The c.1967 journey to Black ‘natural’ hair freedom came by way of defiance and happenstance for BlackParentSpeaks. I was working as Secretary to Attorney Julian Dugas in DC – the nation’s capital – at the time. My employer was the Neighborhood Legal Services Project/Program (NLSP).
The morning BlackParentSpeaks went from ‘pressed’ hair to ‘Natural and Black’ hair is quite revealing. As was normal, I had gotten up for work and washed my hair with the intent of pressing same before leaving for work. Suddenly, there was an unexpected knock at my apartment door.
Quickly, I walked to the door and opened it to let in my sister who had recently moved to DC by way of California. We embraced and began sharing memories as I agreed to introduce her to ‘particular’ Blacks in the DC area.
Caught up in the excitement of my sister’s visit, time flew. After an hour or so of ‘talk’, my sister reminded me of my UNpressed hair and my job. She said words to the effect of ‘Oh, I had better leave now so that you will have time to press your hair before going to work…. There is no way that you can let ‘White’ folk see your nappy hair.’
Without missing a beat, I dismissively replied to my sister that she need not rush as I had no intention of pressing my hair. I told my sister that I was going to wear my hair ‘natural’ to work.
My sister became increasingly livid as she first urged and finally DEMANDED that I either press my hair or get a permanent! She expressed that one of the worse things I could do was to go to work with ‘nappy’ hair…. My sister spoke of my upbringing and told me that it would reflect on our family name if I were to show my ‘nappy’ hair to others.
Stunned by my sister’s assertions and words, I reacted telling her that I was NOT ashame of my ‘natural’ hair and that I would wear my hair however I chose to wear my hair.
My sister angrily made the decision to leave my apartment after acknowledging that she obviously could not change my mind.
Following my sister’s exit from my place, I hastily grabbed a blue strip of material and beautifully wrapped my natural hair before heading off to work. In my opinion, my ‘look’ was both refreshing and stunning and I had no reason to expect anything less than accolades.
The Director of NLSP was ‘Black’ attorney Julian Dugas. I was Mr. Dugas’ Personal Secretary – offered the job by him following his ‘questionable’ handling of my racial discrimination case against the Agency for International Development (AID). My work desk was directly outside Attorney Dugas’ office as information.
Roughly 30 minutes to an hour into the work day, Attorney Dugas rather loudly confronted me about my head wear. Simply put, Mr. Dugas shouted “What the hell is that on your head!???”
I responded that I was wearing a head wrap.
Mr. Dugas angrily ordered me to take my head wrap off as he went back into his office and slammed the door.
In accordance with Attorney Dugas’ orders, I UNwrapped my ‘natural’ hair and continued to do the business of the day.
Shortly after my removal of my head wrap, Attorney Dugas stood before my desk and demanded that I not report to work again with ‘natural’ hair or a head wrap. I responded in a firm and equally ‘loud’ voice the following:
“Mr. Dugas, you have two choices. Either you will see a head wrap every day that I work here or you will see my ‘natural’ hair. You decide….”
Mr. Dugas’ response – ‘Well, I’d rather see your ‘nappy’ hair than a head wrap.’
The negative outbursts and reactions BlackParentSpeaks received from fellow Blacks in response to my ‘natural’ hair helped me in my overstanding resolve. We — who are Black — must be defining in our purpose to both break and remove the shackles of mental enslavement.
‘Don’t forget our reparations’.
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Undying love for Black people!