About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

In a similar way, I want this blog to be a space for fun, spirited and light-hearted discussion on issues regarding black females, our bodies, our hair, our men, and our images. But I also want it to be a forum for intelligent and respectful dialogue as well. Like Jill's poem, this blog will tackle some real topics, and they won't always be light-hearted. They will, however, be about lifting each other up. I welcome such discussion, but if you have nothing positive to contribute, please don't participate. Otherwise, join in!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Natural Hair Resources: A Compendium of Sorts

Hello, friends! In addition to info I provided in an earlier post, I've decided to put together a few lists of various hair products and resources based on my experiences and those of some of my friends, family, and acquaintances. Special thanks to all of you ladies who have sent me info! These lists are by no means exhaustive, but I hope they'll be helpful for those of you who may be transitioning to your natural texture, considering transitioning, or simply looking to try something different. Good luck!

Products:

  • CURLS products: I know several ladies who rave about the wonderful smell of these products, and they can be found in many Target store locations. These products are made of natural oils and other natural ingredients. Check out the link and find out if they're available in a store near you.
  • Kinky-Curly: I know addicts! Lots of ladies love, love, love KC products, and you may too. The founders of this line also pride themselves on the natural ingredients in KC products. I tried the Knot Today detangler and leave-in conditioner and found that it's an excellent detangler. I wouldn't use it alone though, which I typically like to do with a leave-in. Using it alone seemed to make my curls a little bushier, but I know some ladies who like it by itself. KC suggests using it along with its Curling Custard, which I'd rather not do. Remember, every lady's hair is different, so do what works for your hair.
  • Carol’s Daughter: Oprah has endorsed it, HSN shoppers love it, and Mary J. Blige is an official spokeswoman and even has her fragrance, My Life, presented by it. I've never tried it, but I like the fact that Lisa Price, the founder, creates all of her products using natural ingredients in her own kitchen. :-)
  • Miss Jessie’s: These products can also be found in Target stores. I have yet to try them, but I've heard lots of good things.
  • Pantene Relaxed and Natural: I've used only the PRN conditioner, and I love it. I usually comb it through my hair in the shower with a large-tooth comb and leave it in while I bathe. It leaves my hair so soft and easy to manage. I recently heard from a cousin that some of the ingredients are less than favorable, but I don't know details. I'll do some digging. Meanwhile, I really like it!
  • Shea Moisture: Another line of products found at Target, I like their natural bath soaps but have never tried their hair products. My girl Brenna swears by them though. I'm interested in trying them because shea butter really is a great moisturizer for skin and hair.
  • Black-n-Bossie: My friend Courtney told me about these products, and the prices look very reasonable.
  • Taliah Waajid: This is a well established line that even hosts "the world's largest natural hair show" each year in Atlanta. The next one will be at the Georgia International Convention Center April 30-May 1, 2011.
  • Cantu Shea Butter: I've been using the leave-in conditioning and repair cream for a few months now, and it's awesome. It's super moisturizing and very creamy. Plus, it really enhances my curls when I comb it through my hair thoroughly.
Information:

You may have noticed that most of these products are composed of natural ingredients, which is because I tend to lean more that way. Most of them avoid sulfates and parabens too. There's a lot of debate about the actual harm these ingredients can cause, so it's best to do your research and come to your own conclusions. Natural oils (like jojoba) and essential oils, which you can find in natural food stores, are also great choices for natural moisturizing. Enjoy exploring, and I hope you'll grow to appreciate what your hair is like in it's natural state. It will do it's own thing for sure, but the ways you nurture it are on you. Have fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Racial Discrimination or Common Sense?

Two Alabama towns are home to legal actions that some say involve racial discrimination, and each instance deals particularly, if indirectly, with black males and the ways in which they present themselves. On one hand, I think the promotion of professionalism and awareness of public perception is a worthy objective. On the other hand, promoting conformity for conformity’s sake is a potentially dangerous notion, encouraging young people to "fit in" at the expense of being themselves.

One scene is set in Selma, in which a city ban has just been enacted, mandating that anyone wearing his or her pants three inches below the hips can be fined $25-$100 (the max is $200 for adults) per citation and ordered to do community service hours. Opponents allege that the policy is racially motivated because it’s “geared toward minority kids,” as reported in the Selma Times-Journal. This charge is a bit fishy to me, though. While the ban might be infringing on people’s freedom of expression, it’s common sense that you’re not going to be taken seriously professionally with your booty showing. How much of a sacrifice is it to wear your pants an inch below the hips instead of three? I would argue that young people should learn to start dressing in a way that will help prepare them for life beyond high school.
Blaise Taylor, with clean,
well groomed braids

Really, one could say the same for the second scene, which is set in Auburn. Auburn University Assistant Head Football Coach Trooper Taylor has filed a lawsuit against Auburn City Schools because his son, Blaise, has been prohibited from playing on the Auburn High JV basketball team. The reason? His braids. Blaise’s coach, Frank Tolbert, apparently told the Taylors that Blaise would not be allowed to play unless he cut his hair, to which the Taylors claimed that Tolbert’s rule violates Blaise’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom from racial discrimination (because black boys are the main wearers of braids).

This case seems a bit trickier, partly because there’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on. The Taylors say they didn’t find out about the policy until after Blaise had already made the team. Says Blaise, as reported in the Opelika-Auburn News, “I worked hard to make the team and make it through the cuts. I was really disappointed I wasn’t going to get to play with my teammates.” Still, there are sentiments to the contrary. Some of the comments below the story indicate that the policy was made clear well before tryouts, as Tolbert has been using this rule for over 30 years. (Then again, maybe we should take these comments with a grain of salt. They’re not part of the reported story…)

To return to the idea of professionalism, though, it’s probably safe to say that braids are not generally favorable. Yet, I don’t think they connote the same meanings as sagging pants. No, it’s not appropriate to show your underwear or derriere in any kind of business or educational setting. However, hair that is neat, clean, and well groomed shouldn’t be an issue, whether it’s braided or not. In another statement from the Selma Times-Journal piece, “The suit claims Tolbert, a black man, targets black players only, while allowing white players to play ‘even though their hair is long, blown out, unkempt and/or even gets in their own eyes, or the eyes of others.’” Of course, prohibiting braids and allowing hair that actually is unkempt could certainly be considered discriminatory.

Such a position was highlighted in professional cases in the late ‘80s when American Airlines and the Hyatt Regency Hotel were involved in suits by employees who had been fired because of their braids. In 2001, more cases involving FedX and UPS dealt with discrimination against dreads. In the 21st century, though, cornrows and dreads have become much more acceptable in the professional world and have been deemed appropriate in many companies’ grooming policies.* I think it’s safe to say that ideas are starting to change about braids and dreads; they don’t necessarily mean criminal or thug anymore. Now, much of mainstream society is starting to understand that these hairstyles are simply expressive, but they can be so without being extreme or distracting.

With that said, I applaud measures that discourage immature, potentially counter-productive expressions of fashion, but braided hair (sans crazy designs or colors) doesn’t necessarily fit those descriptions. I hope decisions in both Selma and Auburn are based on good sense and not outdated ideas about “acceptability.”

* See Tracey Owens Patton. “Hey Girl, Am I More than My Hair?: African American Women and Their Struggles with Beauty, Body Image, and Hair.” NWSA Journal 18.2 (2006): 24-51, 37-38.