FE-MAIL TIES - Feel the frizz - do it anyway!
Angela Davis - March 1986
First of a four-part Black History month series.
As a student in London, I remember the caustic words ejected from curled up Vaseline lips, by so-called 'conscious sistaz'. A couple of generations after Garvey's Black Star Line, they chanted his words, spiced it up with a few more from Louis Farrakhan and, of course, backed those up with slogans from Malcolm X. On a good day, Angela Davis may even get a look in.
The sistaz, turbans standing high in proud defiance against the 'system', understandably felt that everyone of visible African heritage should do everything in their power to profile their love for Africa.
Queen Nefertiti, Army Commander Yaa Asantewaa and other mighty African women, have inspired many a hairstyle and baby name. They are, thankfully, immortalised as icons in jewellery, on bags - you name it - and will live on, in memory, forever.
Over the years, many have found creative ways to 'represent' their consciousness and to fly the flag of African patriotism high.
Nothing wrong with that! And that's the point. Our creative expression, and demonstrating the intense love we feel for the motherland, has long been an identity minefield for black women around the world. This is not about what is right and wrong.
When I hear and feel the pain lacing the venom missiled to women in weaves, wigs and also those who dared to chemically de-frizz, I wonder when we will emerge from the cesspit of anger and hating.
So many decades after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Angela Davis raised their fists high above their afros, the hair and beauty industry is still booming. Products for straightening, silkening and glossing are all the rage - let's not even go to the big-money Brazilian weave!
Surely, there are some women amongst those who choose to chemically de-frizz who are 'conscious' enough to know that their hair will never blow in the breeze like their Caucasian counterparts? The binary paradigm of 'natural is African' just doesn't wash. Did it ever?
Our hair is super versatile, we are super gorgeous and yes, we are amazingly creative. So whether it be Banjul, The Gambia, Nairobi, Kenya or New York City, USA, black women will always trend forward in peacock-style glamour. Some less adventurous may stick with the cornrows and yes, the headwrap will never be out of style. When will our sister-hating ways become out-moded?
The deep-seated venom comes from a skewed paradigm which we inherited. Yes, accepted. But how long will we continue to scorch out our inner fibre, in unbridled attack of those who look just like us, just with a different hairdo, as we claim the moral high ground of bonafide Africanism?
Every year, we celebrate Black History Month, and at each ceremony, poetry reading and film festival, we gather in jubilant, sometimes defiant affirmation of our blackness.
The incongruous fact that we require an assigned month to affirm ourselves, notwithstanding, the affirmation that we so keenly seek will remain a moving target whilst it is built on the seething hatred that, generations on, we are still expressing towards one another.
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Winnie Mandela - File Photos