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.
Isabella Blackwell, a Manayunk native, is half African American and Puerto Rican. She describes her tradition of how she used to go to a Dominican hair salon every weekend to get her hair straightened. After years of doing that, she realized that the salon was using excessive heat and products that were full of sulfates and other chemicals. This damaged her hair. So she decided to ‘go natural’ by using natural products free of sulfates and chemicals. Isabella says that wearing her hair naturally makes her feel great!