Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part II of a four part series about current (as of October 2016) attitudes among African Americans about the word "nappy".
Part II provides information about the Black natural hair movement in the United States, France, Ivory Coast, Brazil and South Africa. Information about the Black natural hair type classification system that appears to be widely used by African American natural hair care professionals and African Americans with natural hair styles is also included in one of these articles.
In addition, Part II includes a bonus article about a protest in South Africa against regulations that prohibit high school students from wearing natural hairstyles.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/changing-attitudes-among-african.html for Part I of this series. Part I highlights a 2015 vlog (video blog) about a second apology that African American comedian Sheryl Underwood made on a CBS talk show where she is co-host about comments that she had made on that show in 2012 disparaging "nappy" hair. Selected comments from that video's discussion thread are also included in this post.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/videos-of-black-natural-hairstyles-in.html for Part III of this series. Part III features several videos that showcase various Black natural hairstyles in the United States and elsewhere.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/10/hip-hop-group-nappy-roots-song-po-folks.html for Part IV of this series. Part IV highlights the Hip Hop group Nappy Roots and their 2002 hit song "Po' Folks"'. Selected comments from the discussion thread of a video of that song are included in that post.
Other pancocojams posts on the word "nappy" will be published periodically. Click the tag "nappy" or "natural hair" for links to previous posts and new posts.
The content of this post is presented for cultural and sociological purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
These articles are just a sample of online articles about the Black natural hair movement throughout the world. I've numbered these articles for referencing purposes only.
Article Excerpt #1:
"The natural hair movement is a movement which encourages women of African descent to keep their natural afro-textured hair. Born in the USA during the 2000s, this movement is named "mouvement nappy" in French-speaking countries.
....The word "nappy" has been subjected to denigration since the Atlantic slave trade. Thereafter, some Afrodescendants have positively taken the word back, considered in francophone countries as a backronym made up of "natural" and "happy."
These women, called "nappy girls" or "nappies," give "relaxing"* up and let their hair grow in its natural texture. Their hairstyles can be simple or more sophisticated, by the adoption of hair twists, braids or even locks.** Not everyone who wears their natural hair chooses to forgo all (non-chemical) forms of straightening or styling. Additionally, "being natural" does not necessarily indicate a strict adherence to any particular type of product or styling regimen; nor should it be tied exclusively with certain social or political beliefs. Women (and men) choose, or are forced into, being natural for a wide variety of reasons. Some may even not like the term "nappy/nappies."
Nappy hair: History of Afro-descendants
...Around 2005 an underground documentary film hit the independent film circuit called "My Nappy ROOTS: A Journey through Black Hairitage". The highly acclaimed film won multiple awards and played on the college circuit. With years of research, the film historically looked at the word "Nappy"; "My Nappy ROOTS" chronicled over 400 years (and 200 hours of footage) of Afro hair culture starting in Africa through the middle passage, reconstruction the creation of the Black hair industry to current day 2008. It became the definitive film on the history, culture and economics on Black hair. The urban story postulated the word 'Nappy' came from the cotton plant, the small cotton ball inside the plant was called a 'nap'. The word nappy was born because it resembled the texture of unkempt Afro textured hair. In an effort to be more acceptable socially, it was more desirable to have straight hair like the dominant culture....
Branding "Ethnic" Hair
With the popularity of "going natural," hair care suppliers have seen a rapid decrease in the purchase of relaxers, the harsh chemical hair straightener. An industry that was once worth an estimated $774 million, relaxer sales have gone down 26% over the last five years, 2013 numbers report. Sales are estimated to decrease to 45% by 2019.
Natural women are now spending more money on products that will achieve the best result for their hair, and hair care suppliers and markets are taking note. Black consumers represent a lucrative market for hair care suppliers, so the brands now have to adjust for the new hair movement. Brands have greatly lowered their production of relaxers and instead now produce more natural-friendly products. In choosing what products to consume, black consumers rely heavily on social media to gauge results from others who have gone natural. They have done this by the use of YouTube videos as tutorials on how to use products efficiently and create reviews for potential consumers to watch. Popular brands and products include Shea Moisture, Deva Curl, and Carol's Daughter."....
*In the context of this article, "relaxing" means to apply a chemical product to temporarily straighten hair that is not naturally straight. "Getting a permanent" is another way of saying the same thing. "Relaxers" = "perms".
**"Locks" (usually spelled "locs") = dreadlocks
Article Excerpt #2:
Rise of Black pride
"In the 1800s and early 1900s, nappy, kinky, curly hair was deemed inferior, ugly and unkempt in comparison to the flowing, bouncy hair of people from other cultures," says Marcia Wade Talbert in Black Enterprise. Chemical relaxers increased in demand throughout the 1800s and 1900s. These relaxers often contained sodium hydroxide (lye) or guanidine hydroxide which result in hair breakage, thinning of the hair, slowing of hair growth, scalp damage and even hair loss, according to Gheni Platenurg in the article, "Black Women Returning to Their Natural Hair Roots."
In the United States, the successes of the civil rights movement, and the Black power and Black pride movements of the 1960s and 1970s, inspired African-Americans to express their political commitments by adopting more traditionally African styles. The Afro hairstyle developed as an affirmation of Black African heritage, expressed by the phrase, "Black is beautiful." Angela Davis wore her Afro as a political statement and started a movement toward natural hair. This movement influenced a generation, including celebrities like Diana Ross, whose Jheri curls took over the 1980s.
Since the late 20th century, Black people have experimented with a variety of styles, including cornrows, locks, braiding, hair twists and short, cropped hair, specifically designed for afro-textured hair. Natural hair blogs include Black Girl Long Hair (BGLH), Curly Nikki and Afro Hair Club. With the emergence of hip-hop culture and Jamaican influences like reggae music, more non-Black people have begun to wear these hairstyles as well. A new market has developed in such hair products as "Out of Africa" shampoo.
The popularity of natural hair has waxed and waned. In the early 21st century, a significant percentage of African-American women still straighten their hair with relaxers of some kind (either heat- or chemical-based)...
In many post-Columbian, Western societies, adjectives such as "wooly", "kinky", "nappy", or "spiralled" have frequently been used to describe natural afro-textured hair. More recently, however, it has become common in some circles to apply numerical grading systems to human hair types. There are also natural haircare products used today for unprocessed, natural hair, such as Cantu, Shea Moisture, African Pride, and Carol's Daughter products.
One popular version of these systems classifies afro-textured hair as 'type 4' (straight hair is type 1, wavy type 2, and curly is type 3, with the letters A, B, and C used to indicate the degree of coil variation within each type), with the subcategory of type 4C being most exemplary of this hair type (Walker, 1997).
However, afro-textured hair is often difficult to categorize because of the many different variations among individuals. Those variations include pattern (mainly tight coils), pattern size (watch spring to chalk), density (sparse to dense), strand diameter (fine, medium, coarse), and feel (cottony, wooly, spongy).
The hair texture chart below is the most commonly used chart to help determine hair types
[This chart begins with 1a and goes to 4c. Here's a portion of that chart]
1a - Straight (Fine) Very soft, shiny, hard to hold a curl, hair tends to be oily, hard to damage.
3c - Curly (Corkscrews), Tight curls in corkscrews. The curls can be either kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together.
4a - Kinky (Soft), Tightly coiled. Has a more defined curly pattern.
4b -Kinky (Wiry), Tightly coiled. Less defined curly pattern. Has more of a "Z"-shaped pattern.
4c -Kinky (Wiry), Tightly coiled. Almost no defined curl pattern. Has more of a "Z"-shaped pattern."
People can have more than one natural curl pattern. For example, in some parts of my head my hair pattern is probably 4a and in other parts my hair pattern is 4b.
Article Excerpt #3:
From http://en.rfi.fr/france/20150406-talking-hair-and-black-identity-france-hair-salon Talking hair and black identity in France in a hair salon" by Sarah Elzas Released on 06-04-2015
"For black women a hairstyle choice can be a fraught decision: Often it becomes more than a style choice, especially in France where black hair gets into questions of identity, history and politics. These questions are the focus of the Boucles d'ébène hair salon that specialises in Afros, dreadlocks and other styles of natural black hair.
"It's more than a hair salon," says Aline Tacite, who founded the beauty salon in 2013, after starting an organisation with the same name, Boucles d'ébène (Ebony locks) with her sister in 2005 to promote natural black hair in France...
Black women (and men) face the daily question of what to do with their hair: leave it natural, curly and frizzy, or straighten it. But Tacite says hair is more than a style choice: "Hair is not just something on your head, especially black hair," she says.
"It's really charged with history, culture, identity, politics. Historically, black people have been taught that the way they should wear their hair is to have it straightened."
In the 1960s, the Black Power movement in the United States turned the Afro into a political statement.
In the last few years there has been the emergence in France and elsewhere of the "nappy" (natural and happy) movement, which celebrates natural black hair: Afros, dreadlocks and other styles that do not use chemical relaxers.
But it is not mainstream, and Tacite says most hair salons pressure black women to use relaxers, whose chemicals - strong alkalis or lye - can burn the skin and damage hair...
"Some would say, hair is an accessory," she says. But she questions women's choices.
"Why do you always change your hair to straight hair? What message do you send to the world, and first of all to yourself? I believe that some women accept their black identity - African, Caribbean, French, whatever - and still weave* or straighten their hair. But I also believe that loads of women deeply do not accept who they are."...
"weave" here means "wear a weave"= i.e. attach synthetic or real hair to their hair by braiding (plaiting) or sewing, or by glue
Article Excerpt #4:
Ivory Coast's natural hair movement is turning heads
By Daisy Carrington, for CNN, February 17, 2015
"(CNN)In Abidjan, hair can be a contentious topic. Many Ivorians are persuaded to eschew their natural hair in favor of chemical straighteners, wigs and extensions. Afros and dreadlocks are rarely depicted on local television, and those that wear their hair naturally can be shunned from their offices....
The tide is slowly starting to turn, however, thanks in part to the efforts of a community movement, Nappys de Babi.
The group currently hosts bi-monthly meet-ups where participants exchange stories and tips on how best to care for natural hair.
My hair was breaking and one day I just decided to clip it. It was something I just did for myself with no motivation to start a movement," says Mariam Diaby, the group's founder.
"When I started the group, I just started with three or five friends who were wearing their hair natural. We added another friend, and another, and in three months we were about 200. Today we are a group of 8,500."
Since then, the movement has become mainly one of encouragement (Daiby has reappropriated the word "nappy" to be a mash-up of "natural" and "happy", while Babi is shorthand for Abidjan). Earlier this year, members around the world sent in clips of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams' "Happy."*
"It's strange, because in Africa, people are supposed to know their own hair, but we don't most of the time," notes Oyourou, who says that girls start using relaxer as early as three-years old.
[Blogger Bibi] Gnagno ** says reasons for this could be myriad. The media could play a role, as could the colonial legacy (the Ivory Coast was a French colony from 1843 to 1960).
"Under colonization a lot of things happen. You want to get closer to the colonizer because that's the person that holds the power, so you let go of a lot of things that resemble your culture," she surmises.
As to why the time is suddenly ripe for a natural hair movement, Oyourou ties it to a larger trend of national pride.
Under colonization a lot of things happen... you let go of a lot of things that resemble your culture.
[quoting] Bibi Gnagno
"In the past few years, more people want to know about their traditions and what they have," she says.
"I think hair and self esteem are linked. I know my own self-worth as a black woman has been linked to my hair and I developed more self-confidence when I started wearing it natural," she says."...
* Here's the link to that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X3h_IKOaMU. It is also featured in Part IV of this pancocojams series.
** The article gives a link for Bibi Gnagno's natural hair blog. That link leads to a page that indicates that that blog is coming soon.
Article Excerpt #5:
'Black beauty has a place here': Brazilian women embrace hair's curls and kinks by Zoe Sullivan and Ana Terra Athayde in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 4 August 2016
...."Brazil, the last country in the western world to abolish slavery, still struggles with racial inequality. In 2011, the census showed that over half of Brazil’s population identified as black or mixed race, but in 2012, only 6.3% of young Afro-Brazilians were enrolled in higher education. Amnesty International reported that of the 30,000 young people who are killed each year in Brazil, 77% are black. But in the last decade, the black movement for justice and equality has gathered force. Demonstrations at shopping malls across the country in 2014 testified to lower-income Brazilians’ new purchasing power. For black Brazilian women, the natural hair trend is part of this fight to reclaim their identity.
“To construct one’s black identity in Brazil, the first step is accepting your characteristics,” said Luana da Costa Fonseca, a 25-year-old student. Fonseca moved to Rio to attend the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC), and started questioning her hair-straightening habit after joining a student group for black Brazilians. “The women who have natural hair, who have gone through a transition, who have stopped straightening, I think this is the first step for facing racism.”
On the streets of Rio, Brazilian women flaunt their natural hair in a variety of styles – from rasta braids, which weave colored fibers into the hair, to dreadlocks and afros. Another common style features tight curls with golden highlights on the tips...
The natural hair trend also presents a business opportunity for Brazilian women. Leila Velez co-founded Beleza Natural, a natural hair product company, in 1993. Today, Beleza Natural has 45 salons in five different states.
Renata Morais, 31, also aims to promote black beauty. She launched Crespinhos SA to create photo books for black Brazilian children to help them enter modeling. Morais stopped straightening her hair when she was pregnant with her second child. “We were always taught that we had to have straight hair because society said that was cool,” Morais said. “But we looked for references on TV, and we didn’t see any. We only saw women with straight hair. So we thought that was right.”
As for Marinho, the fact that so many Brazilian women are embracing their natural hair only affirms what she’s known along along: “Black beauty has a place here,” she said."
Article Excerpt #6
From http://blackgirllonghair.com/2015/03/the-budding-natural-hair-movement-in-south-africa/ True Life: I Went to South Africa to Experience the Budding Natural Hair Movement, by Classy Kinks, March 29, 2015
"There have been a few spotlights on natural hair’s rise in popularity in different African countries, such as the Ivory Coast, but rarely do we get accounts of the movement from the perspective of folks who are familiar with the movement here. Luckily, I had the opportunity to visit Johannesburg, South Africa a few weeks ago and get an inside look into the up and coming natural hair movement at the Johannesburg Natural Hair Meetup.
Although the natural hair movement is only a few years old and has yet to gain traction amongst college-aged youth, there were a variety of natural hairstyles that I observed both on the streets and at the event. In the streets of Joburg, the most popular natural hairstyle was a cropped Caesar haircut, about a half an inch off the scalp. A good number of both men and women had dreadlocks, a higher percentage even in natural hair meccas like New York City and cornrows and braids were also very popular. Longer loose natural hairstyles past TWA length were few and far between, and I saw maybe four women with crochet braids, but most were worn undefined, not dipped and curled like we’re fond of doing here in the US. Surprisingly, unlike in West Africa, very few women wore head coverings, both in the downtown business district and in the more hip neighborhood of Braamfontein.
At the event, there was a mix of fros, twistouts, locks, cornrows and a few braids. "...
That article includes some photographs from that event.
This excerpt provides information about a protest against regulations prohibiting Black natural hairstyles at a South African high school.
Decrying Hair Rule, South African Students Demand To Be 'Naturally Who We Are'
by Alan Greenblatt, September 6, 2016
...."Last month, black students at the prestigious Pretoria High School for Girls protested a clause in the school's code of conduct that banned wide cornrows, braids and dreadlocks. It wasn't a new policy, and many South African schools have enforced similar rules before. But this time, girls pushed back — and their complaints touched a nerve.
The school, which was an all-white institution until the mid-1990s, dropped the restrictions a few days later — but not before triggering a debate across the country.
"They make it out to be about grooming, but it is about race," says Lesley Chandata, a black woman from Zimbabwe who waits tables at a pizza parlor outside Cape Town.
The crux of the complaints from students and their supporters is that black South Africans are singled out for punishment or derision because of their appearance or speech....
The Pretoria High policy singled out "cornrows, natural dreadlocks and singles/braids," limiting them to "a maximum of 10 millimeters [about a third of an inch] in diameter." Violators were told to cut their hair or they'd be given demerits that can lead to suspension and expulsion. Afros were not specifically mentioned but the hair code does state that "all styles should be conservative, neat."
Tiisetso Phetla, who graduated from Pretoria High last year, told NPR's Rachel Martin that people at school would call her natural hair "barbaric" and that it looked "like a dog's breakfast" and was told to "remove that nest off your head."
"Your mood would completely change for the entire day," she said. "You'd be de-motivated for the day because they tell you that you don't look as if you belong in the school."
As is often the case in such codes, however, straight hair was not limited in such specific detail. It could be worn long if pulled back in a ponytail.
Under pressure from students and parents, provincial education minister Panyaza Lesufi suspended Pretoria High's hair clause last week. He also appointed an independent investigation into charges of racism at the school.
Still, student protests continue across the country. On Monday, about 300 current and former pupils of San Souci Girls' High School in Newlands, outside of Cape Town, met with the provincial education minister, demanding systemic changes to school policies and personnel.
Thousands of people have tweeted with the hashtag #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh on Twitter, calling the code of conduct "offensive" and "absurd."
And as of Tuesday morning, nearly 32,000 people had signed an online petition calling for an end to discrimination at Pretoria High, which includes "disciplinary action" for teachers who enforced the policy and "protection" for the students who protested.
Black girls at schools around the nation complained not just about hair but being referred to as "monkeys" or "kaffirs" (South Africa's rough equivalent of the N-word) or being told by teachers to stop making "funny noises" when they speak in African languages among themselves....
"I wasn't surprised at all that this protest struck a chord with so many women," says journalist Milisuthando Bongela, who is working on a documentary about hair and black identity that will be released next year. "It is something that has been waiting to explode for a very long time in South Africa."
This concludes Part II of this four part series