Growing up as a young Black girl, our childhood memories of having our hair braided are pretty similar.
The sitting down between our mothers/ aunt’s/ homegirl/ friend of the family’s legs for hours until our butts began to numb and sometimes, we were given a cushion to ease our uncomfortability. The process is something of a passage of rights for every young Black and Brown girl. If we moved our heads too often, sometimes we’d have our heads forcefully placed back into position and every now and again, feel the back end of the combs against our scalps and our “stylists” began to lose patience. At times, depending on the style – you’d be sitting for days while your hair was being braided – stopping only to eat and go to the bathroom or just to walk around and stretch your legs.
As a teen, I remember staying up all night, consuming cups of Cola for the caffeine to keep me alert as I carefully unpicked my braids. A tedious task. Braiding is more than a style. It’s a part of the Black experience.
ELLE’s “Braided: An American Hair Story” documentary explores the history of braids and its appropriation in American culture. Lupita Nyong’o Young M.A, Ayana Bird, Lacy Redway and Vernon Francois all weigh in.