by Tamira Bell
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Through a series of field notes, Tamira Bell is sharing the stories of her peers' African American hairstyles and history.
What’s the newest trend in Philadelphia? Well for the African American community, wearing their hair in its natural state has certainly become current style. Back in the 70’s, African Americans would sport their puffy afros, curls, kinks, and locs. However the society viewed African American hair as wild, dry, untamed, and unattractive. So they strayed away from embracing their natural tresses and began to ‘relax’ their hair with harsh chemicals, perms, excessive heat, and etc. This really caused damage to African American hair and even a lack of knowledge of their identity. They were chemically altering the texture of their hair because they thought that their hair was not beautiful. So they were embarrassed about their identity and did not even know what their natural hair texture was like. Now African Americans are starting to go back to wearing their hair naturally because they want their hair to be healthy and they can style their hair in various ways.
Jada Terrell, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, started to wear her hair naturally in her sophomore year of high school. She describes that she made that decision because she wanted her hair to grow longer and be healthy. Jada likes to try different styles like twist outs, updos, and braids. She says that on most days, wearing hair makes her feel good and free if she styled her hair right. But on the bad hair days, she doesn’t feel as nice because she didn’t style her hair right. Regardless, Jada is pleased with her hair because she knows that it is healthy and growing.