Black Women Need To C.H.I.L.L C –
Lift each other up instead of tearing each other apart.
On a normal day, I would say “No, I am not Black. I am African” but as I write this, I have to admit that although I did not receive the memo prior to boarding my flight to America on that warm evening, coming here means that as much as possible, I have to accept what this foreign land throws at me. And this includes labels like “Black”, whether I am as melanin-rich as Lupita N’yongo or as light as your favorite YouTube blogger Shirley Eniang, or in-between, as I rightfully am. I accept that much.
What I will not accept is the disparity that dwells and is deeply infested in black women, up to our hair strands. Yes, we. We fight and argue about everything. If it is not about how much of a feminist another woman is (cue feminists' reaction to Beyonce’s self-titled album 2 years ago), it is about how your hair looks or feels. I vividly remember how angry and appalled I was at the natural hair movement in its early stages. In my school’s gospel choir for example, slowly, everyone became natural and one of my friends told me that she was sort of ambushed by the naturalistas in choir who repeatedly asked her why she was still relaxing her hair. They tried to convince her to be natural so many times and she often felt left out.
At the beginning of this movement, I knew for a fact that one day, some said naturalistas who were merely just joining the bandwagon would fall off. Take a break from reading this. Count how many of your previously natural friends have now turned to the creamy crack or are considering it. Yes, "creamy crack" was once used by naturalistas to refer to women who apply relaxers to straighten their hair. In the middle of this facade, we forget that not everyone has an easy-to-manage relaxed hair, not to talk of the monstrosity they would have to deal with if they went natural, myself for example. Did you see one of my blog posts, the Thanksgiving one? That, my dear friends is my relaxed hair, still looking hella wild. And for the lifestyles some of us lead, waking up in the morning and breaking combs in attempt to pull our hair strands into a style makes no sense. Neither is putting our mane in flat twists, twist outs and slapping on loads of hair butter, curl activator, hair mayonnaise and the likes before going to bed. Some of us are not just as dedicated to our hair and may never be. But this did not stop women on the “other side”, the naturalistas from spewing comments at other women who for the reasons above and multiple personal reasons could not rock their natural hair. Some natural women would come at a woman with relaxed hair saying “you ain’t proud of your roots” or “you are trying to look white”. To each of those comments, my ideal response would be “I am Nigerian; knowing my roots doesn’t get better than that” or “I am not trying to look white, thank you. I saw you dyed your “natural” hair red the other day. Is that what you were born with? And is it okay for Kylie Jenner to rock braids “to look black” since you are obviously dying your hair “to look white?”. No really, think about it. Do any of the accusations make sense?
I shrugged any time I saw pictures of natural hair products on social media because even as I proudly indulge in the creamy crack, my bathroom cabinet does not boast up to 50 different products from different companies, that are about $20-$30 each and I barely know how to use.
More than ever, I am grateful to the forces of the earth because this fad has died down a bit. Want to know why? Black women (and women in general) are extremely competitive with each other. Instead of watching the YouTube tutorials by the natural hair gurus and taking good care of our hair, do you know what we invented? -----*drum roll please*----- Natural hair weaves / wigs that looked more natural than what existed when our parents used to play dress up in fake afros. I recall seeing an Instagram post by a natural hair celebrity where she shared that people needed to constantly stop asking how she grew out her hair. According to her, “PATIENCE” was all her fellow naturalistas needed. You know those words fell on deaf ears as we black women wanted to chop off our hair today and have the longest mane of natural hair tomorrow. It got so deep that those who caught onto the natural hair wig invention early would pose as though it was their hair, till their little secret got revealed. Why this senseless competition? Let's not talk about those obsessive weekly and monthly hair measurements naturalistas shared across social media. I think it was termed "length check". Can you let the poor hair grow, dammit!?
As you may have observed recently, everyone is walking around with “natural hair”, and this availability of a short-cut is the main reason the natural hair fad has died down. It is no more about saving your previously damaged hair by growing it out, oiling and trimming stray ends to ensure it stays healthy. It is about rocking a natural hair wig and posing like it’s your hair. It’s about taking the shortest route to ensure one stays on trend, making me wonder if people ever knew what purpose the natural hair movement was meant to serve. Even people who were initially mad about this wig fell in. After all, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.
That was meant to be an article by the way, two years ago when it started. But I bottled it up.
Now that I have released that anger, I will walk right unto the praise, my point of this article.
Remember the multiple hair products I mentioned above being prevalent in bathrooms of women with natural hair? And the companies I said rose up as a result of this fad? Well, who started them? We did. And when we did, we failed to realize our power. We failed to realize that we made the world stop. We made the world take notice. We made such an impact that those natural hair weaves and wigs that our impatience bred actually made their way to the runways of top designers and brands. We made such a mark that everywhere a natural hair woman walks into, with her hair in its untamed (un-styled) state, people stop and stare and even ask to touch (don’t do this touching bit. Some naturalistas actually don’t like it…creepy factor x100. Understandable).
This natural hair movement led to the uprise of many hair companies and the diversification of companies that were originally focused on non-black hair
(cue Dark & Lovely, Pantene etc.) and many hair workshops and tours around America and of course this spread to Nigeria (my country that never fails to copy trends from America without really knowing the underlying story). We fueled the growth of these companies, workshops, and turned ordinary women into celebrities. Like the eyebrow drawing movement, we failed to learn the valuable lesson this movement created. Almost every beauty trend black women start or are commonly associated with black women make their way into magazines and runways and top shoots. But instead of using our power for good to empower the younger generations, we bring ourselves down by waging wars – naturalistas versus cream crackers – and even turn against the innocent unknowing ones, like Blue Ivy. We dragged down her entire family because her hair looked unkempt. To those women who took to social media to lash at Beyonce, do you have children or have you ever been around a child with tough hair when it is time to run that comb through? What if her hair was combed and she, being a child messed it all up? We could at least pardon her lack of knowledge on the importance of not letting the edges stray (YET!) Can’t she be a child? How about Gabby Douglas, our Olympic winning teenager that made America proud. What did black women say about this girl? Twitter went wild after her stunts because her hair “was not laid for the gods”. Instead of glorifying her efforts, black women took to social media to lash at her mother and whoever else they lashed out at, for not making her hair look good. How on earth is a gymnast… scratch that, a gymnast AT THE OLYMPICS supposed to care about the way her hair looks when she is flipping and turning in a bid to make history and all her hard work pay off? To what good would it have been if her hair “was on fleek” but her stunts were not? Oh I know. They would have said “Welcome home baby, at least your hurr was laid”. Again, I ask, to what good is all this bashing over trivial matters? What are our priorities really? It would have been amazing if every black woman who made those negative comments used Gabby’s story to inspire their children or even reposted her picture on social media. But they did not. These two instances stuck with me the most because I noticed how the poisonous fangs actually affected the recipients.
Because we live in an appearance-crazed community where everyone wants to be “liked”, the mothers of these children paid attention to those negative remarks, which in my opinion perpetuates the cycle of negativity. I will never forget how sleek Gabby’s hair looked in one of the interviews she did on her return, with a full face of grown makeup at her then-young age. You may have also noticed that with time, Beyonce and/or her crew started ensuring Blue kept her hands out of her hair and of course, Kim Kardashian, having learned from Blue Ivy’s moment started bonding North West’s hair so tight from Day 1, to ensure that her husband’s people have nothing to say. I sometimes wonder if North West has ever run her hands through her hair. You get my point.
Black Women need to chill, because although we are enormously strong enough to force new companies into business, our power is almost always wielded to the wrong use and this will affect generations to come if we don’t find a way to curb it.
What I saddens me the most is that our grading system is purely based on looks – hair, nails, clothes and the latest, eyebrows. It questions if there is substance behind all of this and as you know, Memkoh is all about harnessing that style while adding loads of substance. As a stylist and style blogger, I admit that fellow bloggers and I constantly raise the bar and sometimes fail to leave much behind. The ideal thing to do would be to raise the bar and leave something where the bar was, for those who cannot reach for the bar’s new height. And that’s exactly what we try to do at Memkoh – raise the bar in style and leave articles like these to foster an incorporation of substance, for those who can’t reach for or for whatever reason are not interested in attaining the style mile. It will be even better if one can achieve both style and substance.
So I wrote this article, because I realized that if we don't call ourselves to order, no one will. I want to admonish black women to lift each other up instead of tearing each other apart. If you fall into the category of the bashers and the overly appearance obsessed, if you know that deep down, you do have substance but you are too busy watching makeup tutorial videos or laying your edges therefore hiding that substance, then you need to CHILL on those excessive bits and start developing the real, inner you which can certainly co-exist with a good outer grooming. The sad reality is that these days, everyone wants to tweak and trim till they get 1 million social media likes or following. If you know this brand, you’ll know that those ephemeral things do not interest us, until of course the day each like or each follow amasses to at least a dollar or worst case, 50 cents each. Till then, a like is just like hi5 Fives - they come and go. What won’t go are our bad habits, if left unchecked.
Buckle up, fellow black women, and let’s stop tearing each other apart indiscriminately. It’s really all fun and games as we leave those “XX on fleek” comments, but the moment you start to take things too seriously, bringing down someone else who chooses to live without those beauty constraints, creating dichotomies amongst other women, then you have overly over-stepped your bounds and need to take several seats as the banters these days put it, or simply CHILL.
Love Always, Memkoh.