By Lathleen Ade-Brown
It was 1988 when director Spike Lee debuted one of the most historic films to date, School Daze. The film is an anti-Greek tale that displays all the hardships that college students go through to cross over into a sorority or fraternity.
The musical comedy also explored the problematic issues of light skin black women wearing blue contact lenses and straight hair weaves versus dark skin black women with natural hair. The women who wore weaves were called the Gamma Rays and the natural hair sisters were called Jigaboos.
In one of the scenes from the movie we watch the two groups square off, natural hair against weaves. They exchanged controversial words that indicated the women with weaves were wanna-be white women and the natural hair girls were nappy headed.
The scene even featured a song off the soundtrack called “Straight and Nappy.”
Our hands can’t clap hard enough to applaud Lee for doing a great job in showcasing some of the petty differences that divide the black community.
However, well over 20 years later it seems as if natural hair is trending.More women of color are stripping their hair from weave and revealing their true tresses.
Not that there is anything wrong with a good weave or additional hairpieces, but some women feared that the fake hair would become a part of their identity.
“I use to depend on my weave to make me feel pretty and fabulous, I didn’t want to allow it to define me anymore,” explained Cassie Ademola, 27.
Blogger Julia Dobson of Velveteen Dreams says when she went natural it was like “seeing [herself] for the first time.” She went on to say, “I was 23 and had never saw the original texture of my hair. I was missing out on an essential part of my identity; my hair is linked to my heritage. This reflection was a new better version of myself.”
In the 1987 autobiography of African-American activist Assata Shakur, she describes the moment she went natural,
“I had always hated frying my hair, burnt ears, a smokey straightening, and the stink of your own hair burning. How many nights had I spent trying to sleep on curlers, bound with scarves that cut into my head? I became aware of a whole new generation of black women hiding under wigs, ashamed of their hair, if they had any left.”
Assata believed that wearing your hair a certain way makes a statement about yourself.
“When you go through all your life processing and abusing your hair so it will look like the hair of another race of people, then you are making a statement and the statement is clear.
It was a simple statement for me. [Natural] is what I think is beautiful.
You can spend a lifetime discovering African-style hairdresses, there are so many of them, and so many creative, natural styles yet to be invented. In a country that is trying to completely negate the image of black people, that constantly tells us we are nothing, our culture is nothing, I felt and still feel that we have got to constantly make positive statements about ourselves.”
Natural hairstyles are still being invented. More and more in mainstream media celebrities are skipping the long hours of weaving their hair and appearing on red carpets, natural. Take Solange Knowles for example, a year or two back, she did the big chop, chopping off all her hair. She wanted to start fresh and grow out her hair naturally, “I just wanted to be free from the bondage that black women sometimes put on themselves with hair. This phase of my life, I want to spend the time the energy and the money on something else [and] not in the hair salon.”
Chris Rock blasted the hair business in his film documentary, Good Hair. He demonstrated how much money African American women spend on weaves and perms when they can simply leave their hair the way it is.
Singer Chrisette Michelle also did the big chop, in efforts of not just being natural but she wanted to respect her hair.
“My hair and I had a really bad argument. She was being sprayed with alcohol and burnt with irons. She was being over processed and yanked and pulled by weave strings and suffocated by glue. She told me if I didn’t straighten up and fly right that she was leaving.”
Experts and doctors have stated that if hair is mistreated specially by constant tension on hair follicles by weaving and braiding it will result in permanent hair loss. More women today are going natural to avoid fading edges and balding.
“As a culture, we’re taught as young girls to not love our hair, we’re taught that
‘bushy’ and ‘thick’ is wrong. In TV and magazines, all the girls have straight
hair. They don’t represent that black is beautiful,” expressed singer Wynter Gordon.
While we were raised to believe that nappy is wrong, BET is certainly dispelling that with their new sitcom Reed Between the Lines. One of the main characters, Carla Reed played by Tracee Ellis Ross has a full head of natural curly hair, her two youngest daughters are just the same.
In a recent episode called “Let’s Talk About Hair,” Carla’s teenage daughter struggled with the decision of remaining natural or getting a perm. She wanted to be straight to impress a boy at school until her mother talked her into embracing herself as a natural girl.
With celebrities and TV programming empowering natural hair, it’s no surprise that the amount of women going natural is at an all time high. Some women want to ditch the perms while others simply want to embrace who they really are.
However, there are some women who are natural that bash other sisters who aren’t, similar to the Gamma Rays versus the Jigaboos in Spike Lee’s film. It’s never kind to do that; in fact it’s wrong and discriminatory. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with a weave as long as it is treated with care, some even wear it as a protective style, to guard their natural hair.
Healthy hair should be the ultimate goal no matter any style, hair extension or relaxer. What matters most is what is in your head and not on it.