Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Before We Become Extinct (Authors Interview) Before We Become Extinct (Authors Interview)
Before We Become Extinct (Authors Interview)

How Do I Get the Confidence to Wear My Natural Woolly Hair?
Dogged for centuries, hidden for decades, and seemingly feared, our sisters’ wool has been in bondage to the lie of inferiority for long enough. It’s time to…​#bringbackthewool


EBONYLIFE Magazine talks to sisters Davina and Tracey Okonkwo about their controversial new book Before We Become Extinct, in which they encourage black women to wear their natural woolly hair with confidence.


EL: Davina, can you tell us how the idea for the book all started?


DO: It all started when we cut our hair in 2012. Many sisters, that I later met on the streets, began to ask me, how do you do that? How do you wear your hair with such confidence? We began to realise this is a question that a lot of our sisters have. So we thought, let’s put the answers in a book and show our sisters how they can do this too. Many of them admitted to feeling pressured to hide their hair behind hair pieces, so we wanted to write a book that would empower and free them to be their true selves.


TO: Cutting our hair was definitely an instigator for the book. I think we also just have a natural passion for this topic, because when you return to natural you get lots of different responses. And the more you think about the responses, the more you think about the issue, and the more passionate you become.


EL: You say in the book that the truth about the beauty and versatility of natural hair should be revealed. Why’s this important?


TO: I think it’s important because there has been an exclusion of our beauty from beauty spaces, such as billboards, magazines, TV commercials movies, music videos etc., where you expect to see the beauty of females represented. Every other hair type is represented and celebrated, but the original hair – the woolly hair – doesn’t have a place. Basically, someone’s sprung us a lie that it’s bad, and that’s affected many of our sisters, emotionally, physically and mentally.


A lot of the criticism comes from family members too. This is where it starts in a lot of cases. It has eroded the confidence of many of our sisters, making them feel that everything that’s not woolly is beautiful. This has also sent a message to our brothers, so that now, some of them struggle to see the beauty in woolly hair on women, even though these brothers have the exact same hair!


DO: Exactly, and to add to that, it also affects us spiritually too, bringing in fear. We fear being ourselves. For many of us, being diverse with our beauty now means putting on a hairpiece.


EL: List the strategies women can use to gain the confidence to wear their hair naturally?


TO: One of the strategies is to really think about what’s driving our choices. When we’re looking at different ways to switch up our hair, let’s look within our own race to get ideas for our own natural hair. There’s no point in looking to another race to switch something up, that doesn’t make sense. Secondly, we have to start thinking analytically. Did switching my hair to resemble that of another race get me that promotion? Did it help me achieve my goals? You’ll probably find the answer’s no.


I think the power, of thought is really your freedom. If we think about issues a little more and a little bit longer, we would arrive at the answer. We just have to have the confidence to think it through, and then act on what our thoughts reveal, because we know what we should do.


EL: What are the links between woolly hair, love, lies, rejection and fear, that you talk about so extensively in the book?


TO: A lie has been spun. The biggest con has been to convince black women that something that is so unique, so versatile, so admired as our woolly hair should be covered up and hidden. That lie results in us not loving our Creator because we are saying that what He’s given us isn’t good, and we then seek to hide or change what He’s given us.


Then, when we hide our true look, it makes us even more fearful to be ourselves because the idea of returning to who we are raises all sorts of anxieties. The truth is people often struggle to respect people who try to look like other people, unfortunately. It’s very difficult to convince the outside world that you really love the way you’re made when you’re trying to look like someone else.


DO: What happens then is that the more rejection you get, the more fear you get and you can end up in a horrible spiral. That’s essentially the link between those four factors.


EL: So what you’re saying is that many black women have tried to conform to the mainstream standard of beauty, but if they take a few minutes to think about it, they’ll realise that they’ve gained little; they haven’t gained more respect, or assimilated, unfortunately.


DO & TO: That’s exactly what we’re saying.


EL: Finally ladies, tell us how you both got into creative writing?


DO: I love writing fiction, but when you see a problem in your community and you know you have the power to help, you want to do that. And as someone who has done the whole natural hair journey, this will always be a passionate and important subject to me.


TO: I’ve always been interested in health and wellbeing, especially from a nutritional standpoint. I have a certificate in Cell Level Nutrition, so I understand how the lifestyle choices we make can have either a direct effect on our well-being. That’s the angle I’m coming from when I talk about the health issues. But really like Davina, it’s the passion for this subject that compelled me to write the book.


The book is available as an ebook and paperback from Amazon and all good retailers. Visit www.bwethebook.com for more information about the book and authors.

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