About Unyielding Roots Project
"I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am a soul that lives within.” India. Arie
My Hair Story
In 2009, I went natural, and initially, I remember feeling excited and awed
at the idea of going back to my roots. "Going Natural" would be the first time in my adult life that I had not chemically altered my hair. I had had a relaxer since high school and before that, I had an S-Curl. However, soon after "Going Natural" my hair and I had a standoff. My hair became an unyielding stranger. I did not know what it needed, how to style it, or how to keep it from having a life of its own. One thing I noticed immediately is that my hair did not care about beauty standards, and it did not care about my mixed-up views on Black Hair. My hair, unlike me, knew exactly who it was, and how to grow without comprising or apologizing for who it was. I was the one with the problems. I was the one who had to take the time to understand my hair and to ultimately learn to understand myself.
It took me several years to truly embrace my hair. But as I began to get comfortable with my hair, I saw an increase in natural hair discrimination. In 2013, Twelve-year-old violinist Vanessa VanDyke faced expulsion, and seven-year-old Tiana Parker was expelled because of her dreadlocks. And each year since, there has been story after story of students being expelled and women fired or reprimanded because of their natural hair and hairstyles. I began to wonder what messaging Black girls and teens were receiving about their hair. And how other Black women viewed their hair whether it was relaxed or natural? I wanted to know what stories their hair held and how they felt about their thick, coarse, fine, kinky, soft, unyielding, palpable, nappy, medium-thick, wiry, curly, coily, 3b 3c, 4, 4a, and 4b hair.
The Unyielding Roots Project will use poetry and storytelling to capture our hair stories. By telling our hair stories, I am hoping the stories will inspire schools and companies to change their biased policies and practices and to help Black women, girls, and teens share and embrace their hair and history.