The idea to do a roundtable came about after we had shot a number of African American women for this site whose wildly authentic hair screamed spectacular personal style to me. However, it never occurred to me that their natural hair on steroids was in some cases a rebellion against the oppressive assimilation of the larger culture. I was unaware that often a black woman’s natural locks represented a solitary independence from the tyranny of a billion dollar business of beauty products that makes their hair as straight as the cookie cutter,”chloe” girl,” and leaves many African American women unaware of what their god given hair looks like, sometimes for an entire lifetime. Call me old fashioned, but I came of age in the 80′s in Manhattan, where my co-workers were actually hired in the fashion business for their resemblance to Black Panther Angela Davis. “We’ve come a long way… We have a black president,” is the line I often hear, however, when someone gets rejected from a job for her afro, one has to ask themselves, how much progress have we really made? These contradictions remind me of being on the bus from the parking lot to see U2 at Giant Stadium, when all of the concert-goers on the bus were shocked and threatened by my gay son’s denim cut offs (and they weren’t even Daisy Dukes), to the point of border line mauling him, but they were meanwhile all heading on mass to worship and sing along with the creator of the song”One,” as in One Life, One Love, ‘One.’ Does anyone have a big mirror? We have along way to go until we accept the sacredness of individuality as something that is only reserved for the stage. “You are not loving your soul when you have to press it, burn it, braid it….there is a lack of acceptance of who you are at your core, in your physicality, if you have to burn it into submission,” says Zandile Blay who opens our Round Table discussion. Find out how the other panelists (Zeba Blay, Vita Kurland, Coltrane Curtis, Anthony Dickey, Joanne Petit-Frere, Erica Yarbrough and Karen Mitchell) feel.
Video Edited by Tyler Isaacson.