Articles By Linda Jones

Bun

In the creative writing workshops that I conduct, I like to engage the participants in exercises that helps them relax and challenge their imagination.

The one that really gets them excited is when I ask them to give voice to a body part. My favorite is the one where I ask them to let their hair talk.

“If your hair could talk, what would it say?”

Once they stop looking at me like I’m crazy, they let the role play begin.

I posed the question during a workshop sessions with women who belonged to a support group for former prostitutes. One woman’s hair “talked” about being pulled and dragged around by abusive men. Another participant’s hair shared its frustration over being subjected to so many chemical relaxers.

“I’m tired of being set on fire,” the perm-challenged hair proclaimed.

During a workshop I conducted at a senior citizens center, a cancer survivor tearfully allowed her hair to speak about its experience with chemotherapy.

“Bit by bit, pieces of me floated to the ground,” she read. Her hair spoke of being taken to a wig shop and how strange it was to see a store full of "hair with no heads.”

I originally created my Hair Talk exercise to use in the cultural enrichment workshops that I conduct with young African-American girls. I wanted to get an idea of how they perceived themselves without asking them directly.

“I am happy because my owner takes good care of me,” wrote Ke’Asha, a sixth grader.When I posed the question to a group of middle and high school age girls at a community center in South Dallas, the responses were as varied as their personalities. They were candid, humorous, poignant and proud.

“She perms me, shampoos me and even greases me! I love how I feel and look.

Surayyah’s hair pleaded with her owner to give her better care.

“Please comb me. I am all over the place,” wrote the fourth-grader. “Please grease me because I am starting to feel a little dry. Make sure to condition me or I will fall out.”

Madison’s hair was angry.

“I’m sick of being in braids,” wrote the fifth grader in her complaint to her owner. “I don’t like to get wet. I don’t like it when you sweat.”

Dante’s hair issued a desperate warning to her owner who was obsessed with keeping it straight. “Touch me with that hot comb one more time and I will run away!”

Zakia, a sixth grader, had hair that expressed pride and a positive self-perception.

“If my hair could talk it would say how pretty it looked today. That’s what it would say in a great, black and beautiful way.”

Final thoughts

Hair talk. Never know what you might get when you let your tresses be expressive.


Contact Linda or read her bio.


Leigh Chestnut from Dartmouth, Mass., sent me a five-alarm letter of distress. She wrote how she innocently uttered the N-word, and promptly caught hell for doing so.

“Please help me,” Leigh wrote, using ample exclamation marks to emphasize her high level of angst.

“I am white; I have straight, boring hair. I used the expression 'nappy' last week to describe my daughter’s boyfriend’s hair (which it is, but it’s blond). They both exploded at me, telling me how racist I was to even use that term. I think they are wrong, and I was certainly not coming from that angle when I said it. So please tell me, am I ignorant?"

Sister Leigh, you are correct that you did nothing wrong. It sounds like you were innocently describing the texture of your daughter's boyfriend's hair, but you may not have known just how controversial your word choice was.

The word nappy is not an expletive, and being nappy is not the bane of a person's existence, contrary to misinformed beliefs.

Nappy also is not a racist term. There are those who have used the term with racist intentions because they are aware of the negative stigma that has been ascribed to the texture of hair that grows primarily from the heads of people of African descent.

Shock jock Don Imus was fully aware of the stigma when he called the women of the Rutgers’ basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s.” His intent was to describe them as loose women with bad hair. It was obviously not meant to be a compliment.

Perhaps you were not trying to pay your daughter’s boyfriend a compliment when you described his hair texture as nappy. But it doesn’t sound like you were trying to offend him, either. You were simply being descriptive.

Nappy describes a rich, thick, kinky, willful state of natural hair.

Nothing wrong with that.

So relax, Leigh, and tell your daughter and her boyfriend to do the same. Whether the texture is nappy and blond or nappy and black, it's all good.


Contact Linda or read her bio.


Just when I think I’ve read or heard all of the ignorant comments about nappiness and things related, I manage to stumble across something else that proves me wrong.

The latest stuck-on-stupid statement I came across appears in the book “Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America," by Obiagele Lake. Lake’s book offers a historical look at the cultural background of skin color and hair issues in the African-American community.

William Calvin Chase

William Calvin Chase

In the book, there is a March 5, 1910, editorial written by W. Calvin Chase, founder and editor of the now defunct African-American newspaper, "The Washington Bee." In his editorial, Chase strongly urged black women to straighten their kinky hair.

He continued his rant of "stupification" by saying that God discriminated against black women when he gave their hair a kinky texture.

Yeah, he went there.

“We say straighten our hair, ladies beautify yourselves,” he writes. “Make aggravating, reclusive, elusive, shrinking kinks, long-flowing tresses that may be coiled or curled or puffed to suit Dame Fashion’s latest millinery creations, even if it takes every ounce of hair straightening preparation that can be manufactured . . . even God, who discriminated against our women on this hair proposition, knows that straight hair beautifies a woman.
Yes, straighten your hair and do it at once.”

Brother Chase wrote the editorial in 1910 and died in 1921, which makes him conveniently unavailable to tell me what possessed him to write an editorial that is beyond bizarre.

What kept me from hyperventilating after reading it was to remind myself of the time in which it was written. Chase’s newspaper, which was established in 1888 and lasted for 40 years, was published during the heyday of Washington’s black aristocracy. It was a time when elitism and color prejudice within the race was prevalent in the nation’s capital city.

The term “blue vein” referred to blacks who were so light-skinned and so close to white that the blue veins at their wrists would show. The blue-veined folk considered themselves part of an elite upper-class society. The madness was also reflected in hair texture. Kinky hair was a definite disqualifier for inclusion.

Chase wasn’t a "blue vein," but he was born the son of wealthy black Washingtonians and was raised as part of a privileged class. To his credit, he was a vocal critic of “color phobia,” and his writings lambasted the pretentiousness of light-skinned blacks and their discrimination of those with dark skins.

But he apparently wasn’t as passionate about hair texture.

Brother Chase’s 1910 editorial claiming that God’s blessing of kinky hair was a discriminatory act clearly shows that he was missing a few follicles.

Knowing this kept me from gagging over his words.

I wound up giggling instead.


Contact Linda or read her bio.


BunA photo illustration of what Michelle Obama might look like with super-curly hair.

Michelle Obama wears her hair in flips and bobs reminiscent of Kennedy First Lady Jackie O and of June Cleaver, the '60s suburban housewife of "Leave It to Beaver" fame.

In her own role as potential First Lady, Michelle Obama's hair is politically correct.

America expects the wife of Barack Obama, the man who wants to be president, to project an image of sophistication and near perfection. That image includes having hair that doesn’t make waves.

“As potentially half of the public face of America, Ms. Obama in locks or cornrows would be a bit too ‘in your face,’ even with her Harvard degree and her attorney status,” says Arizona State University English Professor Neal A. Lester, who studies African-American literature and culture and has written about black hair issues.

Mainstream America considers styles that reflect the European aesthetic more acceptable and less likely to offend. Hairstyles with African roots don’t get the same respect. To say someone has a nappy head is considered an insult, and the word “nappy,” which merely describes the kinky texture of hair, is practically considered a profanity. In polite circles, the word is euphemistically referred to as “natural.”

See our editorial on the controversial "The New Yorker" cover.
See what CurlTalkers are saying about "The New Yorker" cover.

Natural hair wearers have seen their politics, patriotism and even their hygiene come under attack. Their Afros, braids, locks and twists have been considered unprofessional, and many who have worn the styles have been demoted or have lost their jobs. Wearers of natural hairstyles also have not escaped being labeled subversive or being perceived as social misfits.

The media is fully aware of how certain hairstyles worn by African-Americans can feed negative stereotypes.

Case in point. The July 21 issue of "The New Yorker" magazine has on its cover a satirical cartoon showing Barack Obama dressed in Muslim garb as a way of suggesting that he is a terrorist. Michelle, his wife, is depicted wearing combat boots and fashionable fatigues, toting an AK-47 and bumping fists with her husband in an African-American salute of solidarity known as “the dap.” The hairstyle that cartoonist Barry Blitt choose to round out Michelle’s angry-black-radical-and-revolutionary woman’s image is a billowing Afro, a la Angela Davis.

Michelle Obama’s real life hairstyle plays it safe. Intended or unintended, it is decidedly apolitical.

“This is no different from Condoleezza Rice and her visits to the beauty salon for her perms these many years,” says Lester of Arizona State.

“There is a reason that Oprah, Beyonce, Mo'Nique, Patti LaBelle, Tyra, and Queen Latifah haven’t gone the way of Whoopi Goldberg. The reason is that there is clearly a public persona that makes these women culturally less threatening with straightened hair.

“I am not saying that these women are betraying their blackness. I am saying that the pattern of self-acceptance has not made its way into the realm of unstraightened hair."

Condoleeza Rice
Barbara Jordan
Lisa Nutter
Eleanor Holmes Norton

Elizabeth Wellington, fashion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, describes Michelle Obama’s hairstyle as “nebulous.”

“It can be the style of a Democrat or a Republican,” says Wellington who is African-American and happens to wear locks. "If she wore her hair naturally, it would freak out segments of America. Her hairstyle is what people think is acceptable, even black people. Locks and natural hair do not carry that kind of cache.”

Despite longstanding negative perceptions about natural hairstyles, prominent black female politicians have sported the look over the years and kept their seats. In the UK, Dawn Butler and her locks have served on the British Parliament since 2005. In the U.S., Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Congress, had a long run with cornrows before going back to a relaxed style. And several other longtime members wear or have worn Afrocentric styles. D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and the late Texas representative Barbara Jordan dared to wear Afros during the 1970s, when the style was widely viewed as a symbol of militancy and an unabashed expression of cultural pride. Norton, who still remains firmly rooted in Congress, has even touted the virtues of wearing natural hair publicly.

“Nothing is more liberating than letting your hair be naturally what your hair is,” she said during a National Public Radio interview several years ago.

The signature natural hairstyle of Cynthia McKinney, the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Georgia, was two thick braids wrapped around her head. Washington Post Fashion columnist Robin Givhan has suggested that McKinney, who is savvy to the politics of black hair, used that particular style to project a certain image.

“The style seemed calculated to portray her as the underdog,” Givhan wrote in a column about her last year. She wrote that McKinney’s style was “purposefully out of fashion. Aggressively not slick, ostentatiously humble.”

When McKinney finally retired her braids and started wearing a natural “twist out” style, the litany of comments on blogs and in the media were derogatory and laced with harsh racial overtones.

One of the most offensive remarks was made by syndicated radio commentator and Libertarian Neal Boortz.

During comments about an incident (March 29, 2007) in which McKinney reportedly struck a Capitol Hill police officer while trying to pass a security checkpoint, Boortz said that her new hairdo made her “look like a ghetto slut.”

As much as natural hairstyles get people all worked up, there is no evidence that political wives who wear them can derail their husband’s political aspirations.

Philadelphia’s personable First Lady Lisa Nutter, who has been described as a woman with class, wore locks while her husband Michael served on the city council and didn’t bother to cut or conceal them when he decided to run for mayor. He won handily, and when African-American women of power, influence and success are mentioned in the media, Lisa's name has shared billing with the likes of Oprah and Michelle.

To roughly paraphrase a line by songstress India.Arie, Michelle is not her hair.

Whether she continues to flaunt the flip like First Lady Kennedy during the presidential campaign or decides to start locks like the First Lady in Philly, her real character should not be superficially determined by what she wears on top of her head.

It should be determined by the intelligence that dwells within it.


Linda Jones is a regular contributor to NaturallyCurly, writing a monthly column called Naturally Speaking.

Photo illustrations here and on home page by Dale Roe.


Recently, I wrote a column about how kitchens are perceived by black women who were born with nappy hair. As a confirmed napologist, I felt it necessary to enlighten my readers by putting the kitchen into its proper cultural context.

I explained that for many black women born with nappy hair, the kitchen is not just a place where food is cooked but it was the place where our hair was cooked. When we were young, the kitchen was where we went to undergo the unpleasant ritual of having our nappy hair straightened with the dreaded hot comb.

But if I am to stay true to my side profession I cannot stop there. The kitchen has still another cultural connotation for people with nappy hair.

The kitchen, dear readers, is also the nickname for the hair that resides at the nape of our necks. It is the place where our most rebellious kinks congregate. Hair that takes root and grows in our kitchens is the nappiest, curliest, kinkiest and the most resistant to change.

We already know that in unenlightened circles, nappiness is viewed as an unacceptable hair texture and the word “nappy” is a pejorative term. In that context, you can imagine how much our nappy kitchens are viewed with disdain. Those of us who are deeply afflicted with nap denial have gone through great lengths to obliterate that shameful section of our heads. If it took a double dose of chemicals or removal by razor to keep our kitchens in the closet, it was worth it.

But negative perceptions notwithstanding, the kitchen was a powerful place.

It was the area that my mother struggled with most during my hot comb rite of passage. While the hair on the rest of my head readily surrendered to the smoking hot comb, my kitchen did not give up without a fight.

I have a name of honor for my kitchen hair. I call it “Nap Turner.” My Nap Turner hair reminds me of the heroic slave Nat Turner who rebelled against oppression. “Nap Turner,” my nappy “hairo,” righteously rebels against being o-pressed by hot combs and chemical relaxers.

Even the nap-savvy Afro pick has lost a few teeth during expeditions into our kitchens. And pity our love partners of another hue who expected smooth sailing when they tried to run their fingers through our hair. When they passionately navigated their way into the density of our kitchens they were unexpectedly thrown off “coarse.” Much like disappearing into the void of the Bermuda Triangle, those probing fingers got forever lost in the kitchen kink!

Our kitchens have been such a deeply rooted institution that they have even commanded the respect of the Ivy League. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the esteemed Harvard professor, paid homage in his memoir, "Colored People."

“If there was ever one part of our African past that resisted assimilation, it was the kitchen,” Brother Gates proclaims. “No matter how hot the iron, no matter how powerful the chemical, no matter how stringent the mashed-potatoes-and-lye formula of a man’s “process,” neither God nor woman nor Sammy Davis Jr., could straighten the kitchen.

The kitchen was permanent, irredeemable, invincible kink. Unassimilably African. No matter what you did, no matter how hard you tried, nothing could de-kink a person’s kitchen.”

How’s that for validation?

If a Harvard intellectual can celebrate the wonderful condition of our kitchens then why should we take heat from those who don’t have a clue?


Contact Linda or read her bio.


In my column last month, I wrote a bit about women who I call Adult Survivors of the Hot Comb or ASH-C (Ashy) for short.

ASH-C women were born with kinky hair, are mainly of African descent, and their childhood rite of passage included sitting in the kitchen getting their hair straightened with the dreaded hot comb. I mentioned in the column that while those hair grooming sessions were traumatic and near torturous, our elders administered the painful procedures as acts of love. They wanted us to be beautiful, even if they had to burn the beauty into us.

Apparently I have a number of ASHy readers. I received flattering responses about the column and some took the time to share their own experiences of their sessions with the “kitchen beauticians.”

“Thanks for that, my sistuh,” writes Ife Mahdi, a poet and administrative assistant from Dallas. “It takes me back. And like you said, those sessions, though misguided, were fraught with mama love. I cannot begin to describe the safety and love I felt as my mama slathered Dixie Peach (hair grease) on my hair. Then came the snap, crackle, pop of the black straightening comb as it glided through my head. She was mostly careful, but on those occasions when she ‘slipped,’ that black comb would sizzle into the side of my neck and some major trauma would occur. I was ‘tenderheaded.’ My hair was very defiant, resistant, and waged its own revolution. It was sayin, ‘Hell no, I won't go!’ And no matter how many of those high-powered down-to-the scalp burns I would get, my hair refused to stand up straight. Instead it would ‘go back,’ back to Africa, where it belonged.”

Like Ife, Allison Neal of Richardson, Texas, also understood the loving intent behind the “torture.”

“These acts were of parental care, concern and regard,” Allison writes. “Ironically, for many of us, without the weekly ritual of getting our hair pressed or having a perm, we would've experienced an identity crisis and felt unloved or neglected by our mamas!"

The most amusing, albeit insightful story, came from Linda Stein, a Jewish artist based in New York. Linda was born with hair that was dark and straight.

“You may be an ASH-C, but I belong to ASH-B; Adult Survivors of Hair Bleach,” Linda writes.

“Starting at age 16, there was nothing more important to my mom, who also loved me very much, than for me to have blonde hair a-la Marilyn Monroe. My sandy brown hair just would not do. This meant a searing, two-process bleach, in which the beautician first stripped the brown from my hair (which opened my scalp pores) and then applied a burning second bleach which added the blonde.

"This was done in a beauty parlor, but I had an additional kitchen ASH-P experience at an even earlier age, in which my straight hair was permed by my mom, starting maybe at 8 years old, so I could be ‘acceptably’ female.”

A word to my ASH-C and ASH-B sisters. While I appreciate the sharing of your stories, I pray that you are fully recovered from those extreme hair makeover sessions from your past. If you are still having flashbacks perhaps you should see a hairepist.

It’s time to let it go.


“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

Lately Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton has been using the phrase made famous by Harry Truman as her way of saying that she can handle the pressure of being president.

She invoked the quote in Iowa when she was taking heat from her male rivals just before the January caucuses. She also stated the phrase to chide her remaining opponent, Senator Barack Obama, for complaining about the grilling he received from moderators at the presidential debate in Philadelphia.

At that time, she followed Truman’s quote with her own tag line.

"And, just speaking for myself,” she said, “I am very comfortable in the kitchen."

As an Adult Survivor of the Hot Comb, the kitchen was not a place of comfort for me.

Adult survivors of the hot comb are women born with nappy hair who lived to tell about the trauma of how we had our hair groomed with steel tooth combs that were placed in fire. These "heated" hair grooming sessions took place in the kitchen.

When Hillary spoke of her comfort in the kitchen during her campaign remarks, she was clearly making reference to the room that most people know only as the place where food is cooked. But Adult Survivors of the Hot Comb know all too well that the kitchen is also the place where our hair was cooked.

I still shudder when I think about those Saturday nights when my sisters and I sat in our sweltering kitchen, unwillingly waiting until it was our turn to get our rebellious hair pressed, or o-pressed, to be more precise. The steel-toothed comb was the weapon of nap destruction.

The way it was heated depended on what kind of stove we had. When we had a gas stove the comb was placed over a low flame. When my father purchased an electric stove, the comb was heated on the spiral burner.
When the comb got smoking hot, my mother removed it, waved it in the air a few times and blew on it, as if that was going make it cool enough to bear.

It wasn’t. The comb was still hot and my hair still sizzled.

My mother cooked my nappy hair until all traces of what it was supposed to be was gone — at least temporarily.
Water, sweat, or any other form of precipitation caused my hair to revert right back to its natural state, which is why the dreaded kitchen hair straightening sessions were a regular, tortuous thing.

This ritual was played out in countless homes where nappy-headed females lived. In these households, the smell of burning hair was as common as the smell of fried chicken.

As strange as it may sound, the kitchen hair-straightening sessions were not meant to be abusive. For most of us, they were carried out as pure acts of love.

Our mothers wanted our hair to be pretty, and they were conditioned to believe that nappy textured hair didn’t fit that description.

So we had to sit in the kitchen and take the heat.

This is no criticism of Hillary’s choice of words and her rhetorical claim that the kitchen is her comfort zone.
It is just my humble observation that kitchen comfort is definitely in the mind, and on the head, of the beholder.


Two years ago I wrote a column asking my readers to fantasize about a government run by a Nappy Administration. If nappiness were the only prerequisite, I asked, who would they want to see holding the nation’s top political posts?

The readers primarily nominated people who were actors, artists and performers who wore locks and wild and wooly Afros.

But one reader’s fantasy pick was a real life politician who wears his natural hair in a style that is close cropped and conservative. Her nominee was U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

“I’m not really sure how nappy his hair is,” said Linda Ball of Murphy, Texas, whose comments appeared in my November 2006 column. “But I’m just finishing up his amazing autobiography and he certainly has a great nappy mind. If he runs for real, he’ll get my vote!”

As it turns out, Obama is running for real. And in the real world of presidential politics, it would be best if his hair didn’t make waves.

Let’s face it. If Obama were flagrantly flaunting the Bob Marley look, he never would have made it this far in his quest to be president.

But there was a time in Obama’s past when he had the "audacity" to wear his hair in a style that expressed his African roots. While he was a community organizer in Chicago, Obama sported a short Afro. He continued wearing the style when he went to Harvard to study law. He didn’t bother changing it when he later decided to run for president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Barack Obama wore a short afro at Harvard.

It apparently wasn’t an issue. His peers who apparently recognized it was what in his head and not on it that impressed them enough to elect him president, making him the first African American to hold the post in the 111-year history of the law review.

I ran across a New York Times article written about Obama and his political activities at Harvard. Accompanying the article was a photo of him seated with his classmates looking quite becoming in his very low ‘fro.

Let me just say for the record that if Obama realizes his dream of becoming president and decides to let his hair go back home, he’d have my full support. There was a time in Obama’s past when he had the "audacity" to wear his hair in a style that expressed his African roots.


E-mail Linda your questions and comments.


Occasionally I write stories that provide updates about people in the past who did something hair raising enough regarding nappiness and things related, to make the news.

I call my feature “Whatever Nappened To . . .?

Ten years ago Ruth Sherman, a white schoolteacher in Brooklyn, made national news for the stir she caused when she read an award-winning children’s book called "Nappy Hair" to her class of predominately African American and Latino third grade students. She was essentially run out of school for doing so.

"Nappy Hair," written by black author Carolivia Herron, was a story about the kinky hair texture of a little black girl. Herron’s reason for writing the book was to celebrate one of the unique characteristics of many African Americans. Sherman’s reason for reading the book to the students was to celebrate diversity and teach them about racial tolerance.

A parent of one of the students saw photocopies of a few pages from the book in her child’s homework and became offended over the images and the content. The parent, who had not read the entire book, circulated the pages to other parents who also got upset.

It turned out that most of the adults who were outraged also had not read the book and did not have children in Sherman’s class. That did not stop them from accusing Sherman of reading from a book that reinforced racial stereotypes. During a meeting held by school officials to discuss the matter, several of the adults threatened Sherman. She ultimately asked for a transfer and left the school.

Ruth McCloskey

So whatever happened to Sherman?

She is no longer the single, 27-year-old third grade teacher in Brooklyn. Sherman is now Ruth McCloskey who lives in Suffolk County with her husband and two young boys and teaches first grade at a predominately white elementary school on Long Island.

"I’ll always be teaching,” said Ms. McCloskey. “That is just meant to be.”

She said that when she left the school in Brooklyn, she transferred to an elementary school in Jamaica,

Queens where she taught for two years.

“That was just the perfect place for anybody today,” she recalls. “I can’t tell you how many different nationalities there were."

She eventually had to leave the school when her husband’s job required them to move out of the school district. She says the she loves her current job but misses the multicultural mix.

“It’s so very different,” she says. “I hated to leave. But we moved to Suffolk County which was a two-hour drive away.

McCloskey says that she hasn’t read "Nappy Hair" since the incident in Brooklyn.

She says that she has not read from it because it was written for an older audience of children, and since the incident she has been teaching kindergarten and first grade. McCloskey recalls how the book was a refreshing departure from so many of the other books that she had been reading to her students.

“I wanted to think out of the box and do something different. What attracted me to the book were the pictures and the awesome colors. The little girl was so happy and so excited. I wanted to be that girl. I felt that if I felt that way that about the book, the students were going to love it."

McCloskey says she still regrets how her intentions were misinterpreted by the parent who read portions of the book out of context.

“Most of the parents in the class who knew me never felt I would do anything racist to hurt their children,” she said.

“To this day it’s just sad."

Herron, the "Nappy Hair " author, heard about the controversy and came to McCloskey’s defense at the time.The two of them have done occasional speaking engagements together.

Even though McCloskey hasn’t read the book since the incident, she hasn’t totally abandoned it. Herron has asked her to consider writing a "Nappy Hair" workbook together. It’s a collaboration that McCloskey is excited about pursuing.

“I thought it was the greatest book ever,” she said.


It has been 10 years since I got myself tangled up in this madness called "A Nappy Hair Affair."

It happened by accident. Fashion is not my forte. I make my living styling words, not hair. It was never my intent to spend 10 years preoccupied with matters of the mane.

But ever since that third Sunday in May, 1998, I inadvertently stumbled upon something that has practically taken over my life — and taken on a life of its own.

On that Sunday in May, about 20 of my sister friends and I gathered in my backyard to engage in an afternoon of “nap nurturing.” We were kinky kindred spirits who came together to do each other’s hair. I invited them on a whim. It was to provide a place where they would not be harshly judged for their choice to wear their hair in styles that harken back to Africa. I would have a gathering place for my sisters who were proud of wearing the kinky textured hair they were born with.

On that Sunday, I held a “happy, nappy hair care affair,” to give props to our textured tresses. At the time I didn’t know that a simple hair grooming and pampering session would develop into something so much more significant. My nappy hair care affair became known as Hair Day and took root and grew.

It wasn’t our chatter about natural and African inspired hairstyles that inspired me to take the gatherings to another level. It was the stories that my sister friends shared about the criticism and ostracism they experienced for simply making the choice to let their hair “go back home.”

The next thing I knew, I became a nappy pride fanatic. I produced t-shirts that proclaimed, “I’m Nappy, Happy & Free,” “Twisted Sistah” and other “napfirmations.” I held lectures, produced nappy friendly videos, DVDs, cultural enrichment workshops, a stage production and a book.

My Hair Day concept inspired women and men in other cities and abroad to gather in similar fashion, giving themselves clever names such as the D.C. Naturals, EuroNaps and the Southern Kinks.

Women have gotten so caught up in the “napture” during my Hair Day gatherings and speaking engagements that they have snatched off their wigs, dunked their straightened hair in water to make it go back home on the spot. Some shaved their permed hair down to its bald beginnings. At my very first Hair Day gathering, one of my guests spontaneously allowed a stranger with no hairstyling experience to take scissors and snip her relaxed hair down to its natural roots!

While watching such extreme acts of liberation, I often found myself struggling to stifle laughter or fighting back tears.

My kink crusade has even placed me in the peculiar position of being a nappy hair ‘pundit.’

In April, 2007, I found myself on Paula Zahn Now!, the prestigious CNN national news program pontificating about the virtues of nappiness, in the wake of the controversy sparked by Don Imus’ infamous insult against the members of the Rutgers University basketball team (“nappy headed-ho’s”).

Yup. I spend decades building a respectable reputation as Linda the journalist, but my claim to national fame didn't come until I turned into Mosetta, the nap activist. Go figure.

I’m not complaining. Being a purveyor of nappiness has been a very challenging yet very gratifying experience. Even when I have my moments of doubt, something encouraging happens to help me stay the course.

During one of my low moments, the boost came in the form of an e-mail message all the way from The Netherlands. “I really appreciate all that you do, and I hope that I can make black women here and in Belgium just as enthusiastic to go nappy,” said Monique, a Dutch sister. “You may not realize this, but you are influencing black women globally.”

So maybe this all isn’t madness after all.



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