Nothing New to New York

Nothing New to New York by Natawnya Yarbrough


Blogs, natural hair forums, meet ups galore; it seems like everywhere you look these days there’s something going on with natural hair. Target, Walmart, and every corner beauty supply store have entire aisles filled with natural hair products. Each week I run to the store with glee anticipating some new concoction that will give me that perfect curl or hair milk that will detangle my tresses. Most of the people I know are new to this natural hair phenomenon. I’m on the east coast, below Philly, so it seems fresh and new for me…but New York folk have been doing this natural “thang” for a while.


Whether it’s a bountiful twist out or locs to the earth, the folks in the five boroughs of New York once again have been leading the trends of natural hair for years. New Yorkers have that certain type of confidence that when others folded under pressure and ran to the stores to crab the conk’, New Yorkers just reached for their picks and fluffed their fros.The natural hair sensation is like old news to New Yorkers.


New York is about being authentic. Many moons ago, Spike Lee took the black power baton and kept the movement going with “Do the Right Thing” and “School Daze.” The scene in “School Daze” that illustrated the natural vs. relaxed/weaved hair girls would forever solidify the importance of hair in our community. This native New Yorker put our hair issues on the big screen and gave us an opportunity to discuss it with a little humor. The Afrocentric/Power to the People community had a cinematography leader and their place in the world was still safe.


Now of course there weremany New Yorkers whoenjoyed relaxed hair styles, however, the free spirited, “I won’t conform to the man” type of sista, still had a place where her voice and look would be embraced. There were even many hip hop artists in the early 90’s that supported the Afrocentric movement. Famous native New Yorkers like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Queen Latifah all wore “black medallions, no gold” and their videos were laced with dancers who donned the symbolic African nation colors of red, black, and green. While the rest of the nation shunned away from embracing this neo-afro movement, New York kept it safe and tucked into several creative spaces to preserve it for when the masses were ready.


Thankfully the streets of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had enough fortitude to carry the natural hair movement until the rest of us caught on again. Although DC, Atlanta, Philly, and maybe even California had representatives for the natural hair community, something about New Yorkers suggested more pride and acceptance of hair diversity. Theirlocs and natural tresses didn’t have to hide under weaves and other masks. If the job wasn’t’ accepting of the hair, the person created a job and space for “the hair”. That’s when we got the spoken word movement that birthed Jill Scott and nurtured Erykah Badu. New York made sure to keep a place open for women with natural hair in our society and for that New York…I am grateful.