Hair love runs deep in the Black community, which is why we should take more time to celebrate it, especially this Juneteenth. Black hair is kinky, coily, curly, and unique, but sometimes it's also political, divisive, and controversial in ways that have made some of us feel shame for the natural tresses growing right out of our scalps.
The Black community is the only group that has literally had to fight for the right to wear our hair as freely as our non-Black counterparts, even up to the point that legislation has passed to prevent things like hair discrimination from isolating us from others in the workplace and schools.
Juneteenth is all about Black liberation, and what could be more liberating than embracing one of our many natural blessings in this world – hair that has defined cultures and movements throughout our history.
According to Texas-based hairstylist LaTarah Edmond of Good Hair Day Salon, the conversations around Black hair shouldn't just focus on what it is today. Instead, these discussions should include our rich history and how our hair has grown, progressed, and gone on to change the entire hair industry.
"I pride myself on educating myself on our hair because my demographic is Black women," she tells 21Ninety. "So it's important to know the characteristics and makeup of our hair as well as the different types of styles, what they mean and how they've evolved."
Edmond – who transitioned into the hair business with her own salon nine years ago – notes that understanding the depths of our hair is crucial to understanding its place in society today. The history of Black hair goes back hundreds and hundreds of years, but that's not something you'll learn in a school textbook. Outside of our relatives, friends, and peers, Black women especially have had to rely on each other to learn about our own hair. This also reigns true for Edmond, who has had to do her own research to get to the root of our literal roots.
"In the hair [business], just like with any other career you have, you have to go out and research why things are the way they are because honestly, in cosmetology school, they only teach you technique and the practice. No one really educates you on how [Black hairstyles] evolve and how they came about," she tells us. "So it's really on every individual if that's something they want to gain knowledge about, they have to go out and seek it. So for me, I just want to know for myself what's the purpose and the story behind [Black hair]."
From hair magazines to hair shows, these forms of media have documented our history and shown us what it means to be proud of our heritage, even through the infamous "good hair, bad hair" debate. "I'm really big on trying to educate my clients on accepting the traits of their hair and not categorizing it as good or bad," Edmond says. "Good hair, bad hair, it's not either-or. It's just different."
When the natural hair movement ramped up in the early 2000s, that's when a lot of Black women began taking more pride in their kinks and coils, even reclaiming words like "nappy" that were used to shame our ancestors. In empowering ourselves, we also bolstered a new generation to be proud to wear their curls freely, but it doesn't stop there. Our love for protective hairstyles like braids, weaves, wigs, and others have given us a plethora of options to indulge in, and still, we maintain pride no matter how we choose to wear our hair.
"I love doing Black hair because we are so diverse. That's the beauty of Black hair," Edmond concludes. "People wear their hair based on their lifestyle and personality in the way they choose to express themselves. I think you should be able to wear your hair how you like, express racial and cultural pride, and not be judged for it."