By Yako Boren and Krystal Brown
Yako: You know what I think is so odd? When I walk down Fulton Street, I always see clumps of hair rolling down the pavement. What is that all about? I mean, there must be a lot of fighting going on and people pulling out each other’s hair? Or is daily life too taxing and it has reached levels where everyone starts to shed out of pure stress?
Krystal: Yeah, I’ve seen this more lately as well. It could be a combination of several things, including your sneaking suspicions. There are tons of beauty parlors both up and down Fulton Street, which also speaks to a large issue about the popular way in which women in this area present themselves. There is a market (sometimes by way of exploitation) for cosmetic beauty, so much here that it’s pouring out into the streets … and creating even more ways for us to abuse each other. By that, I mean it’s not as often that you pull someone’s actual hair out, it’s more likely to happen if it’s a weave. And we are not cutting inches and inches of our own hair out so much that it’s sweeping down our recently renovated (yet filthy) streets.
Y: Heavy stuff! A couple of years ago, I saw the documentary “Good Hair,” directed by Jeff Stilson and narrated by Chris Rock. It is about how hair in the black community is kind of a big thing and in some ways elevates (or undermines) statuses. Also, it is a huge industry with lots of money going around. People in India are growing their hair and selling it to wig makers, who in turn make the big bucks, of course (probably all white people).
On one hand it’s great that this exists, so that anyone can just change and extend their hair at any given moment to fit the mood or the occasion. However, because it is such a booming industry, it is also perpetuating a culture where certain types of hair are better than others. Personally, I like natural hair, although I can appreciate a weave or a wig here and there, because you have some amazingly sculpted styles that are an artwork in itself.
K: Exactly. It’s not that I have a problem with weaves and synthetic hair–although I too prefer natural hair as well — it’s the excess, wastefulness, and lack of respect for our neighborhood that I have a huge issue with. Another gigantic issue that I have is the amount of money everyone else seems to be making off of the industry, and how it seems like many black women don’t seem to mind it in exchange for their style of choice. The lack of realization really makes it more distasteful. To me, the best part of a decision is the education behind it. If that isn’t there, the outcome just seems sad and silly to me. I would almost venture to say that it is clownish to pour so much money into something that is used to represent yourself without at least acknowledging that you are supporting an industry that is using you to make money without supporting you in return.
Y: But isn’t that the same for earrings, nose rings, tattoos, coloring your hair, or any other type of body modification? Why is this different? Interestingly, people are so used to fake hair, they assume that if someone’s hair is awesome looking, that it is not real. For example, someone asked my husband the other day if his dreadlocks were all his. He imagined launching a punch on this asshole, but he kept it cool and responded that it was his own hair indeed. Why the f*ck would it not be his real hair? On the issue of lack of respect for the neighborhood with all that tumbleweave floating around, can we add condoms, empty cups, plastic bags, chicken bones? How hard is it to just throw these things in one of the trash cans that can be found on pretty much every corner?
K: You’ve raised lots of good points. To me, tumbleweave represents so much in our communities, and in and of itself. The lack of respect is across the board when it comes to how we treat our surroundings and ourselves at times. Culture is a fluid, but very solid thing, and the combination of the lack of regard we have of our surroundings and the entities that we aide in disregarding our culture are arguably epidemics. Ideally, respect and awareness should be what’s tumbling down the streets or spilling over the trash cans on the corner (or right next to them for whatever reason).
Moral of this conversation: throw your wigs and weaves in the trash and let it all out (but think before you speak and google before you think).
Yako & Krystal