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.
Kadija Koita, a Southwest Philadelphia native and daughter of a Sierra Leonean, loves to rock natural hair styles. She started to wear her hair naturally in her sophomore year in high school. Kadija says that before she transitioned to being natural, she was very frustrated with her permed hair because it was no longer healthy but very damaged. When she transitioned, she saw differences and healthier hair.
Kadija says that natural hair is starting to become the norm. More celebrities are starting to wear and embrace their natural hair. Because of that, people are starting to view natural hair as a way of life. Kadijah believes in having healthy hair. She says that natural hair is not the only way to have healthy hair, but it is a great and easy way to promote health.
Kadija says that in Philadelphia, some African Americans have the mindset that they have to chemically alter their hair in order for it to look nice. They still think that natural hair is unattractive and unmanageable. She explains that many African Americans who have that mindset think that you have to be mixed with a different culture to have nice, defined curls. But this is not true. African American hair is very curly. She wants to encourage black women to embrace their curls, coils, and kinks. Kadija rocks wash ’n’ go’s, twist outs, and braids.