My African-American sister-friends have often joked that if I ever finish my nappy pride crusade in America, I’ll have plenty of work to do in Africa.

Several of them have spent time on the continent, and have lamented how disappointed they were to see how so many of the African women shun their natural hair texture and show a high preference for the perm.

While I’m not aware of any “research” that has measured the level of perm prevalence in Africa, observations from my own personal visits to the continent have provided enough anecdotal evidence for me to conclude that "nap denial" among my African sisters has reached epidemic proportions.

On my most recent visit to Africa, I was part of a documentary team on assignment in Senegal, Swaziland and South Africa. It was nice to be with a team of professionals where all of the women happened to wear natural or African-inspired hairstyles. What was so ironic was that our hairstyle preference seemed out of place in many of the places we visited during our stay in the land of our “roots.”

While we wore our natural and African-inspired 'dos with quiet pride, far too many of our African sisters flaunted bone-straight perms or hid their nappiness under bad wigs.

I saw many African women who were dressed so regally in traditional attire, and looked so regal from shoulder to toe. But the European-influenced hairstyles they embraced diminished the authenticity of their own unique and rich culture.

Afro denial was most evident in South Africa. From the capital of Pretoria -- the urban center of Johannesburg -- to the outlying townships and villages, the perm reigned supreme.

<>Even in Greenfields, one of the shantytowns where poor residents live in shacks, there was no sign of perm deprivation. The women managed to find the means to straighten their hair. Juanita, the leader of our team, ran her fingers through the hair of a 6-year-old girl whose hair had been chemically relaxed. It was dry, brittle and the ends were split. The mother told Juanita that she relaxed her daughter’s hair so that it would grow.

“You don’t have to do that,” Juanita told the little girl’s mother, as she flipped her own head full of long, thick, chemical-free locks to prove her point.

Another young lady, whose close-cropped natural hair attractively framed her cherubic face, told us that she was going to relax her hair very soon. Oblivious to the beauty that she already possessed, she told us “I want to be pretty.”

By the time we finished bombarding her with compliments about how attractive she looked, she promised that neither she nor her children would be getting a perm any time soon.

My friends were right. When it comes to getting our sisters in America and Africa to recognize and accept our own unique beauty, there’s still plenty of work to be done.