As we’re all well aware of, the natural hair movement has become a force to reckon with over the past five years. In a short amount of time the online community has made natural hair a phenomenon that has generated products, campaigns, cultural awareness groups, conferences and a plethora of other ventures. It’s not a game.
One of the leaders of the movement is Nikki Walton, also known as Curly Nikki. The blogger, author and natural hair guru started her site as a way to document her transition from processed to natural hair, with tips and support for women doing the same. The majority of the women featured are African American, but she’s never explicitly said that her site was only for black women.
Recently she posted a feature on Youtube vlogger Sarah, a Caucasian woman who does natural hair videos. And naturally (pun intended), the internet reacted. One of the most visceral reactions came from Jamilah Lemieux, Ebony.com’s controversial senior editor.
In Lemieux’s post “White Women on #TeamNatural? No, Thanks” she details who the natural hair movement is for and why she was offended by Curly Nikki’s post. “When the sacred sanctity of Black Girl Space was violated via the inclusion of a White woman on a natural hair blog, it should come as no surprise that a number of people were disappointed. And I’ll admit, I was one of them,” she said. “I’ve been surprised and disappointed to see how much of the natural hair movement has centered on ‘curly’ hair, when that isn’t hardly the most common hair type among our people.”
Thursday afternoon, Nikki responded to the Ebony.com post:
If women from other cultures are inspired by our stories, I’m cool with that. This means that it will become easier for black women to display their blackness outside of our ‘safe’ black spaces. As far as I’m concerned, the site is doing exactly what I designed it to do- promote the natural hair movement. As for the decision to run the article, it was mine alone. I’m a dope black chick, and so I made the site in my image. This is the main reason why it features mostly other dope black chicks. But, I never gave any thought to excluding anyone.
The site is for black women, and whoever else finds it useful. If you would have bothered to contact me, I could have told you that. For those that do feel a certain way, I don’t think that those views make them racist or somehow wrong. But, I do believe that we need to learn to have this conversation without attacking each other. If you’re concerned about the integrity of this ‘black space’, I would direct you to the thousands of black women that have been featured elsewhere on this site. No really, all you have to do is scroll down.
What I found intriguing about your decision to speak on this matter was the strong sense of entitlement you must have felt to discuss the meaning and purpose of the blog I created. I mean if I understand you correctly, you’re on my side, but only because the site was never for black women anyway? Well, damn…with friends like that, who needs trolls? So, first things first, Jamilah, it’s obvious that you’re mistaken. As it turns out, featuring other ethnic groups does not mean that my blog is not for black women. Just like Ebony.com’s failure to show up for one of my charity promotions doesn’t make Ebony.com any less qualified to promote charities. Put a pin in that. But I’ve been thinking, who really is “here for black women?” Is CN dedicated to serving black women or not? Is Ebony.com dedicated to serving black women or not?
I must admit, I like the folks at Ebony (and Essence, too), especially since you’ve become more natural hair friendly. I do always wonder, however, why our biggest black publications didn’t lead the natural hair charge.
Jamilah, I would like to thank you for bringing to light a very controversial and provoking topic. But, you’ll forgive me if I don’t, right? I and the rest of the community that I fight tooth and nail to represent, would very much appreciate it if you and your contemporaries would talk less and show up more. When you write about subjects that tear down a sense of community while ignoring the work I do to build them up, you remind me of the Pharisees who prayed loud, with many words, not to be holy, but just to be heard.
Both parties make valid points, but the thing history has taught us about movements is that you can never control who identifies with them– but you can call out those who haven’t aided to the cause.
To read the full post go here.