Alva James-Johnson

Alva James-Johnson: Learning to love my hair

Growing up, I had thick, woolly hair - the type that curled up so tightly it required a mother’s tough love to straighten it out.

So like most black women of my generation, I have vivid memories of the hot comb sizzling through my kinky coils as a little girl.

By seventh grade, the temporary straight look was just too much trouble, and I graduated to chemical perms, which allowed me to wear my hair relaxed without having to worry about ruining my "do" in the rain.

I never got into weaves, but many black women did, allowing them to fit more easily into American society.

But somewhere along the way I began questioning why I was going through so much trouble to change the hair that God gave me. Why couldn't I just sport my natural hair and still be beautiful?

So 26 years ago, I cut my hair into a Nefertiti hairstyle, which at the time was a trend among some black women.

The inspiration had come from my older sister who began wearing dreadlocks against the wishes of my parents and other relatives. Some saw her locks as a form of rebellion, but I saw them as symbols of liberation.

Since then, I have been on a journey of self-discovery, learning more about my hair and all the wonderful things it can do.

For years, I kept it short and natural, even wearing it on my wedding day, a big achievement in my book. Later, I let my hair grow out and wore double-stranded twists.

After my daughters were born, I combed their hairs the same way, hoping they would learn to appreciate their kinky strands. I kept their heads free of perms and weaves, allowing their hair to grow naturally.

So far, the strategy seems to have worked. Each of the girls has a head full of healthy thick hair, which allows them to be more versatile.

All three of us have begun flat-ironing our hairs now and then, but the girls seem just as happy wearing twists and other natural styles.

And not once have they asked for a perm or weave.

Yet, it hasn't been easy going against the tide. We're still bombarded with societal messages that say straight hair is better.

Even a natural-hair enthusiast like me is sometimes tempted to succumb to the pressure. And I'm sure the girls have struggled with similar feelings.

It helps that natural hairstyles are becoming more popular, even in the professional arena.

There are also a lot more products on the market for Afro-centric hairstyles.

Just this week I tried a few new products and showed up at work with what looked like a big Afro.

The natural hair revolution is finally here, and I'm loving it!

Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.