On Saturday the 8th March the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. It was also International Woman’s Day where thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.
This was the day I headed down the Southbank where the Woman of the World Festival was taking place. My role was to take part in the panel talk entitled ‘Weaves vs Natural? The Politics of Afro Hair’. Afterwards I was to co-host a Natural Hair Meet up alongside Crystal Afro.
Styling my hair was a challenge that morning, I decided to do an updo, it didn’t quite come out as I had planned but this was it in the end.
The speakers on the panel were Crystal Afro of The United Kinkdom, Natalie Clue of Beauty Pulse London, Hannah Pool, Journalist and Author, Sandie Okoro Chief Legal Counsel at HSBC and myself. I was honoured to be in such company. I will admit I wasn’t fond of the title, when I heard it was Weaves Vs Natural I was at home wondering how the debate would turn out. My true feelings on that are it’s not about one verses the other, it’s about personal choice. However when I got there, the discussion wasn’t really focussed on that although it did come up. We talked about our hair experiences, good and bad, Hannah admitted to the geri curl haha. Natalie had very different views to hair than me, she sees her hair as just an accessory, like shoes or a bag and she can change it at anytime, weave, braids, relaxer. Never natural though, when she went to a natural event we wore a curly wig. Sandie, was great, she said that we shouldn’t over think hair, if we go to an interview and we have all our qualifications, if our hair is neat why on earth would that be a factor in us getting a job or not, and being such a senior natural black woman in the corporate world, she should know. Crystal also pointed out that we can’t avoid history or politics when it comes to our hair, an important point I think as we all know why straightening our hair was invented. I was asked if I thought hair could ever be healthy in relaxer. I said, very politically that for me it wasn’t. Like I said, interesting conversation, it should be online soon.
When the panel had finished we headed on to the next location to set up for the meet up. This was my favourite part of the day.
We laid it out so all attendees would sit around in a big circle. It kicked off with Shaherah Jordan owner of Balanced Busy Bodies and qualified nutritionist sharing her story with us, she has recently combed out her waist length locs (interview coming soon). It was interesting to hear how and why. Then Belinda Raji founder and owner of BeUnique Hair Care (she also has a Youtube Channel) shared hair story. Then since we were in a circle, it gave people the opportunity to share and the whole thing just naturally turned into a wonderful discussion where we shared styling tips, hair care advice, frustrations, myths and more. Everyone took part and everyone felt comfortable in adding something. We even had a little giveaway at the end.
You probably had to be there, but it was so uplifting. If I were to sit here and try and explain to you why I think the meet up was so great I would say that it’s because women are so busy nowadays perhaps we no longer get the time to sit down and just talk. Our friend networks are smaller and perhaps we don’t always feel comfortable sharing problems that we are having. Having an opportunity to do this is important and you can learn so much. Here is what I learnt from the meet up.
* We are all beautiful!
* Natural Hair styling may indeed take a long time when you are new to it, but as you get the hang of it things will be easier
* However, there is nothing wrong with taking that time we owe it to ourselves, call it self love, pampering etc, we deserve to treat ourselves nicely.
*Find your quick ‘go to’styles so that when you need to do your hair for work in the morning it’s a five minute process.
*Relearning the hair care skills we have lost is important now more than ever so that our daughters will grow up able to take care of their hair
*If you gym, never go with your hair loose (for some sweat = crazy shrinkage) braid it or twist it and put on a head tie when it is dry you should have a nice twist out.
There was much more and the feedback was brilliant, with people asking ‘when is the next one’ and when is my next swap meet up? I don’t have the answer to that but I do know that I hope those of you that came will stay in touch.
Attendees to the meet up included
I know I am missing a few links so shout me if you want to be added.
Thank you so much Crystal and Hannah for getting be involved and Shaherah for taking these wonderful pictures and Belinda for sharing her hair story and giving a product for the giveaway.