EuroTrip Epilogue: European Black Identity and the #naturalhair Movement

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?

 

London Workshop Recap + Full Gallery!

Today’s London workshop brought out over 200 naturalistas for a day of workshops, shopping, live demonstrations, and mingling! Hosted by Lukwesa Burak of Gidore.com, the focus of the day was Felicia Leatherwood’s globally renowned Loving Your Hair with Natural Care workshop, which was thoroughly well-received by the attendees who came with oodles of phenomenal questions and great energy! As always, Felicia did a wonderful job of breaking down natural hair how-to’s in an easily digestible and entertaining way that allowed for all attendees- veterans, transitioners, and new naturals alike- to gain a wealth of knowledge. Jane Carter and Regina from KeraCare also hopped on stage to do live styling demonstrations using their [awesome] products, showing how to do both straight and curly styles. Attendees also got to shop their hearts at the vendor displays from snapping up tons of products from top natural hair vendors such as Beautiful Textures and Shea Moisture.

The 6-hour event flew by, but I had a ton of fun snapping pictures and chatting with the attendees about their hair and the natural hair scene in UK. This was by far the most international group of naturals I have ever been a part of with attendees from everywhere from London to Liverpool to Essex to Paris to Geneva to Nigeria to Ghana to Martinique to Toronto to Detroit! Quite a roll call, right!? I even met one attendee from the Virgin Islands who *happened* to just miss us when we were there in September, but also *happens* to now live in London–totally cool, SheRea! I also took some super awesome videos, which I’ll be editing and posting soon to the ol’ YouTube page. I want to give a huge shout out to Lukwesa for putting together such a phenomenal event–it was incredibly well done and such a special event for us all! To the naturalistas of London: it was SO nice to meet you all! Keep rockin’ those naturals and I can’t wait to see you when I return!

Check out the fun snaps from the event and stay tuned for the vids!

Currently in Paris and getting ready for tomorrow’s event: the Natural Cruise!

Europe2012: LondonTown Fun!

As I eluded in my last post, I arrived in London totally, absolutely, 100% beat. Customs had a beast of a line to clear and then I spent an hour navigating the Heathrow Express Train and the Tube (a.k.a. the Brits’ subway) before getting to the hotel. While Felicia did an interview for an exciting new documentary about the natural hair movement I had the chance to catch up with the Lukwesa Burak of Gidore, the hostess and organizer of tomorrow’s event. Lukwesa has been to the States a couple times for the Curly Pool Party and Texture on the Runway and so it’s nice to be able to come support her for a change! We had a very interesting conversation about the differences between the British and US natural hair scenes, both acknowledging that the in the States we have a significantly more robust natural hair community. But what I learned is that one of the reasons this may be is that the European Union has extremely strict product compliance regulations that have made it difficult for product manufactuerers to start up and flourish over here. We in the States have seen a large numbers of small natural hair product companies start up small and grow! I’m thinking of companies like Komaza Care, Karen’s Body Beautiful, Bee Mine, Curl Junkie etc that began in kitchens, gained a grass roots following and became permanent fixtures in the movement. That sort of organic product development and growth over here is impossible as product companies have to follow stringent rules about ingredients and distribution. Interesting stuff, indeed, when you think about how our forums and blogs have launched and supported smaller home grown brands, which have in effect driven the movement.

After we chatted over a cocktail and grabbed a bite to eat, I could barely keep my eyes open and crawled into bed for a 2 hour nap. We had plans to go check out the grand opening of a salon with the ladies from Black Hair Magazine, Keyshia and Yemisi. We got a bit turned around on the Tube but emerged in time to catch the tail end of what turned out to be a super posh party brimming with model chicks and dapper dudes sipping champagne in an uber chic salon. Totally my scene. The salon is the latest and greatest from UK celebrity stylist Jamie Stevens who has done work on the X Factor, This Morning, and How to Look Good Naked. The back wall of the salon had a large television screen showing images of his styling work, and I saw a lot of awesome natural hair. So I pulled him aside and asked him to tell us a bit about it:


Following that, we had a delicious meal and now I’m cozied up in bed getting ready for tomorrow’s event! There are 150 ladies RSVP’ed and I’ll be speaking on behalf of Beautiful Textures as a Brand Ambassador before Felicia hosts her workshop. I’m really looking forward to meeting the naturalistas of London!

Here’s some snaps from our first day here:

I See London, I See France! The Adventure Begins TOMORROW!

Can’t believe it’s time to hop on the ol’ jet plane and head back across the pond tomorrow! Well, actually I can. It’s been seven years since I’ve been to Europe and I’m so excited to be making the return! I wanted to share with you all the itinerary of the trip so you know where I’ll headed to keep up with the adventures.

Leg One: London

So I leave bright and early Thursday morning and arrive at my first destination bright and early Friday morning! I have a brief layover in NYC, but because of the slick nine hour time difference between Cali and the UK, it adds right on up to a full day of travel- oof! I’ve been stacking up fun activities to occupy my 14 hours in-flight, a lot of which involves catching up on some pop culture: season 4 of Mad Men, perhaps reading Hunger Games, and boning up on natural hair lingo en francais (gotta say, I may know the language, but I am not 100% certain of how to translate high-porosity off the top of my head considering it’s a relatively new concept for me in English). Ok, so blah blah blah fly fly fly *-)- *-)- *-)- LAND in Europe where I will go find Felicia and spend the day romping around London before hitting up a natural hair party. No time to relax the next day for we have to get up, packed, and head over to the first of two events: Multi-Texture Hair Workshop presented by Gidore, a fabulous UK-based natural hair and beauty blog!

Directly following the event, we’ll be packing up and headed back to the airport for the next portion of the trip.

Leg Two: PARIS!

Ah yes, the City of Lights! I couldn’t be more jazzed to return, especially in the name of natural hair! After landing, and presumably going right to bed, we’ll be waking up early on Sunday morning to get ourselves over to a boat on the Seine river where the second of the two events will be hosted!  The Paris natural hair workshop will be cruising along the river that winds through the heart of the city while attendees learn about natural hair care techniques and share their hair stories.   I’m pretty sure that this is the first-ever floating natural hair workshop and I’m excited not only to meet the Parisian naturalistas, but also to scope the scenery along the banks!

After this second event wraps up, I’ve got a couple of days to chill in Paris. I plan on doing some street style photography, checking out some of my favorite museums (La Musee de Georges Pompidou par example!), and catching up with some friends while enjoying the mandatory French delicacies of wine, pungent cheeses, and crepes bursting with nutella.

Leg Three: Toulouse

I was looking forward to taking the train to Toulouse from Paris, just like I used to back when I was a student. Then I learned that flights have become significantly cheaper between the two cities so I decided to nix the 6-hour train ride and grab a plane ticket. Toulouse, also known as “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City), holds a very special place in my heart as this was the core of my French experience: where I lived, where I roamed, where I learned, and where I made lifelong friendships.  I’ll be staying at the house of my host family and spending some time with them for a couple days.  Last time I was there, I was still in my teens so it should be a lot of fun to return and catch up!  I’m also planning on spending some time with the director of my internship, who gave me the opportunity to spearhead a really unique internship project that allowed me to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of the entire city. If memory serves correctly, April in Toulouse is stunningly beautiful, so I’m really looking forward to soaking that all in, and um, eating these delicious sandwiches served at this one shop (please let it still be there!): a crusty warm baguette stuffed with chicken and french fries topped with mayo and ketchup.  Gahhhh— so good!

Leg Three: Back to Paris

Well, I gotta spend the weekend in the big city! I’ve coordinated a flight with my friend so that we land back in Paris at the same time so that we can head over to our friend’s apartment and spend the weekend having fun. What adventures will we find? Not a clue! Guess we’ll see where the wind takes us!

Leg Four: Back Home…well, almost

Before headed back to San Francisco, I’ll be making a week-long stop over in Austin, TX to spend some time with the team at the TextureMedia HQ. I always love being in Austin, not to mention going to work is literally a dose of curly heaven!

Leg Five: Back home…FOR REALZ

21 days later, I shall make my triumphant return to San Francisco! But let’s not focus on that, let’s focus on all of the fun that is to come!

Before I can even fathom making any of that a reality, I have to deal with the whole packing situation. My suitcase is a heap of dresses and skirts (The Ol’Cassidy Uniform) and I have to narrow down my selections because, as always, I’ll only be carrying-on!

NATURALS IN PARIS (#thashhhhhcray)

I’m uber super jazzed to announce that NATURAL SELECTION IS GOING TO PARIS!!!!  Woot woot!  On March 28th in just a couple teeny weeny short weeks, I’m headed across the pond with my amiga Miss Felicia Leatherwood for a pair of natural hair workshops in London and Paris.  As y’all know, you don’t have to ask me twice to hop on a plane in the name of naturaldom, but this Euro-trip is actually very special to me.

 

During college, I spent six months studying abroad in a town in Southern France called Toulouse.  Once I found out I was accepted into the program, before doing anything else, even telling my family that I was headed abroad, I hopped on the computer and googled “relaxer salon france“.  At the time, this preoccupation with keeping my hair straight was obviously par for the course.  Every seven weeks during my stay abroad I religiously made the 7 hour trek from Toulouse to Paris to get my relaxer fix.  The word natural was nowhere near my French or English vocabulary.

I loved my time abroad in Toulouse and it was a time of a lot of learning and growth for me, but I very much associate my time in Paris  with that of getting a relaxer. The opportunity to go back and promote natural hair education and knowledge is an amazing chance to not only bring things full circle for me, but also to share my experience and journey on a global level in a place that means a lot to me.  From what I know of Paris and other places abroad, the natural hair community is not as large as it is here in the states where we have oodles of products, meet-up groups, blogs, and celebs championing our cause.  Sure there are places to get products and the workshops, but I am really excited to be joining one of the best in the business for the workshops abroad to create this special experience!

If you’re abroad, please join us for these events.  Here are links to the event pages in London and Paris.

I’ll be doing some serious documentation of the adventures abroad as I prepare for the trip, travel the 15 hours to get there from the West Coast (!!!!!!), meet naturals abroad and learn their stories.

AUSSI pour vous qui parlez Francais de la France ou d’ailleurs, je vais parler beaucoup en Francais au sujet de cet aventure!  J’adore la France et je suis ravie de faire votre conaissance bientot en tant qu’une femme avec les cheveux naturelles!

I promise I will not make TOO many Jay-Z/Kanye references in relation to this trip to Paris, but I really cant help but share this amazing comic:

 

ahahahahahahahhahaahahhaa!  A BIENTOT!!!!

Loving Your Hair with Natural Care Workshop– Sneak Peek!

Last month I had the pleasure of attending two of stylist Felicia Leatherwood’s Loving Your Hair with Natural Care workshops in the Virgin Islands!  It’s a truly phenomenal experience in which she drops serious natural hair care knowledge and attendees finally – FINALLY – get to have all of their burning questions answered by an expert.  (You know you have a few!  We all do!)

 

Back in August, Felicia took the workshop across the pond to London where she was welcomed by over 200 British naturals for the event.  One of the attendees runs a UK-based site and Youtube Channel called Gidore Hair and asked me to share a video with you of the event.  I am thrilled to do so because it just gives you a taste of what the whole experience entails and I want to encourage you to attend a workshop if one ever rolls through your town!
Continue reading

Internatural: Bly (UK)

I first saw Bly Richards on stage at the San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Fest two years ago when he and his group Plague lit up the theater with their UK-bred style of hip hop moves.  

But its not his dance moves that we’re here to discuss today…oh no no no my friends, it’s obviously his hair.  When I first saw Bly perform, his head was all braided up into a slick set of cornrows, but this 1/2 Jamaican + 1/2 Scottish dancer has one of the most fabulous heads of curls I’ve ever seen.  I got the chance to catch up with him and ask him about his hair and came up these three facts about Bly’s hair:

  • Bly has thinks cornrows hurt as much as I do, that’s why he doesn’t wear them anymore.  ”I’ve got a delicate head,” he says.
  • He finds that his hair is a huge attention grabber.  ”People are always touching the curls…quite annoying,” he says.
  • He uses Sof’n'Free, a UK-based product line

Ok, enough of me jabbering…let me let these curls speak for themselves!!

Continue reading

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...