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Nappily Ever After would have significantly benefited from hiring Black people, especially women or femmes, and allowing them creative power.

By Jazmine Joyner The natural hair movement celebrates Black hair in its natural form and encourages people of Black descent to embrace their afro-textured hair. I went natural in the fall of 2012, after years of relaxers which gave me burns on my scalp that looked like someone had put out a cigar on my head. By consistently having my hair chemically relaxed, it became so damaged that I went from having shoulder-length hair to a pixie cut. In the Southern California suburb I grew up in, having natural hair was an added difficulty on top of being one of the only Black girls in my school. I wore my natural hair in middle school, with my giant afro puffs proudly displayed à la Jazmine in “The Boondocks. My dad would tell me that I was “Rough and tough with my Afro Puffs.” At home, around my family, my natural hair was considered cute and stylish, but the moment I stepped onto school grounds I just had “nappy hair” which all the white kids around me stuck their hands in and pulled at. During my freshman year of high school, I wanted to blend in and look like my favorite band at the time, My Chemical Romance, and I begged my mom to let me get a relaxer. She was against it, having worn her hair natural for as long as I could remember. Her loose curls frame her face perfectly, she and my sister have 3C hair, a more manageable texture, while I have 4C hair, a kinkier texture to which I applied protective styles including braids and cornrows. Our different hair textures meant that my mother couldn’t quite figure out a way for me to wear my hair in a pre-YouTube tutorial world, so it was often easier to just braid it up. Eventually, she gave in to letting me get a relaxer which led to my senior year’s pixie cut. I was over trying to manage the dead and fried hair that eventually sat on my head due to the relaxer chemicals, so I took some clippers and shaved it off, thus beginning my journey of returning to natural. Black women spend nine times more than our non-Black counterparts on hair and beauty, spending about 1.1 billion dollars annually. There are documentaries, books, and television shows about Black women and our hair—a whole industry has been built up around us and our hair, including Netflix’s newly released film, Nappily Ever After, a movie based on Trisha R. Thomas’ book by the same title and starring Sanaa Lathan as Violet, a woman who cuts her long tresses and begins her natural journey following a traumatic event. Our hair is politicized and policed in many spaces. From a young age, we’re told by schools that locs, braids, and our natural hair texture is unacceptable—and this mentality is carried over into our professional lives where natural hair is often considered “unprofessional”. Brightly colored hair on non-Black people is fun and edgy, while on Black women and femmes it is often considered ghetto. Our hair and our experiences surrounding it is something so intensely personal that if there is a film about the experience of returning to natural, I would want and expect a Black woman or femme would be the one to tell the story because experience and perspective in a heavily racialized and anti-Black world matters.

It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them.

Throughout history, cultural traditions have been used to mobilize groups of Black and Brown people together against a common threat—white supremacy. People of color have survived centuries of endless white violence and, at many turns, have used the power and reverence for our many cultures as a means to fight back. It is crucial that we preserve our cultural roots as much as we can, especially in these times when white supremacy and nationalism are so blatantly on display. White supremacists and nationalists have historically used the concept of “culture wars” to demonize people of color and paint themselves as victims, usually of some form of the white genocide mythos. Racists and xenophobes yelling at people of color for not speaking English, even threatening to call ICE, is one of the many hills they choose to die on. Their fear of other cultures—languages, traditions, religions, ethnicities, ideologies—is apparent in their actions, on both small and large scales. During the build-up to the 2016 presidential election, National Review’s Reihan Salam described culture wars as the “fight over the future of American national identity in the face of rapid and accelerating demographic change.” Culture wars are, more or less, a seemingly endless contention over who can and who cannot be considered a “True American,” with white, cis straight, conservative, Christians being the ones with the most ability to lay claim to this title and, therefore, also the ones with the ability to determine who else has access to rights in America. In almost every case, these culture wars have been conservative projects, instigated and waged by people anxious about the loss of old orders and the emergence of new ones. Their anxiety finds expression first as a complaint about a particular policy, and second as a broader lament about how far the nation has fallen from its founding glory and how desperately we need to restore whatever is passing away.” Stephen Prothero, Washington Post It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them. Therefore, we cannot forget how our ancestors have used their various cultures as weapons against white supremacy, as tools to work towards their own liberation, and as mechanisms to cope in their positions as marginalized peoples. We cannot forget how the many children of the African Diaspora have used cultural traditions to combat and subvert white supremacist violences as they waded in the devastation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Bois Caïman is where the seed that would grow into the 18th century Haitian Revolution and slave insurrection was planted. At this site, the organized resistance began to take form when a traditional Vodou ceremony was performed. Vodou is a religion and philosophy with deep cultural roots and significant meaning that was birthed in Haiti (once called Saint-Domingue) when an amalgam of religious beliefs were carried to the island with the ships harboring people stolen from Africa. During this time, Haiti was under French colonial rule. The island was rich in sugar, coffee, and indigo, which the enslaved were forced to harvest and maintain. Their revolution was a fight against the harsh labor, as well as the dehumanization and incremental genocide at the hands of the French colonists.

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