In late 2007, I was asked by my good friend Nelson George to be a part of a documentary he and Chris Rock were co-producing about black women and their hair. The idea originated from Chris’ curiosity about the concept of “good hair” after one of his adorable daughters came home and asked, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” This began a year and a half long journey that led Chris all over America, through barbershops and hair salons, interviewing the every man and every woman, celebrities and hair care experts; a visit to the great Bronner Brother’s Annual Hair Show in Atlanta and eventually to India, where a significant portion of weaving hair originates from. Although I thought the idea was ‘cute’, I didn’t put that much stock into the film or its concept and quickly forgot about my appearance in it as other projects came up and demanded my attention. Fast forward to the present, late 2009 where the documentary has been completed and is blowing people’s minds at every single screening it is shown at. Film festival audiences and guests at special screenings are leaving the film finding themselves thoroughly entertained and also more informed than ever on the relationship between a women, more specifically black women, and their hair.
After seeing the film myself, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the first time I got a relaxer. I was 11 years old, about to enter the seventh grade and my hair was completely virgin hair; a big huge Afro that was the result of re-growth from previous years of my disasterous Jheri curl phase. From the moment my hairdresser spun me around to look at my reflection after the process was complete, I became a certified addict to the “Creamy Crack”. That is what most of us refer to as relaxer, and its effects usually lead to a lifetime dependence. To have edges that lay flat, to have our roots straightened out, to have our hair actually move by the whisper of a slight breeze keeps us in the salon chair every 6 to 10 weeks, getting our regular touch ups. Never mind that most of us, at some point, have suffered excruciating pain at having been burnt by the chemical process being left on too long; forget the fact that the main ingredient in relaxer is sodium glygoglate, which can completely erode and dissolve aluminum and other metal materials; and let us not even consider that once we’ve put this chemical on our hair, we not only alter and damage the composition of our hair, we seemingly buy into the idea that the natural structure and texture of our own hair is substandard to our female counterparts of other races and nationalities.
“Good Hair” is more than just a film about our concept of what “good hair” actually is; it’s a journey into the $9 billion dollar black hair care industry of which we only own and operate a small, insignificant percentage of. For an industry that is so specific to the black race’s needs and for us to not completely dominate it from a manufacturing and retail standpoint shows a lot about our perception of freedom and the reality of modern day oppression. The notion that we, as black women indulge in our choices to wear our hair in so many different ways and styles depending on the type of hair we purchase or the chemical process we undergo, the film will have you second guessing as to whether it’s a choice at all, or a form of voluntary slavery that is both economic and psychological.
I encourage all of you, both men and women of all races and nationalities, to see the film when it hits theaters on October 9th and keep the debate going here on Global Grind.
Thank you for reading.