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!

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