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I NATURAL HAIR ISSUE
African-American women in
charge speak about natural hair
Editor's note: This is the last
part of a two-part series.
BY FELEC1A P1GGOTT-LONG, PH. D.
Today, it is not surprising to see
women sporting kinky twists, locks,
Nubian Knots, braids, afro puffs and even
afros in the workplace.
What's striking is that many of the
black women wearing the natural styles
are women in charge.
Following are a few such women in
the Winston-Salem Triad area:
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, library
director for Forsyth County Public Library
System and Executive Producer of the
National Black Theatre Festival, has had
many hairstyles. She has had perms, worn
wigs, sew-ins, short cuts and long styles.
Having grown up in Tobaccoville, she also
wore her natural hair in the 1960s, '70s,
'80s and '90s. Ayana Harding of Ayana's
Glory Locs maintains Sprinkle-Hamlin's
is easy to main
tain, and there
are so many
styles that can be
created with nat
said. "Hair does
whether you are
not. It should
always be neat
and clean. Wigs,
weaves and sew-uis are up to the individ
ual. Whatever makes one feel beautiful.
Bennett College President Rosalind
Fuse-Hall received her first perm in 1977,
but her inspiration to go natural came from
her bout with lymphoma when she was 25
years old. She was at Rutgers School of
Law at that time in 1983 when she
received her first diagnosis.
She studied Criminal Justice at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, where she wore her hair in a perm, in
curls, an Afro, comrows and a curly perm.
not affect her
hair loss, but
her second bout
with the illness
caused her hair
to fall out. For
six months, she
had to wear a
he was bald.
When her hair grew back, it was "fine
like baby hair, and I wore my hair in a
short natural. ... I felt very empowered
about going natural. Even though I am no
longer sick, it is a conscious decision, and
I feel comfortable. I get lots of compli
ments <m my natural hair. I have deter
mined for myself that it is part of my beau
ty," Fuse-Hall said. "I came of age during
the Black Power Movement of the 1970s.
Angela Davis was positive affirmation for
me. Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, Dr. Julianne
Malveaux, Viola Davis, Thadious Davis,
Alice Walker, Dr. Trudier Harris and Dr.
Sonya Stone. These are all beautiful
Dr. TVudier Harris was J. Carlyle
Sitterson Distinguished Professor of
English and Comparative Literature at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill when she retired from UNC-Chapel
Hill in 2009 and became professor of
English at the University of Alabama in
2012. In April 2015, she was appointed
University Distinguished Research
Professor at the University of Alabama.
She wrote a book titled "Summer Snow:
Reflections from a Black Daughter of the
South," published in 2007.
Harris says, "My natural hair, obvious
ly, has not in any way been a hindrance to
Harris has only had one perm, in 1982.
"I lot it ?
* ivi it. oiajr iui a
couple of weeks
get rid of it. I
didn't like the
way it felt or the
said. "I started
out in graduate
school with an
over the years, I
alternated with a
Jheri Curl... I had
locks from 1993-1996. I finally settled
into a short Afro, which I like very much."
Harris recalls that a woman
approached her in Atlanta and praised her
for her beautiful Iocs. Harris' goal is to
avoid "self-negation," whether women
choose to wear wigs or weaves for con
"Some African-American women are
risking their health for the sake of their
hair. They refuse to exercise because it
would make them sweat, and they don't
want to sweat out those expensive perms
or run the risk of displacing their weaves."
Harris said. "Some high-profile African
American women seem not to be con
vinced that their publics will accept them
as they truly are, which means that hair
politics remain rooted in the racism that
undergirds just about everything in
America - and throughout the world."
Two women with high-profile posi
tions at Winston-Salem State University
are RaVonda Dalton-Rann, executive
assistant to the chancellor and secretary of
the University, and Dr. Brenda Allen,
provost and vice chancellor for academic
affairs, and chief academic and budget
Dalton-Rann has held her position for
Although Dalton-Rann had processed
hair while growing up for 20 years, she
has been a natural-hair woman for 40
years. She has always believed that natural
hair is professional.
Joel Cudworth, a white male who
styled hair for
styled her first
He still owns a
Dalton-Rann's greatest cheerleader for
her being a natural woman is her husband
of 30 years, Emery Rann ID. She was nat
ural when they first met.
"He tells me all the time that my
choice was one of the things that attracted
it to him. He knew immediately what it
meant and he still understands that it is a
political statement," Dalton -Rann said. "It
allows me to be who I am without even
opening my mouth. It is a political state
ment, and it is also who I am. Role models
such as Angela Davis, Nikki Giovanni and
Toni Morrison have inspired my choice."
Allen wore her hair penned for most of
her adult life with a few stints with braids
during her 30s. She has only been natural
for three years.
"All of the women in my family con
verted to natural hair during their 50s. It
was just a family trend that I followed. In
its current state, my hair reflects the
diverse beauty of hair texture inherited by
black women throughout the Diaspora,"
Allen said. "Older women in my family
have beautiful natural styles. I have just
returned to my roots and family tradition."
Allen does not ever plan to have her
hair penned again because she is very sat
isfied with her professional, natural styles.
"Professional has many looks. In the
world of work, being well-groomed is
important. ... We never talk about natural
for someone not of African descent. Every
other woman who is not black or whose
hair texture is
is never ques
tioned about the
you port a fro or
twists, I don't
think you will
sional if your
hair is well
someone says your natural' look is not
professional, we must understand that as
code for a different conversation.
"Women are returning to natural hair
for many personal reasons. For some, it is
the style of today. People without naturally
curly hair are buying or processing toward
the look," Allen said. "For others, it might
be about ease of grooming, especially as
fitness has become important."
Allen said she has never been criti
cized for her natural style, only praised.
"My natural is not a political state
ment. In the words of India Arie, 'I am not
my hair.' I feel no different when my hair
is curly or straight."
Another public figure is Kenyatta
Richmond, the Basileus of the Phi Omega
Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Inc. In the workplace, she is the coordina
tor of community outreach and engage
ment at Family Services, where she con
ducts workshops and training sessions on
the issues of domestic and sexual vio
her first relaxer
when she was 9
years old. She
kept the relaxer
until she was
most part, the
relaxer was OK
for me, until I
got older and
started to lose
liair due to med
ications and the chemicals I was putting in
my hair. I did the big chop in December of
2013.1 loved my hair from the first day
that I cut it off," Richmond said.
"I decided to go natural because of the
breakage and damage to my hair. I got
tired of trying to cover it up and allowing
my hair to dictate how I felt on any one
particular day. Wearing my hair natural
made me feel free. I didn't feel tied to a
stereotype of what beauty is supposed to
be. I felt good about embracing my natural
God-given beauty from root to tip,"
Richmond said. "Some men do not like
the natural state, especially when it was
shorter. They felt like it wasn't feminine
enough for them."
Brandy Rowland is a personal banker
at Wells Fargo Bank. She is currently
studying for a business
administration/finance degree from Salem
College. She had a perm from the age of 9
until she was 26,
when she and
Jamarius, had a
set of twins,
her new look.
"It fits her. I
love the color
and the flexibili
ty of it. It works
for her and me,"
he said. "When I
let her, she had
long hair hanging down her back, but
when she came back from the stylist with
her new look, it was a pleasant surprise."
She has been praised and criticized for
her natural look. She has been married for
"I have two 5-year-old daughters. I am
currently teaching them to love their hair
and to be one with their hair," Rowland
JaMonica Barson is a licensed mental
health counselor for DayMark Recovery
Services in Wentworth, N.C. She has had
a perm periodically but stopped getting
of the rising
costs. She <
with her perms,
and the combi
now wears a
brush cut that is
"I get tons
at work, never
any criticisms. Most of my criticisms have
come from older generations. My friends
love my natural hairstyles," Barton said.
"My mate did not like my natural. I
think it has a lot to do with conditioning. If
you are conditioned to think that European
is the better standard of beauty, then you
are not going to like natural hair," B arson
said. "Natural hair definitely makes me
feel empowered. I feel like I can do any
thing and feel like it lets others know that
I'm confident in who I am."
Purity Njoui Waithanji-Ruchugo is
the founder of
Her shop, called
Crafts, is on
Street in down
Jalem. She has
been natural for 10 years.
Sister2Sister International Outreach
Ministry Inc. is empowering women
through training in entrepreneurial skills,
and is working with over 100 orphans in
Kenya. Ruchugo's short Afro is easier to
manage while traveling back and forth
from Kenya to the United States.
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