‘Good Hair’ and the Strong Black Woman

Go Lean Commentary

“[A] comedian and daytime talk-show host apologized for suggesting that kinky hair was worthless.”

Those words were not perceived as funny; they were hurtful…but very much en vogue; (this was back in 2013). The overall consensus in the African-American community is that “Black Hair” is … not preferred.

Nappy head, kinky head, picky head, peasy head…

For a non-Black person to refer to a Black person as such, it is a curse word, beyond an insult.

Enough already …

“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud” – James Brown song 1968

This scenario depicts a dichotomy in the Black community, especially among women. The ethnic group prides itself on it proud heritage of Strong Black Women, and yet there is this unspoken rejection of Black Hair. This is sad!

Yet, it is what it is!

The book Go Lean … Caribbean makes an assessment of the economic, security and government issues of the Caribbean, then presents strategies, tactics and implementations to elevate these engines. But one might argue:

“The issue of hair styles and hair texture is not economics”.

Or is it? See this quotation here:

“The Black Hair business is a $9 Billion business” – Movie Good Hair (2009) – see Appendix VIDEO below.

The issue of Black Hair is an issue of image. The Go Lean book depicts that image is very impactful in the management of Caribbean economic and cultural affairs (Page 133). (29 of the 30 Caribbean member-states have a majority non-White population – Saint Barthélemy is the sole exception).

Caribbean image is in crisis! Already, Go Lean blog-commentary have addressed the image issues related to the Dreadlocks hairstyle and the default assumption of a person sporting this hairstyle is that they are from the Caribbean, and of a “lesser statue”.

The issues raised in this news article about Sheryl Underwood shows that Black Hair, in general and in specific is an “open festering wound” that needs to be assuaged in all the African New World Diaspora. See the article here (from the site Root.com*):

Title: Sheryl Underwood on Her Natural-Hair Comments: I Understand Why I Was Called an Uncle Tom
Sub-title: The comedian and daytime talk-show host apologized for suggesting that kinky hair was worthless.
By: Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

CU Blog - Hair and the Strong Black Woman - Photo 1Posted September 17 2015 – It’s not often that someone says she completely understands why she was called an Uncle Tom and a coon. People usually try to flip the script and suggest that African Americans—the ones usually lobbing those insults—are playing the race card and being hypersensitive about issues.

Comedian Sheryl Underwood did no such thing on Monday’s episode of the talk show The Talk, where she is a co-host. Back in 2013, she made a joke about how she didn’t understand why Heidi Klum saved her biracial children’s hair. Underwood was suggesting that kinky hair was bad, had no value and wouldn’t be of any use—so why save it?

“Why would you save Afro hair? You can’t weave in Afro hair!” Underwood joked. She got dragged through these Internet streets—badly.

On Monday’s episode, she debuted her own kinky hair—a short, curly Afro—and apologized profusely for her earlier comments.

“I made some statements that were not only wrong, but they hurt our community […] black people are very sensitive about a discussion about our hair,” Underwood said. She said she felt especially bad because she identifies as a “very proud black woman.”

“The way the joke came out offended my people and my community, which was not my intent,” she continued.

Underwood went on to describe the reaction she got from black people about her comments: “There was a lot of backlash. A lot of people said that I was an Uncle Tom […] I was a coon. I could understand that kind of language being used because people were hurt.”

Underwood explained that she’s very aware of how insensitive her comments were, given the negative stereotypes about kinky hair and the fact that black women are not encouraged to rock their natural coils.

“There is a responsibility to being on TV. There’s a cultural responsibility. The way we got images out there—there’s no need for me to do something that causes more damage to us,” she said.

The entire ordeal compelled Underwood to go on a journey of self-discovery for a year. “I cut my hair off. I cut the perm out. I still wear wigs because I like variety, but what I really wanted to do was engage women,” she said. Underwood said she also reached out to natural-hair bloggers to continue the conversations that the incident sparked.

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.
Source: The Root* – Online Site for African-American News, Opinion and Culture – Retrieved 09-18-2015 from: http://www.theroot.com/blogs/the_grapevine/2015/09/watch_sheryl_underwood_on_her_natural_hair_comments_i_understand_why_i_was.html

VIDEO – Sheryl Underwood Apologizes For Black Hair Remarks – https://youtu.be/lcZklCaWDd4

Published on Sep 18, 2015 – The Talk co-host explains why she feels ready to display her real hair, as well as her need to apologize to her community and to viewers.

The book Go Lean … Caribbean recognizes that image is an important intangible factor that must be managed to optimize value of Caribbean contributions – Black and Brown. As such the book is submitted as a complete roadmap to advance the Caribbean economy and culture with the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The CU will be the sentinel for Caribbean “Image”. While the African-American community is out-of-scope for Go Lean planners, we accept that the US is home to a vast majority of our own Diaspora. And despite the history of North-South pressure on styles-taste-trends, the Caribbean has been successful to forge style-taste-trends in a South-North manner. Just consider the life work of these Caribbean role models:

The CU strives to improve the community ethos of the Caribbean people. This is described as:

“the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period; practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period” – Go Lean…Caribbean Page 20.

Natural Black Hair - GirlA discounted view of Black Hair is a bad ethos – plain and simple! This should not be tolerated, especially coming from the Black community itself. Look at this photo here; there is no way this is not beautiful!

Alas, the Go Lean book presents role models, samples and examples of single issue advocacies and advocates. This roadmap (Page 122) shows that one person and/or one cause can be impactful and change society.

In the Black community, the issue of Black Hair has transformed society before. Remember the Afro, Black Power, Afrocentrism? All of these values were ubiquitous at one point (1970’s) and then slowly, the style-taste-trend shifted. Perhaps its time now to shift it again. We have strong reasons to do so:

$9 Billion!

That is the “why”. As for the “how” …

The CU/Go Lean roadmap strives to improve image & impressions that the world gets of Caribbean life/people. The roadmap has a heavy focus on media. The plan calls for consolidating the 42 million residents of the region, despite the 4 languages, into a Single Market. This size allows for some leverage and economies-of-scale, fostering a professional media industry, and allowing the CU to electronically send our culture (and values) to the rest of the world. Our target first would be the 10 million-strong Caribbean Diaspora; then eventually the rest of the world. We must control the image and impressions that the world gets of Caribbean life and people.

The Go Lean … Caribbean book introduces the CU to assume the Sentinel role, to take oversight of much of the Caribbean economic, security and governing functionality. This roadmap will definitely promote the Caribbean as a better place to live, work and play. As a result, the opinions of the world towards Caribbean hair – dreadlocks, Afro hair, nappy head, kinky head, picky head, peasy head – will heightened.

In the end, this is about more than image, as jobs and trade are at stake; jobs in the Caribbean homeland, jobs in the foreign locations for the Diaspora, and trade of hard-earned currency for vanity products like fake hair and styling-products.

Change has come to the Caribbean. The people, institutions and governance of region are all urged to “lean-in” to this roadmap for change. We need to educate and persuade people – everywhere –that there is excellence among Caribbean people, despite their hairstyle.

The art-and-science of image management is among the community ethos, strategy, implementations and advocacies the the CU must master to elevate the Caribbean community. These individual roles-and-responsibilities are detailed in the book; see this sample listing here:

Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Manage Reconciliations Page 34
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Caribbean Core Competence Page 58
Tactical – Forging an $800 Billion Economy – Trade and Globalization Page 70
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Tourism and Film Promotion Page 78
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Communications and Media Page 79
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Truth & Reconciliation   Commissions Page 90
Implementation – Ways to Impact Social Media – Managing Image Online Page 111
Implementation – Trade Mission Objectives – World Outreach Page 116
Implementation – Ways to Benefit from Globalization – Exporting Media Productions Page 119
Anatomy of Advocacies – Models of Individuals Making an Impact to their Community Page 122
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage Image Page 133
Advocacy – Improve Failed-State Indices – Assuaging the Negatives Page 134
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Leadership Page 171
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Communications Page 186
Advocacy – Ways to Enhance Tourism – Creating a Demand, Not Dread of Caribbean Culture Page 190
Advocacy – Ways to Market Southern California – A Critical Market for Image Page 194
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Hollywood Page 203
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218
Advocacy – Ways to Ways to Protect Human Rights – Weeding-out Prejudices Page 220
Advocacy – Ways to Improve the Arts – Humanities Affect the Heart Page 230

These previous blog/commentaries drilled deeper on this quest to forge change in a community … through image and media; consider these cases:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6202 ‘Concussions’ – The Movie; The Cause
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5964 Movie Review: ‘Tomorrowland’ – ‘Feed the right wolf’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5733 Better than America? Yes, We Can!
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5098 Forging Change – ‘Food’ for Thought
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=4506 Colorism in Cuba, the Caribbean … and Beyond
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3999 Sir Sidney Poitier – ‘Breaking New Ground’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3568 Forging Change: Music Moves People
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=3512 Forging Change: The Sales Process
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2726 Caribbean Role Model for the Arts/Fashion – Oscar De La Renta: RIP
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2291 Forging Change: The Fun Theory
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1909 Role Model Berry Gordy – Changing more than just “Motown”
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1037 Humanities Advocate – Maya Angelou – Reaching the Heart
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=866 Caribbean Music Man: Bob Marley – The legend lives on!
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=857 Considering the Image Issues of the Dreadlocks Hairstyle

The beauty of the Strong Black Woman should be their strength, and their femininity, and their blackness. There is no need to be ashamed or to mask this. Afro is not bad. Afro is just a diverse option among a diverse people.

The “Afro” is not the quest and the cause of the CU/Go Lean roadmap. But if/when we succeed at our quest – whose prime directives are listed here – all social-cultural dictates will be easier to institute. The directives are summarized as follows:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

Once “we” fix home, then we can reach out to fix the world. There is the need to change the image of “Black Hair” on the world stage; not the change of hairstyles, but rather changes to the world’s impression of the hairstyle. It is Good Hair.

There is reason to believe that these empowerment efforts can be successful. The Go Lean roadmap conveys how single causes/advocacies have successfully been forged throughout the world (Page 122). We, in the Caribbean, can do the same; we can succeed in improving the Caribbean image and the image of Black Hair. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


P.S.  Full Disclosure: This blogger has two daughters with Black Hair.


Appendix – * The Root.com

“The Root” is the premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers. Founded in 2008, under the leadership of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root provides smart, timely coverage of breaking news, thought-provoking commentary and gives voice to a changing, more diverse America. Visit us at www.theroot.com, on Twitter @TheRoot247 and on Facebook.

See other references to other works by Dr. Henry Louis Gates in Appendix B of this commentary: http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2907


Appendix VIDEO – Movie Trailer Good Hairhttp://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3611230745/?ref_=tt_ov_vi

Comedian Chris Rock explores the wonders of African-American hairstyles.
“Chris Rock, a man with two daughters, asks about good hair, as defined by Black Americans, mostly Black women. He visits Bronner Brothers’ annual hair convention in Atlanta. He tells us about sodium hydroxide, a toxin used to relax hair. He looks at weaves, and he travels to India where tonsure ceremonies produce much of the hair sold in America. A weave is expensive: he asks who makes the money. We visit salons and barbershops, central to the Black community. Rock asks men if they can touch their mates’ hair – no, it’s decoration. Various talking heads (many of them women with good hair) comment. It’s about self-image. Maya Angelou and Tracie Thoms provide perspective”. – Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Share this post:
, , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *