I’m finally back in San Francisco, and after a three week odyssey to Europe and back it feels delightful to write this post from my bed. I had a fanfreakingtastic trip traveling in the name of natural hair. Well, let’s be more specific there- I travel frequently in the name of natural hair, but the ABROAD part was truly eye opening.
The process of going natural and the experience of being natural is very much linked to the idea of black identity. In Europe, black identity is much more closely linked to African identity as many of the persons there are first or second generation immigrants from Africa. In the US, we call ourselves African American, but the terms “African French” and “African British” don’t exist. Ask a black person in Paris where they are from, and they will likely answer “I was born in France, but I’m from the Ivory Coast” or “I’m from the Antilles” and when prompted, “and I was born here in France.” Despite being born in France and 100% a French citizen, many persons of African descent in Europe have yet to embrace their European nationality. At the same time, European countries do not necessarily acknowledge these people as their nationals. In essence, there is a stronger link between African origins in Europe than here in the states.
The UK and French natural hair communities that I had the honor of connecting with are impressively international and with such diversity, there is also a unique cultural richness. The ladies I met on this trip were from Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Congo, Martinique, Guadaloupe, Reunion, Switzerland, Haiti, and Senegal and it was beautiful to see all of these different countries represented, respected, and coming together to further the same cause.
The natural hair movement in London and Paris is in its infancy, but I see potential for it to spread as quickly and as rapidly here in the states. I would assume that the prevalence of skin bleaching spas and weaves that I saw “Black Paris” are very much a result of attempts to assimilate to the dominant French culture. But in a culture where African origins are held onto tightly, I see great potential for the celebration and growth of the natural hair, a piece of tangible evidence of African origin.
I made many friends on this trip and I’m looking forward to watching the growth and development of the natural hair movement across the pond. It was an honor to unite the American and European natural hair communities, and to share our collective stories. One thing is for certain, that despite the thousands of miles that separate us from our natural sisters across the pond, we’ve got more in common than differences. Oh and that it certainly won’t be another seven years before I return to Europe for a visit!
now my only question is…where to next?