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Do you remember when you decided to return back to natural? Were you scared, ashamed, unprepared for all the negative unsolicited comments and suggestions by worried friends and family members? Some of them were ready to play 'Dr. Njenga' on you, asking you if there was anything going on in your life that was causing you to 'neglect' yourself and outward appearance. Others called together a family meeting, thinking you had joined some cult where you vowed to abstain from combing or washing your hair. ''Are you into art now?'' ''Is this a 'fashion' that's going on? Worried, they tried all means to convince you to 'make' your hair. Funds were raised, bribes were offered, threats were made, all to have you succumb and give up this 'natural hair trend' that you had started following.
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Then one Saturday morning, while heading to the fruit and vegetables section at the supermarket to get some avocados and bananas (because you heard that when you mix them with eggs it will make your hair soft), you notice another one just like you! You both quickly glance at each other's hairs, wondering who was going to make the first move, then cautiously smile at each other and said, ''Hi''. ''You're also natural?'' Finally! The ice is broken! The next thing you know, you've exchanged product and styling tips, You-Tube channels to follow and your telephone contacts. Then came the question, ''Are you on that natural hair group on Facebook?'' Or, ''Do you follow our local bloggers?'' Clueless, you answer that you had no idea such platforms existed locally. Your new-found natural friend assuringly says, ''Don't worry, I'll add you or send a request to admin to add you''. You finally say your goodbyes after taking a few selfies, hugging and laughing, feeling like you've known each other for ages! Then it suddenly dawns on you- this is a sisterhood! If you didn't have natural hair, you would never have said hello, or stopped to talk to a total stranger-about hair!
As promised, your new natural friend found you on Facebook, added you to the group where you found even more 'sisters' like you. There were a few other hundred ladies like you going through the same challenges and trials with their hair, just like you! Here you finally felt at home, opened up and even posted your hair shots-something you would never dare to do on your timeline. Your post, was liked several times, accompanied by some very kind words. Some ladies even offered to meet you for a coffee & chat. Friendships were formed. These were sisters who understood exactly what you were going through. You spent most of your time on Facebook in these groups than you did, posting and chatting with your 'friends'. At least here no one was criticising you. Even when you posted a failed attempt at a wash and go, they still encouraged you and told you that it would get better with time. They freely shared their sources of information and inspiration. And then meet ups were planned.
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At the meet up, you finally met the faces behind the posts on those groups and forums. You were delighted to be among the more 'experienced' naturalistas and carefully watched and listened to their tips. You exchanged contacts with even more sisters and made more friends and potential business partners. Heading back home with your 'goodies', in a shared taxi with one of your new naturalista friend who you found out doesn't live far from your place, you again have that goosebumps moment- this is a community! I'm in the natural hair community!!
With time, you gain confidence, approach naturals on the street, convince a few sisters, cousins and friends to return to natural hair. You are bold enough to enlighten them about the harmful effects of chemicals on our hair and bodies. You start watching what you eat and even take part in all the healthy-eating and work-out challenges going on in the groups. You post religiously to the groups and relish on the amount of likes on your post. ''Next time'', you promise yourself, ''I have to outdo myself.''
The groups start growing larger and larger. More naturalistas are joining the movement and the community is growing fast! Too fast maybe. It slowly begins to feel like everyone wants their voice to be heard. ''Shave that baby's hair'', ''No, find a dermatologist first''. ''Use petroleum jelly. Honey is the best facial scrub, ''Don't touch any product with sulphates and cones!'' ''Use Shea Moisture products'' ''Subaru is the best hair colour''! Confusion! Has it become another tower of Babel? Who should you listen to?
Then the disagreements arose, followed by harsh criticism. Those 'voices' that never comment on any upbuilding post, suddenly become very vocal. They are quick to judge, criticize, all in the name of expressing their freedom of speech. Others tag their friends, and start 'pulling stools' eating popcorns and sipping tea' while indirectly firing up the flames. Before you know it, an innocent post has lost its value. Even though you feel sorry for those involved, there's nothing much you can do. We live in the social networking era. People are quick to throw harsh nasty words and bully timid ones, just because they can hide behind their screens.
Has our natural hair 'community' lost it's value and meaning? Have we become so self-centred, that we have forgotten to be our sisters' keepers? It might look like hundreds of us have finally accepted to return to natural, but the negative perception of wearing natural hair still thrives outside there. There are new sisters who also need some guidance, encouragement and support for themselves or their children. There are numerous employers, workmates, teachers, and even spouses who still think natural hair is ugly and unprofessional. Who will enlighten them?
One thing is for sure, as the swahili saying goes, 'Chombo hakiendi ikiwa kila mtu anapiga makasia yake'- A boat doesn't go forward if each one is rowing his/her own way.
We need to be united. We need to bring back the love that we had in the beginning. It's only hair, you might say, but it's also part of what makes each of us unique. You feel great when someone complements your hair, but it would also put you down, if anyone undermined and insulted you because of your hair. Instead of tearing each other down, let's support and assist one another and let us bring back the love.
Or should we just forget about there ever existing a natural hair community?