I got a haircut last week, which – in my world – is a huge deal. To put the situation in perspective, the last time I and my boingy curls walked into a salon, the stylist’s eyes widened in terror, and she told me I should never, ever come to salon without straightening my hair first. It just takes entirely too much work to deal with my natural texture, she told me.
Then, after 20 minutes of attempting to comb my hair straight while haphazardly chopping into my curls to “thin them out,” she gave up. She said she couldn’t do it anymore and literally asked me to leave. And this wasn’t just a one-off event; it happens all the time to black girls with curly hair – even when they’re professional models, as Phillip Picardi, Refinery29’s senior beauty editor, explained during New York Fashion Week.
For centuries, black women have been conditioned to fear and hate their hair (if you’re interested, I wrote a longer piece about this back in my freelancer days), and it’s been only recently that #TeamNatural has become a cultural force to reckoned with. Today, sales of chemical hair straighteners are down, and even places like Target and Walgreens have multiple shelves of products made specifically for natural, black hair.
My curly hair is new to me. I mean, yes, it’s the hair I was born with – but from the time my hair was long enough to be styled, it was always straightened in some way or another; it wasn’t until I was 25 that I even knew what my curls looked like. So, you can imagine my delight when I finally found a stylist (shout out to Ferrara) who was not only unafraid of my curls, but who was able to teach me a thing or two about curly hair care. For the first time in my life, I went to a salon and wasn’t told that the way my hair grows out of my head is a problem that needs to be solved.
It’s a big thing to understand that you – just as you are – are beautifully and wonderfully created in the image of God. It makes me cherish the work of people like the Kenyan Elizabethan sisters profiled in Melanie Lidman’s latest piece for Global Sisters Report. The sisters run a home for physically disabled children, but what I love, love, love about their ministry is that they care for the children holistically. They aren’t just providing medical care, they are providing a constant counterargument to the idea these children are somehow less than or inherently problematic.
Ministries like this are important because we live in a world that is full of blatant discrimination – not to mention less obvious microaggressions – against anyone outside our accepted standards of beauty or normalcy. And even if you don’t internalize those negative messages, you don’t really live in that kind of culutre and remain unscathed.
So major props to the Elizabethan sisters and all the people around the world who doing this important work of caring for the body and the soul. Many prayers of peace and encouragement to you all and the people that you serve.
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]
Like what you're reading? Sign up for GSR e-newsletters!