"Remove the kinks from your mind, not from your hair."
- Marcus Garvey
I am Me Naturally is a give back initiative of Thomas Community Consulting. It is our way of recognizing the real struggle that many women and girls have of accepting their hair texture becasue they are teased or punished for wearing their hair naturally, or because they have internalized feelings of self hate or disdain because of their "nappy" hair.
Like many other women, I too had to challenge my desire to ascribe to a European aesthetic. My natural hair journey began with stretching my relaxers. As opposed to relaxing every month, as had been done since I was 6 years old (approximately 24 years), I decided to limit the amount of chemicals I put on my hair. Around this same time, my mom transitioned back to natural and was encouraging me to transition as well. At that time, I was fine with my quick weaves and easy to manage roller wraps. But I did begin watching videos about stretching my relaxers in order to retain growth and my longest stretch was for about 6 months. I had neither worn nor seen my natural hair prior to stretching and was quite curious as to what it looked like. Upon further personal growth and understanding, I grew more comfortable with the idea of cutting off my relaxed ends. In 2013, I big chopped and began researching various ways to care for my natural hair.
I deeply internalized the big chop experience. Looking back, it was more than just cutting off my hair, it ignited within me the desire to explore other aspects of myself that I had never seriously thought to uncover. It became an opportunity for me to further question the thoughts that I previously held about beauty, being accepted as a black woman and specifically as a black professional within society. For me to discover that my natural hair tied back to great, intelligent, creative, resilient and powerful people who were unashamed and unapologetic about who they were, was truly inspiring to me. It gives me great hope for what young people can create and achieve once they obtain this same knowledge of self.
I Am Me Naturally is my attempt to highlight the stories and natural hairstyles of women who too have decided to define beauty on their own terms. But it is also a way to give voice to the thousands of girl who still need to be empowered and inspired to do the same. I believe that wigs and weaves do give us versatility, but for many of us, they serve as a cover to mask insecurities or our feelings of inadequacies. Wearing our natural hair should not be seen as a trend, or as a political statement, but I do feel that it is a way that we begin to embrace our true identities and begin to live in ways that are authentic and healthy.
It is up to all of us to continue to define and tell our stories so that a "natural hair journey" will not be a fad, nor a trite and cliché phrase, but a powerful movement where we begin to make real connections between who we are as a people and the great African people from which we've come.
Further, my hope is that you will use the videos, images and comments on this site, to continue to engage in meaningful community conversations about the link between our hair-story and our mental, emotional, economic, and spiritual well-being. I want for us all to be able to say, unapologetically, I Am Me Naturally: NO LYE!
Manicka L. Thomas
Manicka L. Thomas