A local hair stylist organized a bus trip to attend the World Natural Hair Show in Atlanta and I initially had no intentions to go. At the last minute, I was swayed. I won't go into the details of how the trip went down but I will have to re-think joining such a caravan in the future. Having said that, on to the hair show. I actually only attended the first day of the event and even then I only did a walk through of all the vendors. Well, I missed some great t-shirt vendors as it was so congested and overwhelming. More importantly, I was not pleased with some of the other vendors I did encounter.
There was a disproportionate amount of attention given to dreadlocks as there were products, hair accessories, and styling demos abundant. Meanwhile, there was little available in the way of styling and general maintenance education on "loose" natural hair. This was odd as there were far more attendees without dreads than with. It's very telling on where the styling and hair care industries are in their perception and approach to natural hair. It seems that the trajectory consistently finds its way back to straightening the hair and excessive product use and the only hair considered truly natural is that which is dreadlocked. One attendee and traveling companion witnessed a booth where loose natural hair was being flat ironed. Most of us bemoaned the presence of Asian beauty suppliers hawking products and tools with little to do with natural hair. There were even vendors pushing long, silky hair weaves. Even still, there were numerous product lines like Uncle Funky's Daughter and Miss Jessie's to give the product junkies a major fix. Some of the reps for these product lines were purported to be lacking customer service or just plain rude. But again, what concerns me most is all of the vendors who were not there with good intentions. This can be also be attributed to the organizers being part of the capitalist machine. It was for all intents and purposes a commodities fest. One of which I did patronize. I got an "I (heart) being black" tee from the company of the same name and two hair accessories from my already favorite, Tomoka's Twists who's owner/ creator is just as sweet in person as online.
I even got a chance to chat in the hotel lounge with a gentleman who was involved in the creation of this event and,well, pending the manifestation of some exciting plans he has, I'll be sharing a bit of that conversation at a later time. I know that seems quite cryptic, but trust me on this one.
I and several others have come to the conclusion that many of the natural hair stylists simply lack real training on caring for natural hair. Many of them still use the same products, tools, and methods meant for maintaining straight hair. They aren't necessarily to blame as they've been trained and continue to be by those who learned in hair schools or the like to work predominantly with straight hair and chemical treatments. This just isn't what we're looking for and it just won't work so, many of us choose to forego stylists. This is evident from the high usage of Youtube by those making the tutorials and those watching. This natural hair show reflects that same discrepancy in education because at its helm is a professed natural hair stylist.
A journey that began for me fifteen years ago and seems to be culminating in a massive movement deserves an event with the purest of intentions. Until that comes, I have no problem operating grassroots--as I have all these years--educating, supporting, and loving natural hair one head at a time.