Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Natural Is Cool Enough for All of My Fashion Choices!

Recently, I conducted two experiments. The first was not to shop for clothing for one year, which I wrote about on this blog previously http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-one-year-clothing-shopping-hiatus.html. The second was to be Vegan for a week, after watching a film about how animals are treated in America before slaughter for human consumption. While doing both, I learned a great deal about myself.   My shopping hiatus  began in November of 2012, as a result of my dismay with a store where I did most of my shopping.  On a visit to this store, the customer service was awful and I decided not to shop there again and then extended that to shopping in general for one year.  When I decided to finally shop, in November of 2013, I actually felt odd in the Mall.  I had decided that I would only shop in department stores where I felt the clothing was particularly of good quality, namely at Macy's and Nordstrom and other small, high end shops. I also decided to shop only with cash so as not to incur any interest as a result of my spree and to ensure that there would be an end to the process, based on the amount of money I bought with me for this two-day  venture.  I also made a very detailed list as over the year, I gave away a great deal of my clothes including shoes, boots, dresses, blouses, pants, etc.  Anything that had been in my closet for the past two years and I had not wore it during that time, out the door it went to Goodwill and other organizations where I felt people would appreciate receiving the items with hopes that they will enjoy them.

So, I put my locks up in a high ponytail, put on a loose fitting easy to put on and take off in the fitting rooms dress and I was good to go.  Surprisingly, when I entered the first department store, I didn't know where to begin.  I kind of lost touch with the shopping feel and had enjoyed limiting my purchases to natural hair products (very minimal), household items such as new linen and other things that I had ignored in the past for awhile and the big bonus, which was saving.  I also ventured more, during my shopping hiatus, into hats, scarves and glasses and other items that I allowed myself to enjoy as accessories were not part of my shopping break.  So, my goal this time during my shopping spree was quality and optimal customer service.  I found just that at the first department store. I bought blouses and skirts, underwear, pants, etc.  It took me hours to get going and I was a little annoyed when I realized that everyone seemed to be working on commission and had all kinds of tricks up their sleeves.  For example, the following were  frequent inquiries: "do you want me to hold your items for you while you shop" or  "shall I start a dressing room for you."  I literally had to tell these individual NO so they could get off my back and let me shop freely because I realized that when I said YES, they were attached to me like glue and when I went to the register the question was "was someone helping you while you shopped."  Uggh!  Don't feign genuine concern when it is all about the commission.  Just say "ok, I'm getting commission for your shopping so I will help you but it is not about you at all, but me."  On second thought, I guess that would not have worked.  So anyway, since I did not want to be part of the counting of every item that I bought for retail marketers to add me to the statistics of  determining the degree of holiday shopping that people participated in, I got all of my wardrobe shopping done in early November, in two days. Subsequently, I have also budgeted the exact amount of cash that I will spend for my holiday gift recipients and will take the same approach...cash only...no interest made from me during the holiday season, quality only and the customer service better be good or I'm out.  Please check out some of the samples of my new digs below along with my natural hairstyles for each and look forward to my next blog post about being a vegan for a week. That was indeed a trip!  For all of my fashion choices, Natural Is Cool Enough!

Natural Hair is Never a Distraction: A N.I.C.E. Reaction in Support of A Young Sister!

Once again, I feel compelled to write an article about another young Black woman who has been shunned because of her beautiful, natural hair.  The first instinct, when reading something like this, is to ignore it because this kind of thinking about one's hair, as it grows out of ones's scalp is so blatantly ignorant that it doesn't warrant discussion (see article per link below).  But then, why let something like this happen without addressing it, so here I go.  The hair of the young lady in the article is clearly beautiful and a clear indication that for her, Natural Is Cool Enough!  N.I.C.E. affirms her strength and self-esteem while taking a clear position that wearing one's hair naturally is beautiful.  It is not a distraction.  Conforming to the hairstyle choice of the dominant group in society does not make you less of a distraction or professional or anything of the sort.  What it does, namely conforming to the hairstyle choices of the dominant group, is implied in the first word of the latter sentence and that is a mere subjugation of yourself to meet the criteria of what others deem is "most appropriate" or less distracting to them, based on some kind of bizarre societal perspective.  For some, altering the texture of one's hair, from it's natural curl to straight through chemical or other means, is simply about style or trying to be professional but the questions are whose style and who determines what is professional? Who makes those decisions?  This alteration is most definitely a personal choice but when a child is told that she must conform by cutting her natural hair or leaving school, based on the fact that she is wearing her hair as it grows out of her scalp, that is a problem.  Does everyone who has hair of a certain length have to leave?  What is the length and how is that determination made and by whom?  Clearly, if someone's hair is distracting others because it is in its natural state, then those individuals do not have their attention span situation together, which is a personal problem.

So, N.I.C.E. salutes this young lady, 100%, for having the self-empowerment strength and encouragement to wear her hair in a beautiful, natural style.  It makes me proud to see her do so and I hope this is the case for others.  Your natural hair is not a distraction but what it is meant to be...a beautiful, wonderful aspect of your being, that some others have not been able to come to terms with, because of their own shortcomings.  Ignore them, keep your head up high and keep your natural hair flowing as you so choose.  If someone doesn't like your natural hair, simply and powerfully tell them to avert their eyes...essentially, don't look at it, and definitely don't touch it!  Rock on little sister with your fabulous natural hair! Natural Is Cool Enough, in any setting! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is There a Natural Hair Revolution Going On?

Have you noticed that in television advertisements and in other forms of media, when you see a Black woman or little girl, generally she is wearing a natural style including locks, free flowing afro/curly, braids, twists, etc.? This leads me to ask the question, "is there a national hair revolution going on?" So, to truly explore this question, I, along with one of my students, have developed a quick survey to find out your thoughts about this.  This survey is quick with just 10 questions.  Here is the link for the survey.

(If you are a University of Miami  student/graduate/affiliate, please do not complete this survey as we are reaching out to you from other venues with the same survey. Thank you)

I look forward to letting you know the results.  N.I.C.E. wants to know what you think!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Fabulously N.I.C.E. Hair Meeting at the University of Miami!

On November 5, Natural Is Cool Enough had another exciting meeting at the University of Miami.  The purpose of the meeting was for sisters with Natural Hair to get together and share their hair stories while breaking bread and learning from each other.  We discussed our hair journeys from childhood to adulthood and the many transitions that we went through as we struggled and came to grips with the beauty of our natural hair.

I have had my locks for 22 years now so I am firmly and staunchly a naturalista, considering no other possibility.  Weave, perming or any kind of chemical processing is no longer a part of my reality and for me personally, it seems farfetched.  But this is not the case for everyone.  There was spirited dialogue about the definition of natural hair (some expressed that it is only your hair as it grows out of your scalp without any chemical processing, while others stated that braids and twists, using extensions, should be included) as well as discussion about whether there is a natural hair revolution going on in the United States.  We discussed how many advertisements for everything from clothes, to food, to banking etc. are depicting African American women wearing their hair naturally, as it grows from their scalp, braids and twists. From my vantage point, this is an indication that it is becoming clear to society that Natural Is Cool Enough, which is N.I.C.E.!

In an upcoming post, I will be be sharing a N.I.C.E Project that will take place during Black History Month and will be asking you to take a quick 10 Question Survey!  I hope you will participate.  In the meantime, here are some photos from our N.I.C.E. meeting and the beautiful ladies that participated.  Sisters, you exemplify N.I.C.E. fabulously!

Also, special recognition goes out to the young lady below as she only worn her hair naturally (her hair texture as it grows from her scalp) since birth and she is now in college. That is truly N.I.C.E.!  We are hoping she will share her hair story with us soon.

Monday, November 11, 2013

N.I.C.E. Reviews 12 Years A Slave: A Naturally Authentic Film

The film 12 Years A Slave is a stunning, authentic, riveting film that reverberates with authenticity. As this blog is about natural hair, let me begin there.  There is no pretense, no processing and no faking in terms of the natural hair...kinky, real, naturally beautiful...the glory of the African heritage of every Black individual in the film shines through and that is N.I.C.E.  Even when Solomon and his family are free, you don't get a sense of loss of connectivity to one's natural state but a sense of conformity, within the context of what freedom meant, in terms of style at that time.  However, as important as hair is to the discourse of this blog, I must move on to focus on the greater and more significant implications of this film.
There is so much to this film that I am not sure where to begin, but suffice it to say that it is a difficult but powerful piece that enables you to become a part of a tragically, horrific experience with great empathy, compassion, love and understanding for the Black people in it.  As you watch Solomon lose his freedom and then suffer and watch the tragic experiences of the other slaves, you feel his pain.  The cinematography is superb and visually appealing which becomes all to real when the visual clarity draws you into imagery you don't want to see.  These images include the lashing of skin emerging in sores and blood, lynching, rape, and other vile scenes, that are shown with such candor that they are  difficult to watch. Even the beautiful cotton and sugar cane plants are presented in their splendor, only for you to feel animosity towards their beauty.  I also felt deeply saddened as I watched the mother whose children were sold, away from her lament day after day for them. There was no comfort for her.  It was impossible to suppress her despair and as a mother, I believe that is exactly the way it would have been, in terms of the grief expressed  by the young mother. 

Additionally, the hanging scene with Solomon, which is beyond what anyone would want to observe in a film but it is a must to make clear the depth of cruelty that he experienced.  My eyes focused on his feet barely touching the ground with just enough force to keep him from dying from the noose around his neck.  This was a scene that was almost too much to handle as the folks in the background just went on as if it was not happening.  There was such acclimation to atrocities, on behalf of the slaves, that the individuals were not phased by what was happening right in front of them.  How could this be?  This is what you wonder as you are watching him near death literally struggling for every breath.  How is it possible that no one will help him?  Even the quenching of his thirst with water by the young woman seems less than worthy of acknowledgement. It was not enough, by any stretch of the word, for one to label her action as compassion as she left him hanging there, seemingly fearful of her own self-preservation. But, what I appreciated most about the film, was being able to think with Solomon, as he contemplated his freedom, with a long stare, once he knows that a letter is going to be written and delivered to his friends, to secure his freedom.  My mind was racing, as I am sure his was, about what it will be like for him to be free again.  It renewed my belief in the importance of silence for contemplation and thinking. Also, as Patsy, the beautiful young woman whose suffering was beyond belief was beaten relentlessly by Solomon, I felt for him being forced to do so, and for her whose flesh bore the brunt of the anguish.  The animosity toward the slave master at that moment for me, was beyond where I like to go in regard to disdain for another human being. 

Nevertheless, I've already said to much as I don't want to ruin the film for others who want to go and see it, but it is not a film that you can watch and then walk away with a mere comment that the film was great or intriguing, etc.  You have to talk, think or write about it, in some way acknowledging and determining how it impacted you.  As a person of African descent, knowing that my ancestors more than likely experienced such atrocities as slaves, I think it is important to share with others that this film is worthy of seeing.  My advice is that if you are squeamish about violations of individuals most personal and private rights, suffering and anguish then this film is not for you. If you are subject to intense emotions around painful subject matter or generally want to avoid the reality of what took place on the soil of this nation in regard to Black people during slavery (including the understanding that such awful realities took place well beyond slavery and not just in the south, with failure of full acknowledgement of the horrific depth of the situation), then perhaps this movie is not for you.  But, if you want to face the reality of slavery in full force, with intensity, while embracing and recognizing the truth of it all, and can handle the feelings that will arise in you consequently, then go and get your ticket, sit there and take it all in.  You will not laugh, not even for a moment, but you may feel sad, perhaps cry and feel intense emotion. You may also feel deep love and compassion for Solomon, Patsy, the wailing mother and the other slaves and a sense of gratitude towards the young man who agreed to write and distribute the letter, which leads to Solomon's freedom.  Seeing this film is the least that we can all do in recognizing a harsh reality carefully and beautifully shared with us through an intriguing film that speaks truth and that ends in resounding love.