Black women let their hair go au naturale

November 12, 2010

Produced by Eight Forty-Eight

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(WBEZ/Erica Hunter)
Carlita Jackson wears her hair naturally.
(Photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)
Lauren Williams, 26, says natural hair is just as difficult to maintain as relaxed hairstyles.
(Photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)
Williams says many people are intrigued by her natural hair.
(Photo courtesy of Lauren Williams)
Even though she's gone natural, Williams says she loves trying different looks and sometimes uses weaves to achieve it.
(WBEZ/Erica Hunter)
Self Chisolm, Tonya Spencer and Gregg Brown of Naturally Speaking LLC.
(Photo courtesy of Naturally Speaking LLC)
Natural Hair and Fashion event held by Naturally Speaking Oct. 16.
(Photo courtesy of Naturally Speaking LLC)
Self Chisolm says the black power movement of the '60s and images presented in blaxploitation movies recast how we look at hair.
(Photo courtesy of Naturally Speaking LLC)
Naturally Speaking fashion show.
(Photo courtesy of Naturally Speaking LLC)
Contributing editor for Naturally Speaking, Gregg Brown.
(Photo courtesy of Naturally Speaking LLC)
Naturally Speaking fashion show.

Tyler Perry’s movie "For Colored Girls" touches on several issues important to black women. But there’s another thing that’s always been a big deal: their hair.

Many women do obsess over the style of their weave or the effort to maintain long flowing locks but others have decided to let it go au naturale.

Naturally Speaking LLC

Natural Hair Resource

"Good Hair" documentary trailer

Sesame Street "I Love My Hair"

For decades black women have conformed to society’s idea of beauty and what’s acceptable. Many have gone to great lengths to have this thing known as “good” hair. Long, Straight, Relaxed hair that is. But, others, like Tonya Spencer, are ditching mainstream’s rules and going back to their roots. “I decided at age 14 to get a relaxer and every since then I’ve had a relaxer. It wasn’t until I had two children that there was a sort of awakening for me that gave me the nerve to go natural,” says Spencer. “So it was basically for my children because I wanted them to grow up to appreciate who they were.”

Spencer is one of three founders of Naturally Speaking LLC, an organization in Forest Park, Illinois geared toward promoting positive images of black women who’ve opted to be chemical and hair weave free.

Spencer says they create various campaigns.

“We’re trying to bring a platform that is more of a social— more friendly environment so that not just African Americans can chime in on this issue of natural hair and natural beauty but all races can come together,” Spencer says.

Spencer has a 3-year-old daughter who started to believe she wasn’t pretty because of her hair. It was then that she realized she wanted to rethink the phrase “good hair.”

“Good Hair is a phrase that only African Americans used. Since I’ve been out in the corporate world and being the only African American in the corporate settings whenever I bring up that topic, a lot of non-African Americans they don’t even have a clue what I’m talking about.,” Says Spencer . “It wasn’t until then that I realized that, wait a minute, good hair means we’re comparing it to a white person’s hair. If your hair is closer to the Caucasian hair, that means you have good hair. That was when I realized that the issue “good hair” is something that is kind of internal within our culture.” 26-year-old Lauren Williams who went natural for a second time in 2006 says having natural hair and dating in the windy city has been an interesting challenge.

“If I go anywhere else, if I go to the south or if I go to the east coast or even the west coast, men are more willing to talk to me because they realize it’s a hairstyle not a lifestyle. I’m not the type of person who listens to neo-soul music all the time and burns incense and talks about the motherland—No this is just how I wear my hair because it’s convenient for me and it accentuates my features,” says Williams.

Naturally Speaking’s first campaign, “Men Who Love Women with Natural Hair” is a positive forum for women, like Williams, who boldly rock their natural mane. Gregg Brown, contributing editor for Naturally Speaking says it’s important for black men to support women who’ve gone natural.

“As a man who recently joined the movement of embracing women with natural hair, when I see a woman with natural hair, I don’t look at her in the same way that perhaps society may look at her,” Brown says. “I look at someone who has confidence in herself, who embraces her natural beauty and it enables me to even see beyond her hair now.”

He says once people of color begin to redefine the standard of beauty for themselves, society’s opinions won’t matter so much.

“It’s overdue that we start to uplift our women and let them know that we really love you as you are— as God created you to be and that we as men are here to support you as you embrace your naturalness,” says Brown.

Williams agrees.

“I think good hair is hair that grows out of your scalp. It doesn’t have to be a certain texture; it doesn’t have to be a certain color. If God has given you the gift of hair then you have good hair, that’s it.”

Music: India Arie “I Am Not My Hair”