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African Dread And Nubian Locks Essay Research

African, Dread And Nubian Locks Essay, Research Paper


All natural hair

Malcolm X wrote of his “conk”: “This was my first really big step toward self degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that black people are ‘inferior’ –and white people ‘superior’ –that they will even violate and mutilate their God created bodies to try to look ‘pretty by white standards” (X 356). Many black men and the majority of black women have diverted themselves from the wearing of unprocessed (natural) hairstyles from the fear of losing approval from whites and fellow blacks as well.

Today there are different styles of locks around the world worn by both blacks and whites. Next to the Afro, Dreadlocks are the second most common natural hairstyle of blacks in America. History shows that a form of locks dated back to the time of the Old Testament. The books of Leviticus (21:5) and Numbers (6:5) both talk about not making baldness on or touching a razor to one’s head. Thus the name African locks comes into place in today’s society.

Popularizing the style known as dreadlocks are a group of people known as Rastas. These societies of people are the founders of an Afro-Caribbean politically orientated religion known as Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism is more of a way of life than a religion, although several religious beliefs of Christianity are strongly followed. Rastas outlawed the cutting or combing of their hair citing the aforementioned scriptures from the Bible. The style was copied from photographs of Masai warriors from East Africa and is a defiant assertion of their Africaness. The name dreadlocks was adopted to mock nonbelievers’ aversion to the look. The term was popularized by the 1975 Bob Marley song “Natty Dread” (“natty” meaning knotty). Not all Rasta have dreadlocks. Some are known as clean-faced Rastas.

In the 1980’s, a significant number of non-Rastafarian blacks began wearing dreads as a fashion statement. In the early 90’s, trend conscious whites soon followed suit. All those that were unable to grow the right kind of hair could easily pay stylist to graft premade locks of real or synthetic hair into their heads. This is becoming a more and more popular request from American black women that have been consumers of braids for the last ten years due to the ease of getting up in the morning to start their day without having to style their hair.

For those that chose to have premade locks grafted into or to naturally grow their hair into locks, society sometimes looks upon them as interesting and adventurous. More often they are looked upon as rebellious or Afro-centric. Which in turn is the exact opposite of most black Americans. I have read and studied article after article of past experiences in regards to keeping up with trends and fads that fit in with the mainstream.

The cost is the most perplexing factor of all. Low-level income women thank the inventor of wigs, like I thank the person who discovered biscuits (um, um). I have spoken to women who remember the weekly ritual of hot combing their hair in the kitchen next to the stove by their mothers, only to have it nappy again in usually less than twenty- four hours. Especially if they did not insert rollers. Not to mention all of the money they spend today to have it done professionally on a continual basis. I have spoken to men as well who have spent fifteen dollars a pop to have their hair cut into the current popular style only to need a touch up or entire re-cut again in four days (including myself).

Author bell hooks refers to the late eighties, early nineties man when she wrote “Heterosexual black women talked about the extent to which black men respond more favorably to women with straight or straightened hair” (hooks 84). Yet, many women I have spoken to who have locks say that they never saw the beauty that they now see in their own faces, as opposed to when they had processed hair. Most feel that having locks leaves the natural beauty of the face to show. These women are content with themselves.

Most black men here in America that I have spoken to who have had or now have locks say that they are an extension of who they are culturally and spiritually. These same men said that this helps them reaffirm their identity. Few have acknowledged having them for strictly a look different from the mainstream. The majority of black men say that their locks are an extension of who they are. In every single instance each individual expressed a spiritual transformation of some kind. Usually, a longing to find the historical connection with their ancestors and the extraordinary leaders that came before them. In these cases, they refer to their locks as Nubian Locks (“Nubian” referring to the black man’s history in Africa and their greatness as patriarchal kings). These are the locks that I desire to grow and wear proudly.

I like to smoke fine hand made cigars, not marijuana. I like to play tennis, as oppose to standing on a street corner. I have a beautiful family, well paying job and I am a full time college student. However, should I have to comprise my spiritual and cultural transformation in order to be accepted by the status quo? I will not.

hooks, bell. “Straightening our Hair.” Identities. Ed. Ann Raimes. Boston: Houghton

Mifflin Company, 1996.

X, Malcolm. “Hair.” Multitude. Ed. Chitra Divakaruni. New York: Mc Graw-Hill,

Inc., 1993.