When you think of natural hair the first image that pops into your mind is an afro. This free form hairdo had been a symbol of freedom during the 1970’s for many men and women who decided to forgo any form of connection with mainstream society’s definition of beautiful. Well fast forward to 2011 and natural hair has taken on another twist. (No pun intended) Being natural no longer means afro, actually it means the deliberate denial of applying chemicals to the hair that alter its natural curl pattern. To celebrate their natural beauty, women are gathering at meetups, natural hair events, and expos to show their support and to reinvest in this age old custom that started many years ago. Why the sudden interest in natural hair and for that matter why gather at an event or meetup to celebrate? Well the answers may or may not surprise you.
Just yesterday on the south side of Chicago, such a gathering took place at the venue called The Connection located at 4321 South Cottage Grove. The event was aptly titled, “Nia Naturals Festival.” It was created by Natural Beauty Expert Rachel Odem to celebrate women’s natural beauty. Over 80 women participated to receive information on natural hair upkeep, to shop for natural hair care products, and to connect with other women who have made the transition from the relaxer to natural hair. This event not celebrated natural beauty but also helped to highlight Hidden Treasures Boutique, local group Pure and Sure, give information on Kwanzaa, and also showcase local entrepreneurs. Tameka Carter, one of those local entrepreneurs, opened up the event with information on the celebration called Kwanzaa. For those who are not familiar with Kwanzaa, it was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga to celebrate African American family, community and culture. Tameka gave a brief description on the 7 principals of Kwanzaa and their meaning to the attendees. Natural hair care expert Darya, of Darya’s Naturals Hair Boutique located at 2134 S. Michigan Avenue, gave a natural hair presentation to teach women how to maintain their locs. During the presentation, she demonstrated how to create what is known as the Bantu knot. This hairstyle was seen on Jada Pinkett Smith in the movie, The Matrix Revolutions. Darya also touched on natural hair maintenance and products that help promote and maintain healthy hair. Local organization Pure and Sure, started by London Jones, raised awareness on the plight of teenage girl’s self esteem and how her organization fills the gap. Later, the event was instantly turned into a runway when Bobbi Fischer, owner of Hidden Treasures Boutique, gave a brief fashion show to showcase some of her merchandise. This part of the event was an instant success as women flocked to Hidden Treasure’s rack to purchase some of the discounted merchandise. The creator of the event, Rachel Odem, showcased her makeup artistry skills by doing a live makeup artistry demo on a model. She showed the women how to apply eye shadow, eyeliner, concealer, blush, and lip gloss. In between each presentation, the women were able to connect, shop and share natural hair tips with one another. Local vendor Mona Muhammad of KnottyLoop Creations and attendee Chenita Washington stated they loved being natural. Mona, who has been locked for over 5 years stated, “If I had known 20 years ago what I know now I would have gone natural years ago.” Many of the women felt the same way about their transition to natural tresses. They commented on how healthy their hair had become since they had stopped using chemical relaxers.
From the looks of this event, natural hair may not be a passing fad. Just like in the 1970’s these women have decided to not allow society dictate the meaning of beauty. They are part of a growing group of entrepreneurs that create products for natural hair care, create events that showcase the natural woman, and establish permanent meetups that help them stay connected with other liked minded individuals. To be natural or not to be natural is an individual decision. If you decide to go natural, know that you are not alone but are a part of a culture that started many years ago out of the desire to be free.