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.
Daniel Ross, a senior at Science Leadership Academy, wears his hair in a short curly fro. He never chemically altered his hair, but he would always keep it cut short. So in the 7th grade, he started wearing his hair naturally by growing it out. At that time Daniel did not consider him growing out his hair as being natural, but he saw that he had curly hair so he wanted to show it off.
Daniel maintains his hair by combing it out and trimming it every two weeks. He shampoos his hair twice a week and conditions it once a week. He also uses a lot of coconut oil to keep his hair moisturized and defined.
Daniel says that African Americans are starting to see the beauty in their hair, so they no longer want to perm or straighten their hair. He says that this makes them unique.