, but the same recycled topics are talked about. The typical and redundant Black History Month topics that are presented are too often very white-washed, overly sanitized, sugar coated and minimized. Only a few Black Civil Rights leaders are talked about and only a fraction of their life, their more "controversial" beliefs and community contributions are mentioned on a surface level. It creates the illusion that Black people as a whole have a very simple and short history that lacks in depth, complexity and nuance. This disturbs me for so many reasons and so many vital elements and aspects of the culture and experience of Black history are almost never mentioned accurately and to the full degree of analysis that is necessary for a proper education. So much of Black History is either distorted in schools or completely omitted and unknown to the general public.

The subject of Black Hair is a very important and very controversial topic in and outside of the Black community. There is so much political and social stigma surrounding natural Black hair. Kinkier, coarser, curlier textures are the most underappreciated, stigmatized and exotified features. That kind of hair type is feared, ostracized, and is told it is a hideous texture that needs to be "corrected" even through unhealthy toxic and sometime lethal chemical means. For that reason, I feel that it is integral to educate the public about the issues surrounding Black Hair.

There is so much misinformation, assumption, stereotypes and outright discrimination surrounding this kind of hair texture that if it is not addressed directly and frequently the attacks and shunning will continue. There are young children who suffer extreme bullying because of their hair including what I would refer to as "hair assault" which involves people in power: ie teachers and administration suspending, prohibiting and cutting off the natural hair of students.

With that being said, I am aware of the fact that there is an existing law in place called the "Crown Act" to protect employees from workplace discrimination based on their natural hair. It was first legalized in California in 2019, so it is a fairly recent law that has been passed; considering that was only two years ago. Since then, it has been legalized in a total of twelve states so far. Delaware legalized it last year, on April 13th, 2021. Granted, even with this law in place, employers are able to find other ways to fire employees they don't want for other reasons, but I still feel it's a step in the right direction. There are many people who feel that straightening their hair, either chemically or by hot comb, is necessary to be seen as professional, intelligent, clean, organized and beautiful.

Many Black people with more textured hair have endured bullying from their own disapproving family members; especially from the older generations. The younger generations are enduring a new battle in which social media cyber bullying can spread like wild fire in viral videos, where thousands and millions of viewers can harass and racially attack Black creators. Usually their ethnic features are the first to be the target. As a cosplayer myself, even in the nerd community of fantasy, comics and anime; there is frequent bullying of Black cosplayers who dare to wear their natural hair while embodying a fictional character. There are "purists" who feel that cosplay accuracy is integral, but even though the tradition started in Japan by Japanese people of Japanese characters, there is a double standard that exists between white cosplayers and Black cosplayers.

Comments berating Black cosplayers will often point out that the features don't match the character and that the cosplay is "ruined" because, "Hinata doesn't have afro puffs, Sailor Moon doesn't have brown skin, and Sakura isn't big and curvy and tall. There are even critics who go so far as to say that a Black cosplayer's body regardless of modest clothing, inherently sexualizes a character because of a common tendency to have a more curvy plus sized body shape.

This instant condemnation of the "Black body" from head to toe is an issue that effects the psyche of many young children throughout adulthood. It's so deeply imbedded in the mindset of many Black families that there are parents who decide that the demanding maintenance of natural hair is too much labor. Instead these families "remedy" the situation by chemically perming their young children's hair before their children can even retain a single memory. This means that there are Black children who grow up as teens and think their hair is naturally straight from the root and don't realize that if they stopped going to the hair salon every six months to process it, it would in fact grow out in a more kinky, coarse and coiled manner.

Because many Black people in the United States have mixed ancestry, there are many variations of skin tones, hair textures and ethnic features in our community. There are also many ethnic variations in the continent of Africa as well. Because of that, there are Black people who exist with looser curls, wavy tresses, and straighter hair textures. Even redheads and blondes naturally exist as well as Black people with rare physical features such as lighter brown, blue, green, gray and hazel eyes. There are a community of people called "Melanesians" who are naturally Black people with darker skin complexions and striking blonde hair and blue eyes. Features have more to do with dominant and recessive genes and which ones the parents are carrying. Many of the features that Black people commonly have: brown eyes, brown skin, brown hair are dominant genes meaning there's a higher chance that a biracial child will have Black features rather than white features. Black women have ta special "Eve Gene" that allows for their offspring to have the possibility of expressing a variety of ethnic features.

What is the purpose and reason why Black people have such varied features? It is because our place of geographic origin is close to the Equator. Darker skin complexions protect from the sun. Tighter kinks and coils allow for moisture to retain close to the head so that the sweat and water will keep it cool. Wide nostrils and a wide nose allow for better breathing in hot, humid air. The opposite goes for the ancestors of white folks. They tend to have long oily hair to keep warm in cold climates. They tend to have narrow noses with smaller nostrils and paler skin with much less melanin. It all has to do with the adaption to our environment and what bodies best fit where our ancestors lived. I do recall asking my father if African Americans have been living in the United States for six, seven, eight generations: why haven't our bodies changed or mutated to fit the environment we live in now. He told me that takes centuries and in a way the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade did indeed alter "DACS" (Descendants of American Chattel Slavery) bodies in many ways.

Only 1/6th of the population brought to the Americas survived the Middle Passage meaning only the strongest even made it to the shore. After that Black people who were enslaved were bred like cattle and sexually assaulted to create as many strong babies as possible. This created a select population of very fertile, very strong but also very psychologically traumatized people, and that manifests in a physical trauma that can be found in the DNA of Black descendants today.

Even though this reality exists, there is a clear preference and pressure for Black people to ethnically alter their appearance to be as close to "whiteness" as possible.

"Colorism" is a social divide between darker skinned people and fairer skinned people within the same racial group.

"Texturism" is a divide between people who have looser, wavier, lighter colored curls vs. people who have kinkier, tighter, darker colored coils.

"Featurism" is the preference for features such as a narrow nose, wide eyes, fairer skin, a slim body and straighter hair.

There is a hierarchy within every racial group that celebrates and elevates those closest to the "white supremacist ideal of the epitome of Aryan beauty." That same system ostracizes and berates those who appear more "ethnic" and more distant from that "beauty standard ideal."

There are some major gender divides that take effect as well. There are many Black women who often complain that there are Black men who openly and proudly shame them for any hairstyle they choose to wear. Whether it is worn in a natural afro, braids, a lace front weave, locs, or a short cut every Black style has some sort of social stigma attached to it.

From childhood we are inundated with fairy tale propaganda celebrating and elevating "Aryan" features. Picture in your mind the first image of what you see when you hear the word, "Princess or Prince Charming." The image often times tends to be one of Aryan and European features, even though all over the world in various cultures there have been kings and queens of all colors. Snow White was a story that first informed me that "fairness" is considered synonymous with beautiful because it was often emphasized that Snow White was the "fairest of them all" but it was not stated that she was both fair and beautiful, it was to be understood that she was simply fair and that is all that needed to be stated because "fair = beautiful" automatically.

What is the solution? Children as young as three years old need to be read to and shown multiple books and programs that adamantly and purposefully celebrate their natural hair. They need to be told and reminded every day how beautiful their hair is naturally, and that they don't need to change their hair to please society, their friends, family, place of work or future partner. There are many books out there and some programs that I will provide links to during my C.O.H. program. There are also an increasing number of blended interracial families and Black adoptees living with white and non-black POC (people of color) parents. These parents often times struggle with the maintenance natural hair requires. Many forego the labor and instead of taking the time to learn and research how to properly care for it, they just decide to process it chemically and straighten it to the point that their child's hair is permanently damaged.

There was a natural hair movement in the seventies during the rise of the Black Power Movement and there has been a second wave of that same movement that took place in the early two thousands. However whatever becomes popular in the mainstream is soon capitalized on. Companies have preyed upon the insecurities and pockets of Black women and men for centuries. There is an in-between middle space for ethnic tweaking. Styles like the "Jerry Curl" and "texturizers" are basically "half perms" that loosen the curls into a wavier looser curl. There are companies that pride themselves in making products for the natural hair community, but promote only wavy, looser, coil results and never display or elevate the kinkiest, tightest, coarsest textures. There are women and men who will spent thousands on numerous products, promote complex and lengthy hair routines and pour entire "fruit baskets" and an ocean of "oils" onto their scalp, which suffocates our hair.

Our hair requires frequent moisture because our scalps tend to be drier than other heads. Our hair needs to be combed frequently so that the coils don't tangle and "nap up" to the point it becomes very dense and almost solid. This is why long toothed, wide tooth combs and picks are a necessity. I myself have a special shower comb with separate teeth that move away from each other as I comb my hair. It makes all the difference in the world to have the right products and hair care tools because having the wrong ones can create an extremely painful and traumatic experience. The wrong comb rakes through and snatches up hair follicles from the root. Another important note is that Black people are not supposed to wash their hair as frequently because it will dry our scalps out further.

Granted every Black head is unique. Every product doesn't work for every texture and Black people's hair textures can vary through out their head. Textures can also change as we age. Hair style trends change over time. Now, in today's day and age, locs and braids including shade gradients of varying colors are popular and easily accessible in stores.

I remember back when I was a teen in the early two thousands, that I had to go to a dangerous neighborhood to get my Kenekolon braid extensions because that was the only area that had them. Mainstream stores had no "ethnic hair care section." Only Black Hair care stores in the "hood" carried what was needed. Mind you these stores are rarely if ever actually owned by Black people. More than not these stores are owned by a majority Korean population, so our Black dollars do not even get to recirculate back into our own community on one of the top items we spend the most on.

When I left for college, I was originally attending a P.W.I. (Predominantly White Institution) and I permed my hair because I knew I'd be out in the middle of nowhere in an isolated city and that I wouldn't have access to a Black Hair Salon or store maintain an ethnic style.

The time needed to install braids can range as long as four hours to eight hours and even longer. It depends on the size, length and style. Fresh braids can be done so tightly that the scalp can bleed, crust at the root and give an individual a throbbing headache for a week. An even worse more painful circumstance is when lying down to sleep after fresh braid installation. It is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes at Black Hair salons two and three women will braid one head at once to speed up the process. Braids however, while very difficult and costly to get are a convenient protective style because they can last up to two months and require very little maintenance. At one time in my teenage years, sad to say, I actually wore braids because I knew I could have the longest tresses to satisfy society's feminine requirements but at the same time still fulfill my "ethnic obligation" by wearing a culturally Black hairstyle. I did stick out however because at that time I was one of the only braided Black girls and I used many alternative colors at a time that was seldom ever done.

I am happy to say that I have grown so much since my days of shame. I have had partners in the past who have shared their disgust and dislike of my natural hair and those were words that came from other Black men. Tragic as it is, there is a struggle of self hatred and a concept that if a POC man is able to pair himself with a white woman that it is a symbol of success. To add insult to injury, there are POC men who also chase after a specific type of white woman, a "Black washed, Black fishing, Transracial Black appropriative white woman." This type of woman will copy, emulate and appropriate many visual aspects typically associated with a Black woman's body.

These women will copy the hairstyles, clothing, darkened skin through extreme tanning or melanin injections, surgery to enhance or create extreme curves and mimic a style of speech by using ethnic slang and AAVE (African American Vernacular English "a Black dialect"). The reason this is so extremely problematic is because Black people's culture has become mainstream and popular in many ways but the public tends to celebrate and elevate non Black artists and creators who make a copy of Black styles and often times the actual creator is shut out of any recognition or profits. Tiktok is a prime example of this frequent phenomenon.

Cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation is a very complex and nuanced topic with many opinions, factors and elements that need to be considered. Since a cultural community is made up of billions or millions of people there is no single monolithic consensus on what should culturally be held as sacred and restricted and what is allowed to be shared. I will touch on all of these topics and more in my program. We will be doing a very deep dive into not only the history of legal and social restriction and banning of natural hair in the United States, but also the rich African tradition of the sacred practice of hairstyle significance. Even during the period of American enslavement, certain Black people who were enslaved would form strategic map designs in the shape of braided and cornrowed hair to show escapees the path to freedom. They would also imbed food like rice and seeds within their cornrows as well. Hair was literally a life or death aspect of our culture historically.

In Louisiana there were "Tignon Laws" put in place to enforce a head wrap requirement for Black and Creole (French and Black mixed) women to cover their hair because the ornate way in which they adorned their hair was confusing the dominant class as to what their social status was. Those women were considered to be too "fancy" to establish their lower class status. Louisiana has a very interesting history because they are a state that had a third middle class racial status of "mulatt*s" which was a word used in the past to describe half black and half white people, but today is considered pejorative and a racial slur. There were also labels such as "Quadroon meaning 1/4th Black and Octoroon meaning 1/8th Black." In the United States the one drop rule determining whether someone counts as a Black person in any capacity goes as far as stating that a person who is 1/32nd Black in ancestry is indeed a Black person. Not to mention counting as a Black person did not count for much because for some decades Black identity only counted as 3/5 a person.

These racial laws were made to make sure that concept of White purity was protected and that White Supremacy was held in tact firmly by hundreds of restrictive and vicious Jim Crow Segregation laws that effected the daily lives of many POC. My target audience for this program is indeed people who are outside of the natural hair and Black community because this kind of education is rarely ever known, understood or elaborated on in the depth it needs to be.

I hope that I can present this topic with justice, with composure and with an open mind. I hope that I can build bridges and help racial divides. I hope that through education healing can form. There is so much un-resolved, unprocessed trauma over the "hair" issue and I want to continue to expand this project by interviewing numerous individuals about their personal experience with their own natural hair journey. I want the children of the future to never have the slightest doubt that they are beautiful and to never question even considering feeling like they have to alter themselves to be beautiful or intelligent or successful.

I want to interview everyday people: family, friends, locals, hair dressers and barbers. If you want to assist in helping me in this project please reach out to me at my email at [email protected]

Soon I will create a website for this project as well as a gmail, instagram, facebook page, facebook group, twitter, youtube and a discord server. I am very passionate about many in the commUNITY. I am eternally grateful to anyone and everyone who is playing a part in making this become a reality. Education is the key to SUCCESS!

Source : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/purpose-my-crowning-our-hair-itage-program-madeline-porter

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