The politics of black hair shows in books like Tenderheaded to the Princess of Wales plays ‘Da Kink in My Hair and Hairspray to movies like Beauty Shop to songs played on Flow 93.5.
Everyone alters their hair to gain more power in society. Dr. Mariame Kaba, who received her PhD from Northwestern University, is also a contributor to the book Tenderheaded. In her work, Kaba discusses the straightening of black women’s hair as an agent for political power. Keeping one’s hair natural is also a source of political gain by using one’s ethnicity to move forward in society. At the time I did my master’s thesis with the title Afro Forever: Research Paper on Salon Utopia, I did not see I was using my natural hair to obtain personal and professional power in the employment I chose after graduation from Concordia University’s Media Studies program.
I was an Announcer/Producer with Radio Canada International with an estimated audience of 600,000 listeners worldwide. I worked on a news and current affairs program called African Eyes which was broadcast to sub Saharan Africa. Educating Africans about Canada with my natural hair at the time made me belong with my fellow co-workers. The same is true for other cultural groups.
Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Deborah Durham and Jude D. Fokwang write in Identity, Culture and Politics, about “The Domestication of Hair and Modernised Consciousness in Cameroon: A Critique in the Context of Globalisation” that Africans women consume Western ideals in their choice of hair design and do not control the flow of hair aesthetics in the global marketplace. This is true, not just in Cameroon. However, even non-African cultures are strongly affected by Western ideals.
In Grant McCracken’s Big Hair: A Journey into Transformation of Self, he focuses on the effect big hair had on a mainly Caucasian group of celebrities in the 1980s. These women used their hair, a big part of one’s image, to advance themselves in their chosen profession of glamour. The same can be said of the South Asian man who gets a hair cut to work in arts journalism, the Jewish and Hispanic women who straighten their hair for the job interview and the older men who colour their hair to look more hip or use their grey power. In all these cases, some form of alteration has been made with the aim for advancing economically. Our cues for the choices we make often come from media and culture.
My dissertation will analyze the media and cultures of people of colour; red, brown, gold, black and white to show how the majority of us succumb to the media and our culture for political gain through our hair. I am especially interested in taking the film courses offered at Ryerson and York.
I did my 90 page master’s thesis entitled Afro Forever. I also did a master’s project, a 26 page website called Salon Utopia. I’ve written articles on black hair politics for a Panache Magazine, an International black woman’s magazine and written about beauty in general for Canoe.ca’s Lifewise section. I have done commentaries for the CBC on black hair politics in Montreal which has been syndicated and replayed.