Available Now: What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?

Everyone knows Zuri as “the girl with the puffy hair.” Her afro is big and fluffy, and not even gravity can keep it down. People often ask her, “What are you gonna do with that hair?” Zuri finds the answer in her cultural hair-itage and shows she can sculpt and shape her curls and coils into beautiful works of African art—braids, ‘locks, bantu knots—in other words, whatever she wants!

This illustrated non-fiction book encourages Black girls to celebrate the beauty and versatility of their natural hair and learn the rich history of natural hairstyles.

 

Get your copy today!

Available in Canada on Amazon.ca: Click here to purchase.

Also available in-store at Knowledge Bookstore: 177 Queen Street West, Brampton, Ontario L6Y 1M5.

Available in the United States on Amazon.com: Click here to purchase.

Every day is a good hair day!

 

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How to two-strand twist your hair

two-strand-twists-with-close-up-blog

Two-strand twists are one of the basic styling techniques for natural hair. They are similar to braids, only you intertwine two strands of hair instead of three.

What you will need:

  • Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
  • 
Towel
  • Spray bottle
  • 
Wide-toothed comb/Detangling brush
  • 
Tail comb
  • Butterfly clips/Snag-free ponytail holders
  • Water-based moisturizer
  • Twisting gel/cream

Steps:

  1. For best results, start with damp hair that has been recently shampooed and conditioned and towel-dried.
  2. Spritz hair with water using a spray bottle.
  3. Use your fingers or a tail comb to divide hair into about 6 to 9 sections, depending on the thickness of the hair.
  4. Separate the sections using butterfly clips or snag-free ponytail holders.
  5. Starting at the back of the head, loosen one section of hair (one on either edge of the nape is usually best).  If the section feels dry, spritz it with some water.
  6. Apply your favourite water-based moisturizer to the section, paying extra attention to the ends of the hair.
  7. Use your fingers/wide-toothed comb/detangling brush to detangle the section of hair.
  8. Apply your favourite twisting cream or gel to the section to the moisturized, detangled section.
  9. Separate a piece of the section (starting from the edge of the nape makes it easier), keeping in mind that the bigger the piece the bigger the size of your twist, and clip the rest of the section to the side.
  10. Split the subsection into two equal strands, pinching one strand in your right hand and pinching the other strand in your left hand.
  11. Twist the two strands together, overlapping the left strand over the right strand, left strand over the right strand, and continue overlapping the left strand over the right strand, down to the end of the twist.
  12. Apply some twisting gel or cream to the ends to keep the twist in place.
  13. Unclip the remainder of the section, and repeat Steps 9-12 until the section is completely twisted.
  14. Move on to the next section of hair, and repeat Steps 5-12 until all of the sections are twisted.

To keep your two-strand twists neat, wear a satin bonnet or use a satin/silk pillowcase when you go to sleep.

 

Ode to the wide-toothed comb

the gate - Jamaica

The gate that sealed my fate…

When I was a little girl, I absolutely dreaded combing my hair, especially after having it washed. I have a distinct memory from my first trip to Jamaica when my Mom announced one day that she was going to wash my hair.  A high-speed chase ensued, as I took advantage of the fact that my Grandfather’s house- unlike our apartment in Toronto- had a back door which led around the house to the front courtyard, giving me a chance to make a break for it…Much to my dismay, however, the front gate was locked, which prevented me from running right off the property (to safety).

“Pleeeease just cut it off, pleeeeease, Mommy, cut it off,” I screamed, as my Mom, Dad, and company, chased me around and around the house, til they finally cornered me…and, alas, my fate was sealed…Sadly, my Mom did not cut my hair off that day- she proceeded to wash it- and let’s just say I ended up paying a pretty penny for making her have to exert extra energy to get the job done…

wash day smiles - Jamaica

Me, after the ordeal, with my signature post-wash chiney bumps (aka bantu knots)…my Uncle Geo (middle) and his friend somehow managed to make everything better

Needless to say, I hated washing my hair.  And washing my hair never went down without a fight, which also meant I’d have sudsy water running into my eyes and sometimes even into my nose, which only made the situation worse.

I hated washing my hair because I knew that after the washing and conditioning, came the detangling part, which meant having to endure my Arch-Enemy…the Comb.

fine-tooth comb

My Arch-Enemy for many years

Due to the spiral shape of Black hair, it is prone to getting tangled: the curls end up linking up with each other, forming knots and snarls, which can make combing difficult.  Back when I was a girl, the standard comb was not made with textured-haired girls in mind: the teeth were fine, and therefore couldn’t get past the tangles.  On top of that, in their efforts to “detangle” the hair quickly, our mothers and other caregivers would just yank the comb from the roots, which made for a less than pleasant experience, to say the least, filled with lots of screaming and tears.

So, when the wide-toothed comb finally came on to the scene (around the time when I was eight or nine years old), I counted it as a blessing from on high; and ever since then, my life has never been the same. My wide-toothed comb has changed my life so much that I wrote it a love poem:

 

Ode to the wide-toothed comb

O wide-toothed comb

When you came into my life,

you removed the pain and strife

of combing through my curls.

 

tail combO wide-toothed comb,

Once I was tender-headed, and

Doing my hair was dreaded

Since the tines were way too fine

 

 

O wide-toothed comb

Using you, I’ve not regretted

And forever I’m indebted

To your wonderful design

 

O wide-toothed comb

Now detangling I’ll survive

And my hair will grow and thrive

‘Cause you’re made for natural girls

~ Ndija Anderson-Yantha

wide tooth comb

 

Pretty corny, I admit, lol! But having suffered through my own terrible experiences with having my hair combed, I know that the detangling process can be one of the most frustrating parts of having natural hair.  However, I also want you to know that your child’s natural hair IS actually manageable- you just have to be armed with the right tools, products, and techniques.  And trust me, having the right type of comb or brush can make all the difference!

Here are some tips for detangling natural hair:

  • Separate the hair into 6-12 sections (depending on the thickness) using your fingers, and hold the sections with butterfly clips or ponytail holders
  • Take a section of hair, and use a spray bottle to spritz with water
  • Apply a water-based moisturizer to the section
  • Use your fingers to gently work through the ends
  • Use a wide-toothed comb or a detangling brush to work through the section, while gripping the section with your other hand to absorb the pull of the comb/brush through the hair
  • Comb through the ends first, and then work your way up to the roots

AVOID

  • Raking through natural hair with a fine-toothed comb- this will not only damage your daughter’s hair by ripping through the curls and causing breakage, but it can also make for a very traumatic experience, resulting in tears and creating negative feelings about her hair
  • Combing through natural hair when it’s completely dry, if at all possible- moist hair makes the detangling process easier, as it allows the comb to glide over the curls easier

Believe it or not, combing natural hair DOES NOT have to be a nightmarish process: with the help of a wide-toothed comb and/or a good detangling brush, combing and styling your daughter’s hair can instead become a time for growing closer, passing on traditions, and creating positive memories that will last a lifetime.

What types of tools and techniques do you use for detangling natural hair?

 

Making Waves: Black Girls Can Swim Too!

Kazan_2015_-_Simone_Manuel copy

Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Manuel (By Chan-Fan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42503090)

As I’m sure we all can agree, this year’s Olympics in Rio will be a session of the Games that we won’t soon forget! In case you missed it, Simone Manuel made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual event. In doing so, she shattered an age-old belief that Black people- and Black women in particular- don’t swim.  This belief had some validity to it because, for a long time, the notion of #SwimmingwhileBlack was constrained by a number of factors, such as segregated pools, socio-economic status, fear, and of course, hair.

Thanks to the phenomenon of “turning back” or reversion, water was once known as the arch-enemy of kinky-, coily-haired folks (and it still is for some).  A splash of H2O could turn the sleekest press-out back into an afro, and at the very least, crinkle even the finest perm, so many Black girls and women would avoid the pool like the plague.

Although wearing your hair naturally does away with those problems, the chlorine in pool water still presents a threat: chlorinated water can wreak havoc on textured heads because it strips precious oils from our already-prone-to-being-dry hair. As a result, Black hair and the swimming pool have not always been on the best of terms.

After my 1st swimming lesson

My Dad and me in Jamaica after my 1st swimming “lesson”

Though I grew up around Black people who swam (e.g. my parents, aunts, uncles),  it took me a long time to learn how to swim because I was terrified of water.  During my first trip to Jamaica when I was four, my Dad tried to teach me how to swim the same way he learned: by throwing me into the sea.  Sadly, I was not as fast of a learner as he was; I started sinking, and then I panicked, which only led to me inhaling and swallowing a lot of salty sea water.  Needless to say, I left the beach that day traumatized…with a newfound fear…and no desire to learn how to swim.

Luckily for me, I was forced to learn because my middle school had a pool. Eventually, I grew to love swimming, but I hated having to deal with my hair afterward, even though I was a natural teen.   For me, I wasn’t concerned about my hair turning back, but I still had to contend with getting the chlorine out, which meant frequent washing- with shampoos that weren’t made for my hair (i.e. UltraSwimTM)- and constant detangling.  As a result, my hair suffered and I experienced a lot of breakage back in those days.

Fun at the lake

My sister, cousins and me having fun at a lake in Northern Ontario- all armed with our swim caps

Now, as an adult, I really enjoy swimming, and my husband and I often go for a dip at the gym as a full body workout.  I would be lying to you, though, if I said that my hair is no longer a consideration at all.  Sadly, it still is.  If I know I won’t have enough time to invest in proper post-swim maintenance, I just won’t go; but this is something that I’m really working to overcome because I don’t like the idea of feeling trapped because of my hair. (However, I also don’t like the idea of it all breaking off either!)

Black girls can swim too!

Although Black hair may require some extra attention before diving in, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams of becoming an Olympic swimming champion (or simply your aspirations of becoming a regular at your local pool) just yet.  As Simone Manuel has shown the world, It is possible for Black girls to swim- and with a full head of hair too!

Here are some tips for protecting your hair while swimming:

Before your swim:

  • Saturate your hair with coconut oil or leave-in conditioner before diving in– it will serve as protective barrier between your hair and the water
  • If you don’t have coconut oil or conditioner available, at the very least, drench your hair in the shower to minimize the amount of chlorinated water your hair will absorb once you’re in the pool
  • Plait your hair into 2 or more braids to prevent it from getting tangled
  • If you’re not concerned about making a fashion statement, wear a swim cap

After your swim:

  • Wash your hair with a sulfate-free chelating (formulated to remove mineral deposits) shampoo to help cleanse the chlorine from your hair
  • Deep-condition your hair to restore it to its normal moisture levels
  • Moisturize, detangle, and style your hair as normal

For the past couple of years, I have been using these methods whenever I go swimming, and so far, my hair has been faring pretty well.  So, if you have the desire to become the next Simone Manuel, please don’t let your hair get in the way.  Pull it back, slap on a cap, get in the water, and start making some waves– it’s no secret that there are enough obstacles out there, trying to keep us from achieving our dreams- so let’s not make our hair one of them!

Sources: The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, Saja Publishing, 2011

How do you take care of your hair when you go swimming?

Coming soon…

Meet Zuri
Zuri loves her natural hair and all of the amazing things she can do with it!

Zuri -Coming Soon

Follow her throughout history and around the world as she learns about the beauty and versatility of natural hairstyles in What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair? 

Coming soon…