Natural Hair in the Black Church

My girl De sent me a link to a blog which she thought I might find interesting.  The post was written by a woman who is a Pastor’s wife and how her natural hair has garnered more than the occasional whisper from church parishioners.  This topic hit too close to home and all at once I was flooded with childhood emotions I had long forgotten growing up as a Preacher’s Kid (PK).  

For those that do not know, the church plays a vital part in the Black community.  The pastor and his family are held in high esteem and used as an example for other families and mine was no different.  My parents divorced when I was very little but shared custody of my brothers and I and we spent pretty equal time between both.  I was blessed to have long, thick natural hair that my mother kept braided in cornrows (no perm until I was in my teens).  My step-mother knew little about natural hair care and would take me to the shop on Saturday to make my hair presentable for church which meant a press and curl.

My presentation was always a battle because I was such a tom-boy.  My stockings always had snags and holes, I never sat with my legs closed, and my shoes were always scuffed from racing boys in the parking lot or climbing a tree.  But my hair was an entirely different battle as one night of rough sleep could quickly undo the 2 hours at 400 degree battle the stylist had fought with my curls.  After my appointment I was not allowed to play and had to sit still as to not tempt the southern heat to muss my freshly pressed hair.  At night I wore a silk scarf with a pair of pantyhose on top to keep it from slipping off.  My hair was often the topic of discussion for older women in the church who praised its length, thickness and neat appearance.  I can remember just wanting to be the normal me with my hair pulled back in a ponytail and a pair of jeans.  What did it matter what I looked like?

As a teen my hair continued to be a topic of discussion, but by then it was a comment and a side-eye for my “outrageous” looks like my peroxide-lightened bangs “What on Earth did you do to your hair?”  Or my Poetic Justice braids,  “oh, you doing that whole back-to-Africa look”.  Even my signature ponytail was an issue “you didn’t have time to curl your hair before Sunday school?”  When I decided to go back to natural but still wear my hair straight I was often reminded that it was “time for a touch-up”.  Even my Granny would make comments on my “vagabond” appearance always asking my mother to “do something” with my hair for church.  By then I was used to the unwanted opinions of others and just shrugged them off.

As an adult I rarely encounter those types of situations in church concerning my hair.  Not that I don’t think people are talking about it, just that they aren’t talking about it to my face.  I attend a multi-cultural church now and if I am asked questions about hair it is more of the typical “how did [I] get [my] hair to do that” or “what can I do with my child’s hair”.  I make it a point to compliment all the natural hair young ladies in church and tell them how beautiful their hair is.

What are your thoughts? Has your natural hair caused a stir in your church?


8 thoughts on “Natural Hair in the Black Church

  1. I am a pastor’s wife, so when I went natural 2 months ago, I was curious as to how the congregation would react. They LOVED it!! And they aren’t afraid to tell me when they DON’T like something, so they weren’t biased because I’m the first lady! LOL

  2. I haven’t been to an all Black church in some time but I do have a comment. I know this may rub some the wrong way BUT the Black church and it’s attitudes about everything is set by the the perceptions and opinions of older Black women. Women who probably didn’t wear a fro in the 60s bc of its militant perception and don’t see naturals today any different. But for the most part I think most folks recognize this as more than just a fad. I’m finding more and more older Black women who I thought were relaxed but just were wearing presses. They may not be down for the natural look for themselves, or the feelings of self acceptance or black pride, but they understand that going natural is often best for the health of their hair.

  3. I also attend a multi cultural church and I’ve bonded with a fellow naturalista church member who always asks for natural hair advice. She’s always in awe abot how moisturized my hair is! Lol. I shared with her the wonders of the LOC method!

  4. I heard from another Louisville blogger that is a black church in Louisville with so many naturals it’s amazing. And a lot of the brothers in the congregation were locs: St. Stephen.

    I haven’t visited yet, but that’s what she told me.

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