Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beauty: Homage to a N.I.C.E. Couple!

Ossie Davis, who was a fantastic actor and activist, wrote a wonderful poem (see below) that pays homage to the beauty exhibited in remaining true to your natural state, in which he mentions hair. Today, I saw a couple on Facebook, the young lady who I know as a childhood friend, and I immediately thought of this poem.  Seeing the two of them, pictured below, with their natural locks, looking so fabulous together, made me pause and think of that poem and reflect on how this couple is a testament to N.I.C.E. in their natural glory.
Natural Is Cool Enough for this lovely couple!

I find, in being Black,
a thing of "Beauty";
like a joy; a strength;
a secret cup of gladness ...
a native land in neither time nor place ...
               a native land in every Black face! Be loyal to yourselves; your skin; your hair; your lips; your speech; your laughing kinds are Black kingdoms, vast as any other.
n-- Ossie Davis

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Natural is not Considered Cool Enough at the Airport: Another Black Woman Insulted by TSA

Recently, a woman was required, at the airport, to have her natural do checked for explosives by TSA.  She expressed that she was humiliated by this event and understandably so.  You will find her story at the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/isis-brantley-dallas-woma_n_973787.html

Ms. Isis Brantley, pictured to the right, is a hairdresser and a big part of her work is serving as an advocate for natural hair. Here is another link where she shares her story http://www.flyertalk.com/the-gate/blog/7175-a-hair-raising-experience-at-an-airport-security-checkpoint-2.html

This is not the first time that N.I.C.E. has shared such a story as this happened to another Black woman recently (See story here: http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2011/07/sa-pat-down-of-natural-hair-really.html).  What is the rationale for even remotely considering that a Black woman would have explosives in her hair?  There is no precedent for this mode of thinking in any way shape or form.  It appears that viewing naturally beautiful hair as potentially dangerous in the airport (considering the possibility that something dangerous may be "hidden in it") falls into the notion that if a Black woman's hair is not "relaxed" then it may cause others not to be relaxed.  If this is the case, every person wearing a bun, long curly hair and any other style that is voluminous should also have their hair checked for explosives which would be equally ridiculous.  I am waiting to hear the story of a non-Black woman with curly full hair who is stopped at the airport by TSA because of the possibility of explosives in her hair.
     Furthermore, as explained in my forthcoming book,  Cultural Competency for the Health Professions, to be released in 2012,  What Ms. Isis Brantley experienced is a form of Microagression entitled a Microinsult.
“A Microinuslt is characterized by communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity” (see source below*). The term "micro" does not minimize the humiliation as it is indeed a major problem.
     To that end sisters, do not be dismayed.  Continue to wear your natural hair freely and proudly.  Do not feel demeaned by those around you who do not understand the beauty of your natural hair and can't relax in its presence.  Wear it proudly and with confidence knowing that it is a crown of beauty that exemplifies your connection to your ancestral heritage.  Ms. Isis Brantley expressed her dismay loud and clear and demanded an apology which presumably she received from a TSA Supervisor.  Hopefully, her experience sent a resounding message that no matter where we are and what we are doing, Natural is Cool Enough and that's N.I.C.E.   Ms. Isis Brantley, N.I.C.E. offers a salute to your natural hair!  

*Sue, D.W., Capodilupo, C.M., Torino, G.C., Bucceri, J.M., Holder, A.M.B., Nadal, K.L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pi Nappa Kappa Natural Hair Sorority: That's Cool Enough for N.I.C.E.!

     When I went to college, the first thing my mother made me agree to was that I would never join a sorority.  She never explained why, but as her obedient daughter, I obeyed her command.  In retrospect, and based on some of her comments, I believe she was concerned about the possibility of hazing.  So, I went through my four years as an undergraduate student, as a non-sorority member and then passed on the same advice to my daughter,  although, with the caveat, of course, that ultimately it was to be her decision.  At that point, I felt that if I had made it through college successfully without joining a Greek organization then perhaps my daughter should follow in my footsteps.  Now I learn that there is a new "Greek" natural Hair Sorority.  Again, as I have done many times, I explored why Black people in America develop and join organizations that have a Greek reference (in terms of the name) rather than African. I have found a number of perspectives on this.  So, here is an article that endeavors to provide a rationale, which is at the very least compelling and that is worthy of sharing.  The title of the article is: Why Blacks Call themselves Greeks and can be found at the following link: http://malikfraternitysheffeyadmin.wikispaces.com/file/view/Page+from+Blackworld,+V.+15,+i.+01+-+19870216.pdf

The Key quote from this article is:

"Greece was a culturally diverse,  pluralistic society  of various ethnic  and  racial groups  - much  like the  United  States today.  However,  the citizens  were  mostly dark-skinned and brown people."

So, my conclusion regarding Pi Nappa Kappa, as it relates to Natural Hair, culminates from a number of perspectives but ultimately from what the sorority actually seems to be about.  It is my understanding that there is no hazing involved. My mother, who is now deceased, would appreciate that.  The term sorority, per Pi Nappa Kappa,  is only used to imply sisterhood and this new sorority promotes natural hair, which aligns with the notion that N.I.C.E.   So, ultimately, the Pledge associated with Pi Nappa Kappa is positive (see below) and the group is in agreement with the perspective that Natural Is Cool Enough.  Conclusion: That's N.I.C.E.!

Pi Nappa Kappa

As a member of the Pi Nappa Kappa Natural Hair Sorority, I pledge that:
1. I am a smart, special, valuable person! 2. I respect myself and I respect others. 3. My words and actions are kind and honest. 4. I will respect the dignity and essential worth of all individuals. 5. I will promote the diversity of opinions, ideas, hairstyles and backgrounds which is the lifeblood of the sorority. 6. I will promote a culture of respect throughout the natural hair community. 7. I will not tolerate bigotry, discrimination, violence, or intimidation of any kind. 8. I will practice personal integrity and expect it from others. 9. I will always be proud of my natural born hair.10. I accept only my best in all I do.
I am PROUD to be ME!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

N.I.C.E. on Lauryn Hill, Straightened Hair and the Need for a Manifesto

     I’m a bit late on this story  but due to travel and just completing my next book entitled “Cultural Competency for the Health Professions," to be released in 2012 by Jones and Bartlett Publishing I haven’t been able to write for N.I.C.E. but I’m back with a little something to consider. For years, in my courses and in lectures that I have given to audiences by invitation, primarily during African/American Black History month, in one in particular entitled “Getting Down to the Roots,” I mention a number of sisters that I refer to as Natural Divas.  These are Black (using the term Black rather than African American here to be inclusive of all Black women throughout the diaspora) women who, throughout their careers, have maintained their commitment to their natural hair and exhibited a sense of tremendous pride in doing so; who appear to exhibit their hair as a sense of strength and courage.
     India Arie, as an example, is one of them. I understood India Airie when she sought of rebelled against the notion of anyone considering her a “natural hair role model” when she shared with us, her beautiful manifesto of sorts entitled “I love my hair” quoted below:
As a Black American woman, a lot of your integrity is dictated by how you wear your hair,” she explained. “The concept for the song was sparked when I decided to cut my locks, and all the different attitudes people had about it. This is my hair – and it’s my life. I’ll choose how I express myself.”
We  heard you India.  It was clear, but the way she just cut it off, but let it still remain natural to the core was still an indication of her strength and pride in keeping it natural and so her name is maintain on the Natural Diva list and she is held up with pride for her strong appeal to the notion that Natural Is Cool Enough, N.I.C.E.   Even her willingness to write a song about it and basically say, deal with it, was powerful!
     But,  Lauryn Hill, whose music I also cherish, and whose career I have followed, recently  just shook me up a little.  I saw an image of her that caused me to stop in my tracks and say, “Oh no she didn’t.”   Her hair was bone straight.  Some argue that maybe it’s just a flat iron or that she looks beautiful, etc.  With both I agree.  The circumstances of her “straightening” is unknown and she is of course free to do whatever she desires with her hair.  But nevetheless,  seeing her with straightened hair is a blow to the Natural is Cool Enough notion...and also the notion of her being a Natural Diva.   

      Now let me be clear before anyone out there chastises me for bringing this up about our sister Lauryn because I know the love for her and her music runs deep.  I am certain that there are matters of much graver concern to be “shaken up about” such as the financial crisis in America and throughout the globe, unemployment,  extreme weather, wars, famine and “woe is me” for so many  people right now.  It is rough out here and hair is well, let’s just say not at the top of the list of serious concerns!  At the very least, just put a hat on and keep it moving if your core issue is figuring out how to survive or anything remotely close to that.  But, my blog, is about natural hair and writing about it, is one of the many ways that I express myself within these tumultuous times.  I see natural hair, for Black women, as a source of strength and power . When I look in the mirror in the morning or at any other time of the day, I can say, no matter what, I am still holding on to my true, natural self.  I can see it, I can touch it,  I can feel it and I can say to myself, yes, I do love myself naturally, just the way I am.  I feel brave, I feel uncompromised, I feel natural and I know that there are Natural divas out there who have a bigger venue than I have, who are representing, naturally.
    In summary,  Lauryn Hill remains one of my favorite singers, without question. A curling iron, blow dryer, perm, etc. could never change that.  I saw her at a concert not to long ago and she was rocking a big, fabulous afro.  I talked about that during one of my “Getting Down to the Roots” lectures shortly thereafter and I saw the sense of pride and smiles emerge from the faces of many audience members.  Yes, you can see pride.  You can feel it too.  There is a knowing that along with her voice, her hair also exuded power…that she exemplified “Getting Down to the Roots” and those roots are deep.  So in a nutshell,  I have no doubt that she has her reasons for “straightening” the natural locks and that it is her prerogative.  But alll I am asking is  Lauryn, can you at least write us a manifesto or something, in song, so we can understand?   We may not be able to grasp all of the other chaos going on in the world but on behalf of N.I.C.E., we can get this.  Otherwise, blessings to Lauryn Hill and her new baby.  He’s beautiful!