Sunday afternoon I attended a seminar called "Men on Natural Hair." The seminar was hosted by I Love My Own Hair, an organization started by Birmingham natural hair advocate and media maven Keisa Sharpe. Her seminar series is quite popular in the Magic City and was recently featured in Jet magazine.
When a friend of mine saw "Men on Natural Hair" listed on my Facebook page under my upcoming events she commented saying she just didn’t get why anyone would host such a seminar. Why should women care if men like their natural hair? While I do believe that women should feel free to wear their hair as they please regardless of what men think, I know that’s a bit naive. I know women whose husbands or boyfriends don’t find their natural look attractive. I know single women who say they get less attention from men now that they’ve stopped relaxing their hair. So I knew that this was an issue that needed to be addressed. But as the day of the seminar grew closer I did ask myself once or twice, “Why am I going to this seminar?”
I’m fortunate enough to be married to a man who loves my natural hair, so I wasn’t really sure if I would get much out of this event. But, I wanted to go to support Sharpe and I figured I’d leave with some hair care tips from the stylists I knew would be attending the event. But I left the seminar with so much more than information on the benefits of shea butter.
First, it was quite refreshing to meet men who are extremely supportive of the natural hair movement. The men on the panel agreed that if a woman decides she wants to wear her hair in its natural state she should just go for it. They maintained that most men would grow to love the look if their women rocked their natural hair with confidence and class. I must confess that I am guilty of sometimes thinking that men don’t understand how difficult sporting natural hair can be. But the men who sat before me at this panel discussion really got it! And best of all they understood that for many women natural hair is much more than a simple, superficial aesthetic choice.
The thing I enjoyed most about the seminar was that many of the panelists and Sharpe expressed that natural hair can be a gateway to self-acceptance. For me the decision to wear my hair in its naturally curly state was the first step toward embracing who I really am not just on the outside but on the inside too. It started my journey of welcoming all my quirky ways with open arms. To know that this has been the case for other women and to know that even men recognize that this is why natural hair is an important issue was very reassuring.
Finally, the seminar confirmed my notion that natural hair can also be a tool in building community. While I do get annoyed when complete strangers feel compelled to touch my hair or ask questions like, “What are you mixed with?” because of my curls, I’m always elated when a fellow naturalista stops me in the mall, in a restaurant or at the grocery store to talk products. It’s amazing how we women can bond and form instant friendships over our tresses. Men on the panel professed to witnessing this too and even commented that they wished men could more often share a similar sense of camaraderie.
In the past I’ve been reluctant to tell some people that natural hair is one of my passions for fear that they might see this as vanity. But thanks to this seminar I feel affirmed my belief that while natural hair can simply be about a change of style, it can also be about a change of attitude; it can build confidence and community. Natural hair can truly be a movement.