Blackbelt Voices Podcast Hair+Beauty

(Natural) heads held high

It's not just hair. Katrina, Kara, and Adena untangle the cultural significance of Black hair with returning guest Dr. Karama Neal and her 13-year-old daughter, Ayoka. They explore generational shifts in hair styles and hair acceptance.

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Season 1 / Episode 7

It’s not just hair. From laws banning discrimination based on hair texture to debates about the professionalism of natural hair, Black hair has always been about more than strands and coils.

In an exclusive interview with The Root, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts revealed her beautiful bald head as a result of alopecia, explaining why she had not been wearing her signature Senegalese twists. While her health condition and how she chooses to wear her hair are private matters, Rep. Pressley acknowledged that Black hair is political, and she felt she owned an explanation to the little Black girls who admire her.

"Don't Touch My Crown" exhibit at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, Arkansas
Hot combs and curling irons at the “Don’t Touch My Crown” temporary exhibit at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In episode seven of the Blackbelt Voices podcast (recorded just one week before Rep. Pressley’s moving interview was released), Katrina, Kara, and I untangled the cultural significance of Black hair with returning guest Dr. Karama Neal and her 13-year-old daughter, Ayoka.

We shared our personal hair journeys and explored generational shifts in hair styles and hair acceptance from our own families:

  • A grandmother who gently nudged her newly natural granddaughter in 2010 to try out the “new” electric hot combs as an alternative to chemical straighteners.
  • A grandmother who went natural in her late 70s and wished more Black women would do the same.
  • A mother who had natural hair as long as her daughter could remember. When her daughter mentioned going natural, she advised her to use vinegar to get her natural curls back.
  • A mother who cried when her daughter went natural not because she didn’t like the look but because she wanted something different for her children; she only got her hair done on special occasions growing up.
  • An eight-year-old daughter who did not realize her hair and her mother’s hair are considered “natural.” To her, it is just hair.

This post is sponsored by Ife Opportunity, a organization committed to creating solutions that expand opportunity and promote equity in education, health, and other critical areas. Ife Opportunity has held computer coding, astronomy, and other workshops for children and additional projects are planned. One such project is sheet music for budding musicians learning to play piano. Download “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,”* the Black National anthem, as simplified sheet music and save 15% off your purchase using the coupon code BLACKBELT.

*This post contains an affiliate link. You won’t pay a cent more for your purchase, but we will receive a small commission.

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