Late last year (2012) I was charged with conducting an ethnography on a cultural group. I choose to take a closer look at the lives of women who call themselves natural. Natural women are typically of the African diaspora. Naturals are women who choose to wear their hair in its natural state (chemical free).
Kenneth & Jael Byrd
Founders of Natural Hair Community.com
A Natural Parent
IamChrisjtaylor.com: When did you become a natural? Why?
Jael: My last relaxer was January 2007. This quote, by Arnold Glasow, sums up my journey in 12 little words: “Parents can tell but never teach, unless they practice what they preach.”
It was because of my daughter, I began my transition. I watched her hair morph into lifeless strands from relaxers, no balding spots or sores – just limp, lifeless hair. I made the decision not to relax her hair and to keep it braided.
I constantly told her that she was smart and beautiful, not just beautiful on the outside, but a beautiful person. I explained, as best I could, that God made us perfect.
Our hair is exactly how it is supposed to be. If He wanted us to have straight hair, He would have given it to us. But He didn’t. So be happy with what you have.
There I was with long flowing relaxed hair, giving encouragement to my daughter – who was natural with short tightly coiled hair.
That did not make me feel good.
As a parent, there are two things that I have to remind myself of: children will usually do as you do and hardly ever do what you say.
I feel like I should be the best example for my children – if not me, then who?
Now, feeling extremely hypocritical, I came to a pivotal point and a decision needed to be made.
Either I stay relaxed and relax her hair again or she stayed natural and I decided to transition.
Iamchrisjtaylor.com: How was Natural Hair Community.com born?
Kenneth: Natural Hair Community was born out our passion to help people. Jael and I both really enjoy meeting and connecting with people that have common interests. We decided to design a website that included social networking capabilities, so that we could really get to know the people who come out site, connect with them on a deeper level and provide a more personal type of support.
Iamchrisjtaylor.com: How big do you believe Natural Hair Community.com can become? Is there a membership goal?
Kenneth & Jael: We believe that the possibilities for growth and memberships are endless. We want to become a resource that each parent, woman, man and child can refer to for hair care advice and support. There are over one million searches for natural hair information each month according to Google – so the market is very large.
Iamchrisjtaylor.com: Are there enough resources for women who have natural hair? What is the need you see among natural women for an organization of this kind?
Kenneth & Jael: The information online about natural hair is plentiful. However, there is a lot of misinformation about natural hair online. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for new naturals to become confused as they filter through the misinformation in a search for factual content.
Iamchrisjtaylor.com: I recently interviewed a natural hair blogger who pointed out women who have natural hair tend to be blogging or running a business based on the natural hair industry. She then posed a great question: Does going natural inspire entrepreneurship? Has this phenomenon created a micro-economy?
Kenneth & Jael: Going natural can definitely inspire naturals to share their story, which often means creating a blog to share it publically. After someone creates a blog and it becomes popular, there is a natural tendency to monetize that blog.
That said, we don’t think that “going natural” inspires entrepreneurship necessarily. However, the act of going natural, in and of itself, inspires you to learn a particular set of skills that often leads to someone creating a business. For example, many naturals create their own natural hair products at home. Our site has a natural hair recipe page that can help naturals with this process. These do-it-yourself concoctions are often bottled and sold at natural hair shows and flea markets. This is essentially the micro-economy that you asked about.
Iamchrisjtaylor.com: Some say, it is just hair. Do you believe naturals see themselves as apart of a unique culture of people?
Jael: When you read the definition of subculture, your first answer is yes. “Yes” because mainstream society has not fully embraced African American women wearing their natural hair texture, which makes it sub. The non-acceptance and the desire to learn more about what is foreign to us, is what gives birth to places like Natural Hair Community.com
Within the subculture, you have segments. Some naturals are only concerned about being relaxer free and you have others that classify themselves based on hair type. Some only use natural organic products, nothing synthetic. Then there are those who don’t believe in wearing synthetic hair or hair dyes of any type. The list can be exhausting, but I do believe there it’s a subculture.
Iamhrisjtaylor.com: Do natural women face discrimination in the workplace because of their hair? If yes, does the networking tool of your site work to connect professional naturals with other professionals in the workplace?
Jael: Yes, there is definitely discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes we allow the thoughts of others to influence us; which can hinder our decision to move forward with our natural hair journey. The networking tool on Natural Hair Community is to connect professionally and globally. My thoughts are that most time we self-impose boundaries.
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