From Our Readers
October 19, 2014 7:15 pm

Black Hair is Black Beauty.

I learned that at a young age. Nobody had to tell or teach me that black hair mattered more than clothes, money, or popularity. Instead, it was passed onto me – something inherently cultural. The first thing I remember noticing about a woman was the way she wore her hair.

Black Hair is Black Identity,

I was born bald – or nearly bald. My nickname was Piglet because I was so tiny and had so little hair. By the time I was two or three, my hair had grown a few inches – all tight, dark ringlets. But I hated to get it done. Fed-up, my mom cut all my hair off and I was, once again, bald. I looked like a boy in girls’ clothes. Eventually my hair grew longer, but I remember being jealous of my friends’ long, straight, blonde–brown–red hair.

Black Hair is Black Individuality.

My mom did her hair the same way for over a decade: two rebellious French braids joined into one responsible, conservative bun where her hair met her neck. To me, her hair was everything essential about who she was, but that changed when I was five years old. I had wandered into her bathroom when she was getting ready, and the sight of a woman with my mom’s face and clothes combing someone else’s hair terrified me. I screamed bloody murder and ran from that monster into my dad’s arms. After my mom finished her hair, she found me and assured me that she was still the same person. And, after a few hours of coaxing, I believed her. She still thinks it’s funny, but I’ll never forget the horror or realizing someone isn’t who they appeared to be.

Black Hair is Black Personality.

I grew up in an African Methodist Episcopal church, and more than anything else, a woman’s hair meant everything. People came on Sundays with the whole gamut – from braids, weaves, and extensions to blonde, red and brown highlights. Their hair literally came in all shapes, sizes, textures, and compositions (because sometimes, the extensions or weaves were not human hair). Every Sunday felt like show and tell, hair-style. And every look revealed something important about the woman (or man) who wore it.

Black Hair is Black Dignity.

My favorite hairstyles of all those Sundays were not the elaborate, weaved braids or the multi-colored locks, but the black-and-white, shoulder-length, permed hair of the older women. The women with warm hugs, sweet, musky perfume, brick-red lipstick, and perfectly-applied makeup. The women who called me “sweetie pie” or “sugar” and wore dress suits, stockings, and short, black pumps. The women who didn’t shout for attention during the service, but stood, eyes closed, hands slightly raised or clapping to the rhythm, their voices lifting beautiful, harmonic melodies to heaven. The women who taught me that being black is a privilege, not a disgrace.

Black Hair is Black Love.

Those women gave me the opportunity to define my ethnicity by a higher standard than the media upheld. They offered me a standard characterized by gracious smiles, caring eyes, and prayerful hands. They presented a different, more vibrant, description of reality – and I received it.

Black Hair is Black Beauty.

Kimi Noelle is a sophomore at Wheaton College in Illinois. She is obsessed with Parks and Recreation, Target’s $5 movie section, and oversize sweaters. Painting her nails is her favorite form of therapy and Asian food is her biggest weakness. Beyonce, Pink, and Taylor Swift would be her guilty pleasures if she felt guilty about how much she loved them, but there’s no shame. She also blogs here!