christineclewis has written 3 posts for The Digital Bullpen

Forgetting “Good Hair” – The Natural Trend

Amber Young at the hair salon showing off her natural hair. Photo credit : Christine Lewis

Female African-American students at the University of South Florida are currently trading in their silky relaxed hairstyles for a more natural look.

Wearing natural hairstyles, which includes but is not limited to the afro, locks and braids, is a trend that the University of South Florida has seen in the past. During the 1960s wearing natural hairstyles was not only a fashion statement but a political one.

Even though many may not realize it, there are historical reasons why relaxing agents exist. This reason can be traced back to the times of slavery. In 1619, when the first slaves were brought to Jamestown many of them lost the materials and knowledge of how to style their very curly hair. During the years, Slave handlers would describe their hair as “wooly” which would humiliate them. When the slaves were sold at auctions, the slaves with lighter complexions and straighter hair were sold for more according to This internalized the sense of women with curlier, kinky hair as worthless. This historical pretext has affected the society views on natural hair in the past and today.

During the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, many women and men wore their hair in afros to fight the negative views internalized during slavery. This movement reunited the African-American community which made them want to redefine the standards of beauty to include an appreciation for the African aesthetic. They was a surge of young women and men who stopped using chemicals in their hair and went natural for the cause. This surge is similar to the one that is seen today.

In recent years, African-American women have started to cut off their relaxed year to grow it out naturally. Some of the most popular reasons why women have decided to go natural are the expenses of relaxers, the love for the style and the dangerous chemicals found in relaxers, according to

Brittany Cobb, sophomore, says that she went natural because it is cost efficient. “I started paying for my own expenses when I started college. Getting a relaxer can cost up to $75 then there is the hassle of finding the right hairdresser to do it. I decided to go natural and to just do my hair myself.” Cobb, who wears her hair in locks, styles her hair in different ways every day.

Having relaxed hair also requires products to maintain the health of the hair. In 2009, 30 to 34 percent of all the hair products in the United States were purchased by African-American women. The black hair industry has revenues of 9 billion dollars a year, according to the LA Times. That money is coming from African-American mother’s, grandmother’s and student’s pockets. With the negative economic downturn, not everyone can afford the upkeep of relaxed hair.

Hair experts believe that going natural is a healthy alternative to getting a relaxer. “I went natural in 2005. I cut off all of my relaxed hair and let it grow it in curly. My hair has never been more strong and healthy,” Sarah Philips, Exclusive Hair Salon owner and hairdresser, said.

The chemicals found in relaxers can be very dangerous, according to the Food and Drug Administration. They claim that relaxers are actually one of their top consumer complaints. The effect of a relaxer can cause breakage of the hair and in some cases baldness.

Some women also love the curly style. “A lot of women come to me with natural hair. They love the fact that it is so versatile. They can wear it curly one day and then come to me to get it blow dried straight. It’s the best of both worlds!” Maria Sanchez, hairdresser at E&J Salon said. Once a woman decides get her hair relaxed she can never go back to her naturally curly hair unless she cuts it off or grows it out. Certain woman associate having curly hair with having pride in their heritage. According to a recent study by Pantene, 40 percent of all women, black or white, have had an increase in the desire for curlier hair.

According to Alisha Adams, senior, going natural has its disadvantages. “Often people look at me as if I am uneducated or wild because of the texture of my natural hair. I am educated and well-mannered. I would just rather wear my hair naturally”. This misunderstanding about natural hair is not uncommon. In 2006, the Baltimore Police Department implemented a new code of conduct which prohibited ethnic hairstyles; such as, dreadlocks and cornrows from its professional appearance standards. They labeled these hairstyles as “fad” and “extreme” according to

The going natural trend has not only affected USF. The media has exploded with actresses and entertainment personalities wearing their naturally curly hair. Youtube has been flooded with uploads of different young women displaying different ways they wear their natural hair. The natural movement has even influenced music. India Arie’s best-selling song, “I am not my hair” is about becoming natural.

Students who are stripping harmful chemicals from their hair are multiplying by the day. It will be interesting to see if this trend is here to stay or will it fade away like so many others.

The NAACP Participates in Fight Back Floida

On March 25th the USF student chapter of the NAACP joined a large variety of people and organizations from the city of Tampa in Fight Back Florida.

This rally hosted by Awake the State Tampa and a coalition of labor unions, citizen groups, and students who want to protect our state’s jobs and public education. This rally was against Rick Scott and Florida Legislators’ attack on students, public employees and working families.

It was held outside of Representative Dana Young’s office at 4:30 pm. The rally came together to fight against Governor Scott and legislative leaders’ proposed budget cuts that will cost tens of thousands of Floridians their jobs.

Leshaun Clayton, a junior at USF, said “This sucks because people homes are being taking away because the can’t afford to pay their mortgages. That’s why I support this cause.”

Many who attended thought the government should be taking steps to create jobs to combat Florida’s record unemployment instead of laying off people.

Many Florida citizens are less than amused with the governor’s decisions. The participants chanted continuously “Where are the jobs we were promised?” and waved resumes in their hands

Andre Peart was the most enthusiastic of all the participants. “This is an issue that more people should be aware of,” Peart said.

The NAACP was participating in the event by making picket signs and marching. They felt like this is an issue that needed to be addressed by activism.

This rally was just one in a series. The NAACP of USF wanted to raise that there are always other options when politicians say, “There is just no other way but to take this off the backs of the working and middle classes.” The NAACP of USF plans to participate in other rallies in the near future.

Tension rises as USF’s NAACP looks to the future

Photo by: NAACP website

The University of South Florida did not have a NAACP chapter on campus for three years period until the current president, Jacob Jackson, decided to bring it back last year. The organization has had a hard time attaining active statues and staying in alignment with the parent chapter, the NAACP of Tampa.

Najja Jackson, a junior, said. “It’s scary to think that this organization might not be here next year.”

Despite these challenges, The NAACP of USF has gained a strong following amongst students and is beginning to have an emerging presence on campus.
However, during the March 29th general body meeting a new problem was discovered. Most of the candidates running for a leadership position that day did not even attend the meeting. Jackson, who will be graduating at the end of the semester, fears for the fate of the organization.

Jackson stressed the importance of having serious leadership during the meeting. He also stressed that there are specific qualifications that need to be met in order to have the NAACP represented at the university. He does not want to see his hard work and dedication go to waste due to the fact that there are few that are willing to take his place.

The tension in the room was noticeable after the meeting ended; however, Jackson hoped that his message urged members to take a greater interest in the organization.

The hands of the student membership can only revive the future of the NAACP.

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