As a black woman in the United States, living with a natural hair style isn’t always easy.
It’s hard to find a picture of some of America’s most celebrated black females with their natural hair. First lady Michelle Obama is rarely seen without straight hair, yet the process it takes to create such a look is dangerous and the effects may be permanent.
“Normally, when you have natural hair and you want to make it straight, you have to put the chemicals on your hair, the relaxer which has the lye and everything in it, to straighten out your hair,” said Luvina Sabree, who heads Killeen’s Happy 2 B Nappy Hair Group and teaches free classes for those who want to manage their naturally curly hair.
“It’s been known to do really bad things. ... A chemical burn, where you leave it on too long. It causes permanent (damage). Sometimes the balding is reversible, but for the most part, it is permanent.”
As Renee Jackson sat in a chair at the Mushin Do Martial Arts Studio, where Sabree meets for the free classes, Jackson said she has been a regular, “Right from the start.”
“10 years,” she said.
“For many years, it’s been termed negative. You know? ‘You should be ashamed if you have nappy hair. It doesn’t look good. It’s not attractive’ and things like that,” Sabree said. “What we’ve done is embrace our nappy hair or our natural hair. We’ve turned it into something beautiful because, in actuality, that’s what it is. So, that’s why we embrace the term Happy 2 B Nappy.”
Sabree said society has not been kind to black women’s natural hair.
“Some women, they’ve been wearing relaxers for so long, they don’t even know how to do their natural hair. They don’t know how to comb it,” she said. “They think you comb it from the root all the way down, from the scalp to the ends, but you don’t. You actually start at the ends and then you work your way back to the scalp. That’s the easiest way to comb your hair.
“Another thing that they don’t know is to moisturize their hair, so we teach them different things that they can do to moisturize,” she added.
Hair styles specific to black women also are a part of Sabree’s classes.
“We also teach them how to braid, how to two-strand twist and different natural hair styles because a lot of them don’t know because they never had to do it,” Sabree said. “They’ve always gone to a salon to get their hair done.”
Sabree has found herbs and other remedies to help black women who may have lost all or some of their hair because of chemical straightening that went too far. She said she tries to help some women, but sometimes it’s too late.
“The person didn’t know what they were doing and we were trying to get her hair to grow back, but it was only growing back in patches. It was bad,” Sabree said. “In other spots, it was just gone. No matter what we tried to do, like to stimulate the scalp with different herbs and things like that to help her hair grow back, it never grew back. It was bad.”
“She lost all her natural hair,” Sabree said. “It happens every day.”
Sabree’s passion was validated by at least one recent federal judge in Texas who ruled those who braid hair and work with natural hair styles don’t have to jump through the expensive and time-consuming hoops of state-mandated barber’s licensing.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Jan. 5 that Texas’ law requiring Isis Brantley and her Dallas hair-braiding salon to become licensed were unconstitutional and lacked a connection with Brantley’s intended clientele.
“I fought for my economic liberty because I believe there is a lot of hope for young people who seek to earn an honest living,” Brantley said in a new release. “This decision means that I will now be able to teach the next generation of African hair braiders at my own school.”
Jackson said black females should be proud of their natural beauty as it will keep them healthy.
“They need to embrace their own natural self. Love yourself. This is part of loving yourself. Instead of trying to be something else or think (straightening) is going to make life better, (natural) is a healthy lifestyle,” Jackson said. “If you have your health, you have everything and it’s going to move you forward. You can move forward naturally instead of being fake.”