Monday, February 27, 2012

Black Women, Hair & the Politics of History

Viola Davis rocking the natural
Last week, some of the young sisters and I were discussing an article by Malcolm Gladwell. At one point, Gladwell writes that "In writing the history of women in the postwar era, did we forget something important? Did we leave out hair?"

That part about hair stuck with us. I took a poll of the 20 sisters in the class and asked how many of them viewed hair as one of the top 10 most important issues among black women. All 20 raised their hands. The sisters eventually agreed that hair was in fact one of the top 3 important issues among black women.

Well why, I asked, has there been so little discussion of black women's hair at our university, in our classes, in the books that we are assigned, and in our programming? Why has so little attention been placed on black women's hair and overall interests and contributions to aesthetics--fashion and otherwise--if those things are in fact so important?

There was a silence that resonated in the room after I raised those questions. In that silence, you could hear the young sisters thinking and wondering. We moved the discussion forward, but the sound of that silence, it still lingers with me a bit.

How at this late date do so many important issues for the sisters remain outside of history?

Sistas Rocking Naturals at SIUE 

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