The Power of the Afro Flower
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As my Afro grows, I grow into myself, much like the growth of a plant. As the leaves grow up, the roots ground farther down. As my Afro begins to flower, it connects higher in consciousness as I become increasingly rooted in myself and in blackness. In this way, the beauty of my hair, myself, and my people is no longer contingent off of whiteness and its standard of beauty. The Afro throughout time has been an expressive weaponry to combat the oppression faced by the black woman.
Hair is a sign of health, an expression of selfhood, of culture. Hair connects people of similar heritage and is a connecting factor of the African diasporic women in America. The black hairdresser and salon are at the center of the black community. Raised by a black hair salon owner, I can attest first hand to the intricately laced social sphere and sense of community my mother was able to create. It is one of the few public forums in America where the discourse set is by and for black women, yielding her complete agency in a safe and arguably sanctified space. With the traps of systematic oppression set out for the black woman in America, the black hair salon is a combative style as it strengthens community bonds among black women.
During the Atlantic slave trade, Africans that were abducted from their homelands were often stripped of their indigenous hairstyles. Shaving the African’s hair signifies the white hand’s aim to control, oppress, and homogenize the African people. This symbolizes the white slaveholder’s recognition of the power of hair to express identity and culture. Indigenous Africans were known for their versatility in hairstyle. This trend stands strong today with the African diasporic woman in America in her countless hair expressions including braids, locks, twists, perms, and pressings just to name a few. Hair has been the black woman’s weapon of choice in the strive for identity and culture through the oppressions in America. As the systematic racial oppressions in America shift from slavery to current times, the rhetoric continues to standardize beauty off of whiteness.
Throughout American history, there have been countless images and propaganda that counteracts the natural beauty of the black Afro. In movies, television, dolls, advertisements, and all mainstream media, beauty is standardized by whiteness and white hair. Well, as a black woman, that’s just not how it grows out of my head. Not only am I told by society that I am not beautiful for wearing my hair naturally, it says I am revolutionary and rebellious when I begin to wear it that way.
At a turning point in my black consciousness, I decided to wear my hair the way it naturally grows out of my head. Suddenly, I was a creative genius, sporting a “retro” fashion, rebellious; all kinds of words to denote my beauty’s variance from the societal norm. Natural black hair represents the denial to conform to white hair and whiteness as the standard of beauty. A standard of beauty that isolates and ostracizes others in design. Much like the natural hair movement of the 70s, black women of the current natural hair movement display an increasingly alert black consciousness. The Afro combats systematic oppression by reclaiming beauty in black womanhood.
As my Afro flowers and blossoms in its many kinks and curls, I can feel the roots of my black consciousness affirming and grounding within me. As the Afro grows, I grow. Through hair expression, black womanhood is able to combat oppression and its collective consciousness flowers in all its many kinks and curls.
Author: Solace Moreaux
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