Monday, June 25, 2012

Keeping Your Locs Twisted N.I.C.E.ly During the Summer Months and Beyond!

Recently, a question was asked of me about how to keep locs twisted, during the summer months, especially when working out daily or swimming and other activities that tend to make the locs loosen.  My answer, as a person who has had locs for over 20 years, works out (mainly swimming indoors, outdoors or at the beach, or riding a bike or using the eliptical at the gym) is as follows:

1. Only twist your locs when your hair is wet.
When I go swimming, immediately after getting out of the water, especially if I plan to sun bathe,  I use a thick creamy conditioner and basically, rub it into my hair and let it stay in until I am ready to wash it.  I also braid my locks, usually into two large braids and pin them up while I am swimming.  Sometimes I wear a speedo cap and at other times I don't.  It depends on where I am swimming.  When I wash my hair I follow after with immediate twisting before my hair dries.

2.  Moisturize first and then twist.
I always moisturize my hair after washing it (with a thick, creamy shampoo and a recondition, with a thick creamy conditioner). After washing, I then moisturize by putting 100% shea butter into my hands (usually a quarter size), rub it into my hands and then all over my hair. You can use olive oil if you don't have Shea butter. This is just to lock in a bit more moisture before I twist.  My hair is still wet at this point.

3. Twisting with Gel.
I use gel to twist my hair while it is wet, after it is moisturized.  The Gel that I prefer is Giovanni Organic Hair Care, L.A. Natural Styling Gel.  It is a bit on the expensive side, but if you use it sparingly, it should last a long time.  I use this gel to twist at the root where there is new growth.  It holds very nicely. I purchase this Gel at Whole Foods and often times, they have it on sale.

Organic Hair Care L.A. Natural Styling Gel

I also use a second gel for each loc beyond the root.  The Gel I use is Jason's Flaxseed Hi-Shine Styling Gel.  This Gel is lighter and gives my hair a nice shine and maintains the hold. I also buy this gel at Whole Foods and it is also costly but if you use it sparingly, it will last a while.  Also, you can look for sales at Whole Foods or on-line where you may find better prices for both of these gels.

Hi-Shine Styling Gel

4.  Braiding and Up Do's
Since it is summer, I usually braid my locs and creatively place my hair in an updo, held up with bobby pins.  This seems to help to keep my locs from unraveling and promotes growth as I am leaving my hair alone and not "fussing" with it all the time.  I used to cut my locs during the summer but not any more.  A scissor never touches my hair anymore and I am the only person that maintains it.  No costly salons for me.   It's a personal choice, to just let it grow, naturally and handle the care of my own hair.

5.  Allow a little unraveling...and no stress. 
One thing that I have noticed are that locs are very free spirited, sort of like a vine.  The goal for me is not to have control of my locs and confine them and to keep them completely, neatly tight at all times but to let my hair relax and grow naturally without too much tampering.  I think neatness matters, but who says that when your hair is not tightly coiled at the root at all times that it is not neat.  I remember when I was young, before I wore my hair naturally, and I was required to wear a perm by my mother, she would often tell me that I needed a "touch up" if I had any new growth, which meant to straighten the kinky new hair growth.  I believe that we can fall into the same trap with our locs if we panic every time we see new growth or a loc that is not tightly coiled that we need to immediately "straighten it out."  Natural, kinky hair has a tendency to be unraveled and free...it's no biggie.  Just get to it when you can, don't stress about it and always know that whether a loc is uncoiled or tight, Natural Is Cool Enough and just love your hair and welcome the new growth.
My goal is to just keep my locs twisted N.I.C.E.ly during the summer months and beyond!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sister Ivy League Dean That Rocks Naturally: Pamela Y. George

Pamela Y. George has been at Yale since August, 1999 where she spent a decade as the Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs.

For nine years she also served as administrative director for the Science, Technology and Research Scholars Program (STARS), the Beckman Science Scholar Program, the Freshman Ethnic Counselor Program and the Amy Rossborough Fellowship. On top of all of that, she has  an extensive background in clinical psychology and therapeutic practice. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Yale.

I am particularly excited about this sister wearing her hair naturally in the halls of academia because she is doing so at my Alma Mater, because I  an alumna of Yale University as I graduated from the Yale University School of Epidemiology and Public Health and my husband and son also graduated from Yale.

To learn more about Pamela George, visit: http://yalecollege.yale.edu/content/officedetail/552

 You are a Sister Dean that Rocks Naturally and N.I.C.E. Saltues you!  Your courage to wear your hair naturally in the halls of as an Administrator of a prestigious Ivy League institution is worthy of praise.
Rock on Sister Pamela George!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sister M.D. That Rocks...Naturally: Dr. Janet Taylor

Dr. Janet Taylor is a Psychiatrist at Columbia University at Harlem Hospital. She is also a health media expert so you may see her on CNN, The Today Show and beyond. Dr. Taylor is clearly a sister that wears her hair naturally in the Professional world of medicine, on television and other venues as she provides society with her knowledge about health.
For more information about Dr. Janet Taylor and articles written by her, visit the following link: http://www.strengthforcaring.com/author/janet-taylor/

You are a Sister M.D. that Rocks...Naturally and N.I.C.E. Salutes you! Your courage to wear your hair naturally in the medical field and when you share your knowledge on television as an expert medical commentator and in other venues shows courage and true natural integrity and that is N.I.C.E.!  Rock on Sister Janet Taylor!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sister CEO who Rocks...Naturally: Ursula M. Burns

Ursula Burns is the CEO of  Xerox, a fortune 500 company and touted to be the fourteenth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine.
Ursula Burns:

She was born on the lower east side of Manhattan into what she considers an unsafe, impoverished environment.  She quotes her mother, whom she revered, by sharing this powerful statement:

"Where you are is not who you are."

Ursula elaborates further by sharing that it is her belief that where you are is a circumstance of that moment in time and you can change that. To learn more about about this powerful woman visit: http://www.xerox.com/about-xerox/executive-leadership/ceo/enus.html

Given that change is an often considered option for women who are transitioning to natural hair, it seems that her thoughts are very empowering in terms of knowing that Natural Is Cool Enough. 

 You are a Sister CEO who rocks...naturally and N.I.C.E. Salutes you!  Your courage and strength that enables you to  wear your hair naturally in your corporate office, in the board room and as a trail blazing business women is empowering and ensures us that Natural is Cool Enough!  Rock on Sister Ursula Burns!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Sister Professional Who Rocks...Naturally: Melissa Harris Perry

Our Next Sister Professional Who Rocks....Naturally, per the N.I.C.E. series on these courageous women, is  Melissa Harris Perry,  a Professor at Tulane University (formerly at Princeton and University of Chicago), a television host on MSNBC and an author of a book entitled Sister Citizen that I will use as a text book for one of my courses, and my own entitled Cultural Competency for the Health Professional  per the link that follows:   http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9781449672126/).

Cultural Competency for the Health Professional
For more information about this dynamic sister that rocks her hair naturally, visit her website at http://melissaharrisperry.com.  To hear one of her lectures that focuses on her new book, check out the first video below. In her second video below, she provides a "crash course" on Black Women's hair. Note that although there is reference here to her book and her videos below, my comments per this post, are strictly about how she wears her hair and her courage from that vantage point from my perspective.  It is, of course up to you to determine whether you agree with her commentary regarding hair, her political views, her perspectives about Black women and beyond.

N.I.C.E. Salutes you Melissa Harris-Perry for having the courage to wear your hair in a natural style in the classroom as a Professor, on television as the host of your own show, as you discuss an array of hard-hitting subjects, and as an author of a new cutting-edge text. Your courage encourages us and helps us to know that Natural is Cool Enough in many professional venues.
You are a courageous Sister Professional Who rocks...naturally!
 Rock on Sister Harris-Perry!

In This Video, Harris-Perry Gives a Crash Course in Black Hair

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sister Professionals Who Rock...Naturally

Although times are changing and we see professional Black  women rocking  natural hairdos in offices, classrooms, court rooms, on television, in board rooms and beyond, it is still an emerging goal for some and examples of such confidence is helpful.  So, I am beginning a brief series, starting with this Post, highlighting Sister Professionals Who Rock...Naturally.  The first in the series is someone who I met recently.  She is a dynamic woman with attributes of professionalism beyond the ordinary.  Her name is Marilyn Holifield.  She is an Attorney (Partner) at the firm Holland and Knight and was named by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of America's top employment lawyers. She was also named one of South Florida's most successful and promising Black business women by Network Miami Magazine.  The link that follows provides her extended biography:  http://www.hklaw.com/id77/extended1/biosMHOLIFIE/

You are a Sister Professional Who Rocks...Naturally and N.I.C.E. Salutes You!  Your Courage Encourages us and helps us all to know that Natural is Cool Enough in the Court Room and the Business World!  Rock on naturally Sister Holifield!

photo of Marilyn Holifield

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Standing in the Shadows of Greatness

Today, I am excited because my publisher sent a blog post to me, highlighting my new book and emphasizing an interview that I conducted with Dr. Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services so I share this with you, readers of N.I.C.E.  It was an excellent experience interviewing this formidable woman because as I was doing so, based on her life accomplishments, I knew I was standing in the shadows of an incredibly accomplished woman. So for me, it was a proud moment, that I pleased to share with you.

Then, two nights ago, I had the opportunity to attend a private dinner for Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, followed by her book talk at the fabulous book store, Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, where I will also speak about my book on October 10, 2012.

Dr. Sara Lawrence Light-Foot at Books and Books in Coral Gables
As I sat with Dr. Lightfoot and a small gathering a friends, my husband and son at dinner, I realized that this was indeed a moment to cherish. I listened to her wisdom, I asked her questions about her writing (she has written 10 books) and I observed her grace and style.  I noticed her beautiful, culturally vibrant attire, her soft spoken but powerful words and her beautiful, neatly coiffed NATURAL hair, graying beautifully around her temples and simply pulled back with delicate combs.  I realized after I listened to her share stories, that this woman, who has served at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for 40 years is providing me with another moment to stand in the shadow of greatness. I felt connected to her as a writer and as one who educates and because culture is such a significant aspect of  what I do, I connected with her, culturally, as she too is an African American woman.  I think there is truly something to be said about being naturally you.  It's powerful, it's intense and it is truly greatness!  So once again, I take the position that Natural IS Cool Enough and as always, that is N.I.C.E.  Below is a wonderful interview that Bill Moyers conducted with Dr. Lightfoot, which I found delightful.  Listen and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Your Hair Finances in Order, Naturally

As we sit on the verge of a deepening economic crisis, with ongoing debates about whether we are in a recovery or recession and as we wait to see if Greece will pull out of the Euro, if Spain will falter financially after a massive bailout and if Italy and Portugal will be next, who has time to discuss hair? It's actually not a trivial matter given that natural hair provides a wonderful opportunity to get your financial house in order, at least in one key aspect of life, which is very costly and that is hair maintenance. There is something to be said about looking in the mirror, after washing your own hair, using a lathery, yet inexpensive shampoo, that you've shopped for carefully, paying attention to the all natural ingredients. In fact, you can make your own natural shampoo and conditioner.  Just go to You Tube and search for "making your own natural shampoo and conditioner" and you will find an abundance of information. Here is one example:

Once you have washed and conditioned your beautifully natural hair, dry it thoroughly with a towel followed by further air drying. There is no need to use your electricity to blow dry it. Ahhh...the savings. This is also an opportunity to get in touch with your natural roots, literally. Run your fingers through your hair while it is wet. Add a natural oil, namely olive oil, to the palm of your hands, rub your hands together and then rub the oil into your hair, and scalp or try Shea butter...either will work. Then gently comb through or brush with a soft bristled brush, while your hair is still somewhat wet. Then twist or braid and let your hair relax, naturally. If you have locks, skip the combing and twist while your hair is damp. So far, all is totally cost effective and you are embracing the fact that it is not necessary to spend significant amounts of money to be natural. Once your hair is dry, go back to the mirror and style. Play around with different ideas that are uniquely you. Embrace your natural beauty and texture and most importantly the fact that wearing your hair naturally allows you to be frugal in these tough economic times and that is N.I.C.E!  This is a time to celebrate our natural creativity and the fact that no matter the financial crisis in this country or this world, each one of us wears a crown, naturally! Check out the pictures from the link that follows per the Coiffure Project and be inspired! http://trustyourphotographer.com/portraits/coiffure-project/

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A N.I.C.E. Excerpt from Cultural Competency for the Health Professions

In my new book, Cultural Competency for the Health Professions, http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9781449672126/ there are stories which address the issues associated with the rapid demographic changes taking place in the United States and the approaches that health care professionals must take in order to provide culturally competent care to their patients/customers from diverse backgrounds.  These stories, known as case studies, focus on many health professionals, but the one below is of particular interest to N.I.C.E. since the issue is about natural hair.  To read more of these stories/case studies and other interesting info., including an interview that I conduct with Dr. Donna Shalala, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and current President of the University of Miami, which is Chapter 10, check out the book.  I think you will find it an interesting read.  I would love to read your comments/thoughts. The book is also accompanied by an interactive website!

A N.I.C.E.  excerpt from Cultural Competency for the Health Professions (pgs. 120-122)
A Medical Assistant calls in her patient, an African American woman to take her blood pressure, weight and other vitals  before she sees the Physician.  The Medical Assistant notes that the African American woman has extremely long, thick hair in a style known as locks.  As the patient stands on the scale, the Medical Assistant asks her how much does she think she would weigh without her hair.  The African American woman is rather surprised and responds by stating that she doesn’t understand. She looks at the Medical Assistant who has short blonde hair and asks “Do you mean if my hair was short?  I don’t understand your question.” “No", the Medical Assistant replies.  I mean if you remove your hair.”  The patient is quite offended as her hair can not be removed as it is her own and explains to the Medical Assistant that her question was inappropriate and inaccurate and asks if she could just record her weight and move on to the blood pressure.  The Medical Assistant looks at her with trepidation, still suspect about her hair and proceeds by asking the patient to roll up her sleeves so that she can apply the blood pressure cuff.  The patient is visibly offended, based on her expression but receives no apology from the Assistant. After completing the blood pressure check, the Medical Assistant states to the patient that her blood pressure is very high.  “You may want to consider cutting out the soul food.”  The patient replies curtly, “I am a vegetarian and I do not eat soul food.”  The Medical Assistant leaves curtly indicating that the doctor will be right in.  The patient seriously considers leaving as she waits for the Doctor to see her and she has been offended twice by the same Health Professional without an apology in either instance .


     In this case, a cultural insult has been levied against the African American woman, leading her to feel slighted.  Often times, women of African descent are sensitive about their hair because it is a critical aspect of their culture based on historical implications.   When the atrocious slave trade ensued, most Black people were brought to the Americas, against their will, primarily from the West Coast of Africa.  This process, known as chattel slavery, was brutal, inhumane and included removal of the identity of the individuals who were enslaved, hence cultural genocide. On the ships during the unsavory journey to the New World, slaves who spoke the same language or had the same markings of scarification were separated.  They were also not permitted to communicate through drumming which was another form of language for them. While on the continent of Africa, specific hairstyles were used to identify their geographic regions.  For  example, young girls partially shaved their heads as an outward symbol that they were courting in Senegal (Byrd and Tharps, 2002).  The Karamo people of New Jersey were recognized for their unique coiffure—a shaved head with The Karamo people of Nigeria, for example, were recognized for their unique coiffure—a shaved head with a single tuft of hair left on top (Byrd and Tharps).   Likewise, widowed women would stop attending to their hair during their period of mourning so they would not look attractive to other men.   As far as community leaders were concerned, they donned elaborate hairstyles. The royalty would often wear a hat or headpiece, as a symbol of their stature. Africans from the Mende, Wolof, Yoruba, and Mandingo tribes, transported to the “New World” on slave ships, often communicated age, marital status, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, and rank in the community through their ornate hairstyles. The Middle Passage (the name used to describe the transport of slaves from Africa to the new world on slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean) and beyond, resulted in removing this rich hair heritage for African people brought in as slaves now known as African Americans and those who were brought to the Caribbean, Central and South America. Africans were no longer able to maintain elaborate hairstyles without their combs and herbal treatments used in Africa. Slaves relied on bacon grease, butter and kerosene as hair conditioners and cleaners. Africans from the Mende, Wolof, Yoruba, and Mandingo tribes, transported to the “New World” on slave ships, often communicated age, marital status, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, and rank in the community through their ornate hairstyles. From Ancient Egypt to West and East Africa, the Hair of African people was (and still is) an Adornment: Both valued and appreciated.  Unfortunately, Black hair was referred to as “wool” by the slave holders (Ivey, 2006); Whites looked upon blacks that later learned to style their hair like white woman as  “well adjusted.  “Good” hair became a requirement to enter schools, churches, social groups and business scenarios. In 1880 the hot comb was invented by the French.  It was heated and used to straighten “kinky” hair. As Time progressed the hair of Black People was ridiculed and despised and referred to as “Buckwheat”, Kinky, Nappy,  Bird feathers and “Pickanninny (refers to black children of slaves and later African Americans, or a caricature of them which is widely considered racist) (Pilgrim, 2008). Rags/Scarves were placed over the heads of black women in books, films and statuettes and they were referred to as Mammies on television and other forms of the media.

      This painful history has caused many women of African descent to be extremely conscious and sensitive about their hair and as a consequence songs and poems have been written to help them to deal with this aspect of their lives.  The famous modern day singer India Airie, after shaving her head completely in an effort to respond to the cultural indignation of her hair experiences throughout her career, wrote the following:

“As a Black American woman, a lot of your integrity is dictated by how you wear your hair,” she explains. “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.” (excerpted from the contemporary song,  “I Am Not My Hair”).

     Many African American women have turned to weaves, extensions and other remedies to address the hair issue. Also, others have turned to natural hairstyles.  It is a fact that the natural hairstyles worn by African Ancestors and some Black women today enabled/enable them to avoid scalp burns, hair breakage, and hair loss that often result from using harsh products to straighten their hair. As such, some Black women of every generation have chosen to wear their hair naturally regardless of trends.  Hence, natural hairstyles, such as locks, repeatedly resurface in the mainstream and are worn with extreme pride.  Therefore, those in healthcare, in approaching the notion of cultural competence as it relates to women of African descent, must consider this, as an example of an important cultural concept.  Specifically the importance of understanding the significance of an African American women’s hair and how to discuss it is a pertinent cultural concept which can lead to a serious cultural insult if not handled correctly.
Byrd, A. and Tharps, L. (2002).  Hair Story: Untangling the roots of black hair in America.  New     York, St. Martin’s Griffin.
Ivey, K. (2006). Combining the history of Black hair. Sun Sentinel, February 21.
Pilgrim, D. The picanniny caricature. Ferris State University Museum of Racist Memorabilia.     
              Retrieved June 6, 2011, from  http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/picaninny.