We Are Not Our Hair

Dark African BeautyI am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

These are lyrics from India Arie’s song, I A m Not My Hair. Recall that a third of black women are overweight or obese. Exercise is not part of the lifestyle of most black women simply because of their hair. Anyone who has dated, lived with or been born from a black woman knows the first rule…NEVER GET A BLACK WOMAN’S HAIR WET! This rule has gone too far when it deters black women from working out for fear of messing up their hair. If you think this is a joke just reflect on Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas’ experience. In the last summer Olympics she was the first black woman to win GOLD in the team all-around competitions. Do you think black women in the United States applauded this young woman’s achievement. This young woman who at the age of 14 moved away from her mother to live with a white family of total strangers when other black women won’t cross the street just to do something different. When her name was called she took the podium as her tearful mother and the woman her took her looked on. As she received the time-honored tradition of the gold medal placed around her neck as our anthem rang out the Twittersphere and Facebook were raging from comments from black women about Gabby’s hair. That it was messy and sweaty. Really!

This is not speculation. A survey of 103 black women was conducted at Wake Forest University in October of 2007. The survey revealed that though black women knew and acknowledged exercise is important 40% didn’t because of their hair. I understand that of course. I’ve been an athlete almost my entire life, my hair has survived. Not only has my hair survived it’s beautiful! Yes, it can take some extra work to get looking presentable, but the benefits of exercise far outweigh the effort. We are Queens descended from a people who revered their hair. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory. The irony in this is that hair actually becomes more healthy with exercise and care. ¬†Queens and Pharaohs didn’t let hair care get in the way of ruling. A good portion of our femininity is connected to our hair. I don’t know for sure, but I can guess that Hapshepsut, the first female Pharaoh of Egypt, didn’t sit around fretting about her hair.

There are exercise friendly hairstyles out there. I put my hair in ponytails. This works for me because splitting the hair down the middle allows surface area for moisture and heat to escape reducing the amount of sweat that gets trapped in my tresses. I also notice the more I exercise, the healthier and thicker my hair appears. While our hair is our crowning glory, it shouldn’t stop us from taking care of ourselves. And just so you know…I LOVE my hair. I don’t let just anything go down with my hair.

We are not our hair. If you are someone who is using their hair as an excuse to get your body moving know two things – first, you can have an active lifestyle with beautiful hair and second, Pharaohs and Queens rule, they don’t let something as trivial as hair rule them. Hapshepsut built temples and pyramids…do you think she was worried about her hair. We are not our hair. If you are using this excuse you need to Queen up and bust a sweat!

I’m just keeping it new.

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