Rights in Style: Natural Hair and the Fight for Black Justice in America

Guest writer Indigo has brought us a timely and insightful post on natural hair’s relevance to the recent upswing in social mobilization.

Terms like “the big chop”, “4a”, “Co-wash”, “TWA” are a few examples of the new age detailed classifications for women and men joining the natural hair movement. Around 2008 Youtube began to explode with tutorials to aid women of color in caring for and styling their natural hair. Hair types and length were broke down and compartmentalized not for further division, but as a way to specify treatment. Ironically the next year civilized protest for the murder of an unarmed black man named Oscar Grant began springing up in cities across the US. America was unknowingly at the brink of the millennial version of the civil rights movement which unfortunately was sparked for the same reasons, swapping out Emmett Till’s lynching for Grant’s. Facebook and Youtube post spread to modern massive sit ins renamed “occupy”, organized rallies on college campus’, town hall meetings and the modern day hippie hairstyles to match.

Oscar grant rally

The next 6 years were peppered with injustices of all types from the Casey Anthony acquittal to The Columbia University serial rapist going uncharged. Cases like the aforementioned served as a disturbing catalyst for solidarity amongst women. Twitter became an open forum to discuss, vent and question the events around the world involving gender and equality. In the summer of 2014 Bring Back our Girls became a hashtag and meme that was a national trend. The trends led to Rallies encouraging women to adorn their hair with gele’s, or decorative head scarves in an effort to spread awareness for the 300 girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.


Youtube and other social media outlets have been serving as platforms for comedy, expression, creativity, over all more healthy/hygienic lifestyles and information exchange. Though how we protest has changed since the days of marches on Washington or Selma, the core of rebellion seems to begin and end with a persons appearance. Revolutionist in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s in America adopted African and Asian traditional dress into their wardrobes to inform others and perhaps remind themselves where they came from and where they were trying to go. Symbols of bondage, such as girdles and hair clippers, were abandoned. In the 1980’s and 90’s social constructs like gender and sexuality were repeatedly challenged with hair styles and body modification (ex: pierced ears on men, tattoos on women.) Greek philosopher L. Plutarch was quoted as saying what we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. Which begs the questions:

Could the demand for our unalienable rights be linked to our reclaiming of our unalienable beauty in this country? How likely is it that waking up to an afrocentric standard of beauty has inspired this generation of young people to wake up to conscious thinking?

We would like to hear from you, do you believe a persons hair style, fashion and politics are mutually exclusive?

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