My Hairstory

It’s been five years since “I locked up,” “went dread,” “went natural,” “found my roots,” and “released the chains of bondage.” I’m not Rastafarian. I’m not from the Bahamas. I don’t smoke ganja, and I’m not on a spiritual journey. Simply, I’m an American black who decided five years ago to lock up my hair because I hated going to the beauty salon in order to feel pretty, and I knew my sister couldn’t spend every morning of her life trying to bring order to my straight, soft hair.

It was an easy process. Me and my homegirls were taking my braids out of my head, and my girl Vanessa pumped me up to cut my relaxed hair. According to her, I had enough natural hair to start twisting. I was scared though. Scared to be ridiculed, scared to be bald-headed. But I did it anyway, right there in the basement of Wheatley Hall. We didn’t have a loc-tician, no natural hair guide, and no hair-locking pomades. We simply used our fingers, some grease from Amen-Ra’s and our good intentions.

It probably took a year for my hair to finally lock. Vanessa and I tried everything under the sun. We drowned my hair in pure aloe. We soaked it in Honey Bee’s honey. We sewed strands together. We even washed my hair with seawater.

Finally, we just decided to leave my hair alone, with the exception of a monthly twist. Before I knew it, I was a dread head. Vanessa and I never went to “professionals” to start the hair locking process. We just didn’t have $300 to pay a loc-tician to do to my hair what it would naturally do on its own.

Since I’ve locked my hair, I’ve been called Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. I have had silent quarrels with my dad, who felt like dreading my hair was a thuggish thing to do; he vowed to always hate it. I’ve had several people ask me if my hair is real. I’ve even had random people approach me just to get a feel. Indeed, my dreads have gotten me mad attention. But I guess the best thing about being a dread head, is that they make me feel pretty. All by themselves, my dreaded locks make me feel pretty.

Kendra N. Bryant, 22, is a graduate student from Miami. She can be reached at