In recent days the intensity of the natural hair debate can be seen on local news, heard on the local radio stations, and seen trending on social media. The most recent institution to earn national attention is Butler Traditional High School nestled right here in my hometown of Louisville, KY. Learn more about the controversy here https://wp.me/p5263d-wE.
On July 28, 2016, Renee Murphy, news anchor on Louisville’s Whas11, provided her thoughts on the natural hair debate. Check out Renee’s segment here http://www.whas11.com/opinion/renee-s-thoughts-the-natural-hair-debate/283573992. Personally my hair is an intimate subject and when others share their stories it brings me to closer to them. I was shocked yet relieved when Renee shared with us her own natural hair journey. In do so she shared her hair secrets with us. Advising us of the term ‘spares’ meaning wigs or hairpieces. After sharing her story she welcomed our thoughts. She asked how we’d feel about her wearing her natural hair on camera? She also asked how we’d feel about seeing her in the grocery store with her natural hair?
It is understandable why Renee is hesitant to wear natural hairstyles on camera. She is an anchor on a local Southern news outlet with a traditional audience. Even Mary Jane Paul of being Mary Jane wasn’t bold enough to set her mane free on prime time. Mary Jane is the only prime time news anchor that is a black female as she is fictitious.
Like Renee, I also took my time in deciding when to wear my Afro. Wearing my Afro in the workplace was a conscious decision for me. While I was not on television I was very much in a client-facing role. It was the point of no return with respect to eating healthy (or clean) and becoming more self-aware. Every time I walked in the office I felt as though I was on television. My colleagues jokingly suggested I do a yearly calendar of hairstyles. Some even asked to feel or touch my curls. Understanding the value of personal growth I firmly believe that no one should be deprived of his or her journey.
Butler Traditional High School’s Dress Code attempted to halt the journeys of countless students. Further silencing the voice of the parents and students. Given that Kentucky resident taxpayers pay a Jefferson County School Tax any taxpayer should have a voice. Tonight the appropriate party will vote on the 2016 Dress Code.
We have asked Asha French to share her response to Renee’s questions as well as share her input on the recent developments. Asha is a recently appointed educator at Kentucky State University. She is also a true natural. I met Asha in high school. She was a little bit older than me and dominating at Manual academically as I was. We also rode the same school bus. So it’s only fitting that we name this article Schooled an Interview with Asha French on the recent natural hair events in Louisville, KY. Read our interview with Asha below.
- Firstly, we are pleased to welcome you to the truly Natural Boutique Hair Products + Accessories family. We congratulate you on you new appointment at Kentucky State University. Thank you for joining us to discuss the recent Butler Traditional High School controversy. Please share with us a brief version of your own natural journey. How did you transition to sisterlocks?
I’ve been natural since 2001 and I’m grateful for the journey. It was one of self-acceptance and patience with others. I did the big chop at Howard where I had a lot of support from people across the diaspora. I would come home (to Louisville) for holiday breaks and face all kinds of stares and comments. One woman told me to get my “nappy head ass” out the street when I was just walking one day. I began to think of Louisville as a backward place and never thought I’d live here again. 15 years later, I’m back home, natural hair is popular here, and I’m most grateful for the compliments I get from black women. I’m able to hold these memories with love and compassion for a people so oppressed that the mirror is their enemy. People aren’t “backward” because they are stupid or inherently bad; they hold on to false beliefs about beauty and respectability because the price for resistance is so high. I think Renee’s segment is illustrative of this price. I would never ask a white person how they felt about my hair, but she has to because she lives in this city and her job depends on their acceptance of her. That’s not her fault.
2. What was your first reaction to the controversy?
I thought, “Are you serious? Still?” 20+ years ago, I became radicalized at my Aunt Kim’s feet. Literally. You know the cousin who gathers crowds at every gathering or reunion because they are just that funny or full of personality? That’s my Aunt Kim. At this gathering I was a student at Manual. They didn’t have a hair policy (not because they weren’t racist but because of their Youth Performing Arts School) that was as restrictive as Male’s. Aunt Kim was discussing Male’s policy and I’ll never forget what she said: “There’s more than one way to tell a Black child, ‘We don’t want you here.’”
So when I heard about Butler this year, I was wondering what happened to my Aunt Kim’s voice. How had the system been able to ignore her and people like her for over 20 years? How Sway? So I was grateful for advances in technology that allow Black parents to drag JCPS in public, impacting their brand and holding them accountable for growing up.
3. Have your locs ever prevented you from a professional opportunity?
By the time I got locs in 2013, I was already on track to become a professor. Any university in the 21st century that has policies as clueless as Butler’s should be ashamed. I would never work for a university that would have a problem with my hair. I say these things to admit my privilege in that my career interests match with my consciousness level. My equally conscious sisters who work in industries that don’t care about intellectual superiority are not as lucky. They don’t have to investigate their own whiteness.
4. How did you feel when watching Renee’s segment on her thoughts? What are your responses to her questions?
The occasion for the post bothered me so much that I wasn’t able to get past that noise.
5. We hope to one day provide Renee with Curl Coaching to help her identity products and resources to wear her curls truly natural on the air. How would you encourage Renee to wear her natural hair on camera?
I would encourage her to wear her hair however she wants, but I don’t have a right to this suggestion, as I am not wed by talent or responsibility to her industry—which is dependent on the white gaze. I can only say that I am sorry the world is this way.
I would love to see Renee’s twist-out glistening on the screen but every natural has their journey. Some of you may recall Sheryl Underwood sharing her natural hair journey on daytime talk show, The View. Later Sheryl began wearing her hair in natural styles. Understanding, everyone’s natural hair journey is different we wish the best for Renee. In closing, you go further if you are your own kind of natural.
Renee proposes a wig to help her save time we consider Curl Coaching. Please consider Curl Coaching to help you identify the best natural products and styling techniques to discover your best possible curls made at home. Click here to learn more about Curl Coaching today https://wp.me/p5263d-wA.