The Battle of the Hair Nap….Nappy is Not A Bad Word!

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“Take The Kinks Out of Your Mind, NOT Out of Your Hair!”
-The Honorable Marcus Masiah Garvey

By Doniece Leshore

History has a way of repeating itself, especially if the bad is not challenged and the good not embraced. (Ferrell) From the time the black woman set foot in America through today she has grappled with the troublesome issue of how to care for her hair, to what textures and styles are acceptable.By the hundreds, black women are releasing the use of chemicals, pomades and straighten comb/irons trying not to embrace their natural coily, kinky, nappy hair texture.  Oh, Do I hold my tongue from saying nappy or should I be okay with saying I’m happy to be nappy?

The word nappy used in the context relating to a black woman’s hair creates much debate and negative emotions. Women, black women in particular, battle with the word nappy because it was once used to address slaves. Saying someone’s hair is curly is viewed as positive but saying it’s nappy is negative. They both mean the same thing. Words only have the power that we give them. Nappy is not a bad word!
“In its natural state, woolly, kinky, nappy hair acts as an antenna that pulls in the electrodes in the air around you. This increases the electrical activity around your brain. Your brain and the central nervous system generate 10 watts of electricity and operate on electrical impulses. Your coiled hair draws in the electro-magnetic activity and magnifies it. Theoretically, meaning more brain power, more intuitiveness and calculation. Nappy carpets and surfaces create more static electricity because they pull in more static.” (McCain) Therefore, the nappier the hair—the more the electricity—the more the electricity—The more the brain power! Nappy /’Napi/. The first recorded use of nappy in the noun form was in 1705, in the Oxford English Dictionary. It was referred to as ale or beer. Another form of nappy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is an adjective defined as “of cloth: having a nap, downy”.  In the Miriam-Webster it’s defined as “having many tight bends or curls”.

In Australia, it’s diaper
In Britain, it’s a diaper
In America…it’s a shame

I used to hate being called nappy-headed growing up, but I’m in love with who I am and no one can take that love away from me.

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Most Outstanding Award Winners for ‘Let’s Talk About Hair’ Symposium

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Casarae L. Gibson (English) and Kadari Taylor-Watson (American Studies) won the Most Outstanding Award for their project titled, “Domesticating Blackness: Black Hair, Citizenship, and the Politics of Respectability at the first annual “Let’s Talk About Hair”: An Interdisciplinary Symposium. Gibson and Taylor-Watson’s multi-media presentation examined the political role hair played in defining how black women represented themselves as full-citizens and expressing femininity. One way to gain that status, they contend was to alter the hair texture in order to appeal to American civic and social institutions. In celebration of their win, the two graduate students were awarded $1000 and a certificate. Gibson and Taylor-Watson were most appreciative of receiving the award from the Black Cultural Center and the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. Their research was a personal reflection on the historical understanding of Black womanhood and identity.

The two scholar-activists are very happy that people recognized their scholarly contribution. Most importantly, they were appreciative of the many listeners from various ethnic, class, and gendered backgrounds who listen to their project openly, asking provocative questions, and overall being committed to learning about Black female identity and African American History.