Monday, March 31, 2014

A Natural Is Cool Enough, Hair Braiding Story: It's in Her Hands!

   Below is a story written by a young woman, Christian Nelson, who was in many of my courses at the University where I teach.  She was always very meticulous about her work/studies and continually expressed her enthusiasm for her ambitions to serve in the field of Public Health.  Little did I know that beyond her quest for knowledge, this amazingly intelligent and creative woman, has a skill that comes natural to her based on her African ancestral lineage--the skill of braiding hair.  I am very impressed by her as I too have the skill of braiding hair, which came to me naturally, so I see her as a kindred spirit.  Below is her fascinating hair braiding story, which definitely offers further to an important truth, which is that Natural IS Cool Enough

Christian Nelson's Hair Braiding Story

So, how I started braiding hair?

I became interested and successfully "mastered" my very first "box plait/box braid" at the age of seven on a Barbie doll my mother had given me. That only came after several unsuccessful attempts of trying to make outfits for my barbies with left over fabric my mom would give me. See, I thought for sure I'd be a seamstress (like my mom) or fashion designer after I witnessed my mom make her whole wedding party's gowns! I watched my mom braid and micro our (my sisters and I) hair which I took interest in as well.

Years later (at 11 or 12) I started braiding my own hair; the following year while in the 7th grade, I started braiding the hair of my friends and family for fun. My older sisters, cousins and nieces were my "guinea pigs."  By the end of 7th grade I began doing hair as a side "hustle." The summer of 8th grade had come around and I began doing micros and braids everyday. I was the lowest of the community; cheaper than most women who were career braiders and just as good as those women with my braiding (at least that's what I was told ). I was doing hair so much, my body "shut down" and I had gotten very sick from lack of rest--at this time I was only 13 years old. My mom completely stopped that and told me not to book any more appointments for the rest of the summer. By then, I had saved a lot of money and was able to buy all of my school clothes to enter 9th grade. I was extremely happy that I could do that on my own. My parents had recently separated at the time and my mom had been laid off from Motorola after serving many years there so the extra money certainly came in handy. Sixty five dollars for a 10+ hour(s) hair style never looked so good! Yes, I was only charging 65 dollars for a full head of micro dots and 20 dollars for "crazy braids" aka "Allen Iverson braids!" I realize now why so many people were coming to me. By this time I was doing older women's hair, my cheerleader's hair (i was a junior cheer leading coach), church family member's hair, young men, and more.

Here I am, years later, a full-time grad student, still doing hair. What started out as a hobby turned into a job in middle school. It's like a repeated cycle, I could not work then as a middle school student and as a full time grad student my schedule was not flexible enough for me to have a regular job (well, until now) so hair has been an alternative route for me as far as support goes.

Ultimately, I love putting smiles on my clients faces. When my younger clients sit in my chair, I began to talk to them about hair, school and all sorts of topics--my conversations eventually turns into a mentor session. :) I get many satisfactory texts, calls and posts (on Facebook and Instagram) about my work! No matter how hard I try to stay away from doing hair (to focus more on my studies), the people always seem to draw me back! I love braiding! And I love those that have been supporting me! My family always asks "Christian, what are your going to be, a doctor or a hairstylist?...or Both?"

I believe I get my creativity from both my parents which is a plus when styling/braiding hair!

As  Dr. Rose told us in class, hair braiding is "in us" as far back from our ancestors from Africa. It's in our hands.

Position on natural hair?

I'm all for natural hair! I'm natural!  In April, it'll be 7 years!! I actually convinced my mom, all 4 of my sisters and nieces to go natural and they love it. Before going off to college, I decided to transition and it has been a healthier journey for my hair. My hair has grown more than it did when I use to get perms (even professionally done). I'm now MBL (mid back length as the natural community says) and my moisturizing, oiling, washing and protein treatment routine has helped with its growth and healthier state.  I mostly wear protective styles (braids, twists, sew-in). Since moving back home (to Florida from DC) and being a commuter student, I find it more convenient for me.  Recently (since its cooler) I find my self wearing twisted up dos with my hair bushed in a ponytail with a hand braided or twisted piece connected to it. With Florida's heat, I found that my hair doesn't react well to it. It dries and become brittle very quickly so I choose protective styles as an alternative--to retain the moisture. Since my hair has gotten longer over the years, my coils are not as tightly curled as they use to be--and I really miss my tightly/defined coiled hair !!! I always think about cutting it because of this. Many women are afraid of the natural state of our hair and I always find myself telling friends and family to "embrace your hair--embrace yourself--embrace your beauty". I prefer natural hair over permed hair any day! Natural hair is fun--you have versatility with it!

Every Sunday my [late] great grandmother hot combed my hair, in the kitchen, near that very hot gas stove--I still remember it vividly. Now I'm able to do my own; I do this very rarely, but I know how to hot comb my own hair then revert right back to my curls. :)

I use to be a fan of the "Dominican blow outs", later did I find out it was damaging to the hair because of the extreme high heat. I questioned myself and wondered what exactly was the point of going natural if I straightened it with these Dominican blow outs. Today, I barely use heat to my hair. Many women think for lengthier hair or "prettier" hair, they must straighten their hair. Not true! So overall, Natural Hair is Cool Enough and every client I get, walks out convinced and are happy about going natural! :)

The picture below are some of Christian's styles.  Included are: braids, plaits/box braids/individuals, senegalese twists, havana twist, and faux hawk (mohawk).  


Monday, March 24, 2014

Let's Help Change the world with one Consciously N.I.C.E. T-shirt at a time!

N.I.C.E. T-Shirts are now available for order.  A portion of the proceeds will be given to Homeless shelters, food banks and other important causes.  Let's help change the world with one consciously N.I.C.E. T-shirt at a time. If you are interested in acquiring a t-shirt, just let me know how to reach you by providing contact information. Details will be provided upon communication with you about how to acquire your t-shirt.  Check out the t-shirt below!  The N.I.C.E. t-shirt: a visible way of showing everyone who sees you, along with your fabulous hair, (or to give as a gift to someone else),  that Natural IS Cool Enough!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Is There a Natural Hair Revolution Going On?: N.I.C.E. Data Reveals the Answer!

     A 10 question survey was developed.  The women respondents were located by posting the survey link as an Event on Facebook and the link was also sent out via e-mail. The survey link was also given to women at The People of Color Conference in Washington, D.C.  There were two categories of women who filled out the survey. One group was affiliated with the University of Miami (either as a student or alumni) and the second group was not affiliated with the University of Miami. There were 70 individuals that responded in the University of Miami affiliated group and 22 that responded from the non-affiliated group.  Survey Monkey was used to collect the data and analyze the results.   The questions and the results are below.

As a highlight, Number 8 provides the answer to our key question, which is, Is there a natural hair revolution going on?  Based on the results of this survey, the answer is a resounding YES!  Of the 70 respondents from the UM Affiliated Group, 80.71 percent strongly agreed and agreed  and of the 22 Non-University of Miami Affiliates, 80.96 strongly agreed and agreed that indeed "There is currently a natural hair revolution taking place amongst Black women.  If you participated in this survey, Thank you as the results definitely support the fact that for all of the women who took this survey, Natural Is Cool Enough and of course, that is N.I.C.E.!

70 University of Miami Affiliated Respondents:

Are you currently enrolled as a student:
Yes, full time in graduate school                                                               5.71%        

Yes, part time in graduate school                                                             1.43%        

Yes, full time at a four year undergraduate college/university             87.14%      

Yes, part time at a four year undergraduate college/university                 0%        
No, I am not currently enrolled as a student                                            5.72%          


22 Individuals Not Affiliated with the University of Miami Respondents

 Are you currently enrolled as a student.


Yes, full time in graduate school                                                      33.33%        
Yes, part time in graduate school                                                             0%      

Yes, full time at a four year undergraduate college/university             0%      

Yes, part time at a four year undergraduate college/university            0%      

No, I am not currently enrolled as a student                                    66.67%      

70 U of M  Affiliated Respondents                                        22 Non-Affiliated Uof M Respondents       

2.  I wear my hair naturally as a fashion statement:   

Strongly Disgree:    20.29%                                                                     22.73%        
          Disagree:     34.78%                                                                     31.82%
              Agree:     34.78%                                                                     36.36%
Strongly Agree:      10.14%                                                                      9.09 %

3.  Managing my hair in its natural state is easy.

Strongly Disagree: 18.57%                                                                           0%
              Disagree:   40%                                                                         18.18%
                  Agree:  40%                                                                          54.55%
    Strongly Agree:  1.43%                                                                       27.27%

4.  I wear my hair naturally because it is affordable.

Strongly Disagree:  11.43%                                                                        13.64%
              Disagree: 31.43%                                                                        22.73%
  Strongly  Agree:       40%                                                                         40.91%
                 Agree:  17. 14%                                                                       22.73%

 5.  I wear my hair naturally as an affirmation of my heritage as a black woman.

  Strongly Disagree:    2.86%                                                                      9.09%
               Disagree:  35.71%                                                                      4.55%
     Strongly Agree:    32.86%                                                                     59.09%
                    Agree:  28.57%                                                                    27.27%

6. Black women who wear their hair naturally are more empowered than those who do not.

Strongly Disagree:  31.43%                                                                       13.64%
              Disagree:   44.29%                                                                     63.64%
                   Agree:      20%                                                                     13.64%
    Strongly  Agree:   4.29%                                                                        9.09%

7. I wear my hair naturally because it is healthy to do so. 

Strongly Disagree:       0%                                                                         4.55%
              Disagree:   4.41%                                                                            0%
                  Agree:   41.18%                                                                     22.73%
   Strongly Agree:   54.41%                                                                       72.73%

8. There is currently a natural hair revolution taking place amongst Black women.

Strongly Disagree:       0%                                                                              0%
              Disagree:    4.29%                                                                       19.05%
                  Agree:  45.71%                                                                      66.67%
   Strongly Agree:       35%                                                                        14.29%

9. I do not consider braided or twisted extensions a natural hairstyle.

Strongly Disagree:     32.86%                                                                      13.64%
               Disagree:   38.57%                                                                     54.55%
                   Agree:  22.86%                                                                      18.18%
    Strongly Agree:     5.71%                                                                      13.64%

10.   Natural Hairstyles are suited for the professional environment.

   Strongly Disagree:         0%                                                                         0%
                  Disagree:    5.71%                                                                       0%
                      Agree:   37.14%                                                                  27.27%
        Strongly Agree:    57.14%                                                                   72.73%