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I have a name for black women who suffered through the tortuous hair straightening sessions as children and lived to tell about it.

Adult Survivors of the Hot Comb. That’s ASH for short.

I know a lot of ASHy women. I’m one of them.

My sister survivors and I can share some pretty hair-raising stories of how we dodged smoking hot combs and endured applications of chemical relaxers so strong that they burned our scalps.

My friend Alpha is an unabashed ASH.

As part of her recovery, Alpha made a personal commitment to wear her hair natural for the rest of her life. And as long as she has a say in the matter, her 14-year-old daughter Noni will do the same.

The offspring of mothers like Alpha are people I call CASH. That’s short for Children of Adult Survivors of the Hot Comb.

CASH are the poor kids who are forbidden from wearing their hair any other way but nappy because their mothers were so negatively affected by the hot comb experience and don’t want their children to be.

“Noni can only wear her hair in its natural state,” Alpha says unapologetically. Noni has complained that some of her schoolmates tease her about her naturally kinky hair texture. But Alpha refuses to give in to her daughter’s pleas to get a perm. Instead of giving her a perm, Alpha showers Noni with affirmations and tells her how beautiful she looks wearing her hair in its natural state.

My friend Amenta, who is also ASHy and proud, is just as strict with her teenagers Jennifer and Jesse. She won’t let heat or chemicals touch their hair. You probably think that Alpha and Amenta are being unfair. You think that they should not impose their ‘hair issues’ on their children.You think that they are just as bad as the women who made us wear our hair straightened or relaxed when they were young.

But Alpha and Amenta maintain that they are working from a different mindset than the well-meaning but misinformed elders who were obsessed with neutralizing our naps.

They maintain that our elders were conditioned to operate from a foundation of self-hatred. Alpha and Amenta insist that they are setting a foundation of self-love.

“I want to give them the love of self right now,” Amenta says.

She says that she wants to protect her children from the harmful psychological effects of the “good-hair-bad-hair” madness that is still prevalent in the black community. She is also no fan of the harm that the hot comb and chemical relaxers can cause.

“I know when they grow up they are going to do what they want to do with their hair,” Amenta says “But I hope that in the end they will come back to being natural.”

Says Alpha: “I feel no guilt in not allowing Noni to be something that she isn’t.” She says that she will give up her duties as natural hair enforcer when her daughter is mature enough to make her own decisions about how she wants to wear her hair.

“But right now,” Alpha says emphatically, “I have jurisdiction over that nappy head!”

Until next month, uplift your locks!

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