Wrinkle Creative | By Samara
Natural Hair: Generally classified as hair that has not been chemically treated with a relaxer, “perm,” or texturizer.
Naturalista: Natural hair sister.
Natural(s): noun- Natural haired person that is part of the Natural Hair Movement.
Natural Hair Movement (est. 2006-present): A social trend predominantly lead by African American women starting at ages 19 and upward. Explained as a lifestyle that promotes ever improving or sustainability of one's physical and mental health in efforts to grow and sustain healthy looking hair.
The Natural Hair Movement assumes a direct correlation between a healthy/supple life and healthy hair.
Warning! There are heavy traces of city pride, excitement and appreciation in this piece. In fact, one may be compelled to get up and research these topics on their own and/or possibly be motivated to get up, move, and get involved in their own communities. If you are a doubter or non-believer, read every one of my blogs because inspiration here happens The Samarai Way… one blog at a time. You have been warned! Dramatic puff of smoke.
"If it were not for this sense of community,
most people on their natural journey would be stuck..."
Just like any movement, trend, or fad there are controversial areas that make the movement seem more like it's boxing people in rather than freeing them. For example, the question of whether the movement should be practiced as cultural enlightenment or simply as a personal choice is not so much a heated question but a confusing one for many naturals.
Even so, the things one must know about this interesting trend is that healthy, natural African American hair aside from some t.l.c. and awesome hair products really depends on community. Without people sharing their pains and triumphs and swapping wisdom and laughter with each other, I would argue that the movement would be non-existent.
Check I did, and Glad I was! (Yoda voice)
When walking in, we were immediately greeted with soulful, up-beat jazz music. Around the room there were live artists setting up their areas and vendors doing the same. I had the pleasure of first running into a kind and thoughtful young sociologist/artist, Calvin Green, who was gracious enough to describe a couple of his pieces. “My art’s value is the same as if it was on a canvas, just because it is on a piece of card board… it’s still cool.” When asked about his relationship with natural hair, Green commented, “Your hair is a balance of who you are within the social status.” The interesting thing was that Calvin Green was not the only artist in the room, the whole room was actually teeming with local artists of all spectrums.
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I was skilled enough in my blogjitsu moves to catch a quick interview with Yolonda “Yogi” Lavender, current Executive Director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center in Kalamazoo and was also the Coordinator of Naturals Network Mixer.
What, specifically, is your goal to accomplish by the end of this event?
The entire goal is for folks with natural hair or are interested in natural hair to be able to come and meet each other in dialogue. It is a chance for us to use our expertise with one another rather than feeling like we need a licensed hair stylist, iron sharpening iron through our everyday experiences.
Why did you choose The Mix for the venue?
The Mix is an awesome place, we’ve created a very dynamic independent/local artist movement through The Mix and in Kalamazoo and The Mix has been very supportive of myself and other local and aspiring artists, and they were open to having it here and I’m glad that we were able to do it in this space.
How did you come to the conclusion of taking the initiative of making a natural hair event?
I’ve been natural for almost 10 years and my Aunt Paulette Hunter who owns a natural hair salon (House of Nefertiti – located in Kalamazoo) was a huge part of my wanting to transition back to my own natural hair. That initial support from her along with my own performances at lots of natural hair events (See the artists were everywhere!) From those experiences along with my own experiences with my hair I just wanted to share that with other people, and the main thing is for them to own it for themselves.
Samarai haiku for the hopeful-
Full of individuals
Can be warm like pie
You know that is a really good question that I hope we will be able to have some discussion about. We will be showing parts of a documentary that talks about experiences with your natural hair in corporate America and what happens when you’re with other women of color and the argument between if you can wear it straight one day in an afro the next day, questioning “what really is natural?” There’s so many different dynamics and I understand that it is becoming a fashion and a trend but for me it’s like a life style, I’m not with the whole trend thing. I really connect to [the cultural side] because my ancestors, this is what their hair was like and that’s my desire to be connected to that, to honor them that way and honor myself that way because that is my history.
So what’s next on your agenda, are you planning on doing more of these?
Umm I’m not really sure what the next step is going to be. I recently just accepted the position of the Executive Director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center (wow). It fits perfectly with everything I represent, I’m looking at ways to bring in this kind of stuff I’ve already been doing with that new position. I can’t even imagine what is going to be next you know, the sky’s the limit.
Here is the part where I get overly excited.
Ohhhh! So are we going to be seeing some Black theater plays up in here? Says your favorite journalist ninja/actress.
Yes and you and I will be connecting! Aww shucks!
Regardless, being in a city I love that highlighted doing and talking about things that compel and interest me was KICK BUTT. The fact that there are young artists who are holding on to who they are – including how they look – is an example of not marginalizing, but creating a new niche for an audience that really does exist; an audience that is real and beautiful with interesting, quirky, kinky and “coily” stories to tell. I was blessed to be surrounded by a room of entrepreneurs, actors, poets, singers, painters, doll makers, etc. Solely by looking at attendance and listening to honest opinions, these were people who believed that their community had it’s back - that there were people in its community that were working to cultivate a movement that no doubt can add a positive element not only to Black culture, but also American culture: communities built off of helping each other.
All in all, I’d say The Samarai had a quenching event experience and even though we do not know exactly when the next natural hair mixer will happen in Kalamazoo, best believe The Samarai will be keeping you posted.
Also, to my fellow naturals: if you want more info, don’t fret and stay tuned. This will not be the last time you will see natural hair posts from me to you.
Alas there is much more seeking and discovering I must do!
Live well and find happiness where you are, until we meet again (probably next week at the same time)
Samara The Samarai
Comment with your own Natural Hair experiences - or any questions below!
Learn more about:
Natural Hair Movement Day
The artists quoted in the story
Yolonda “Yogi” Lavender