THE BLOG

Dreadlocks: Beautiful and Spiritual or Hideous and Unsanitary?

06/26/2014 10:22 am ET | Updated Aug 26, 2014
  • Ama Yawson Author of Sunne's Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God's Gift

Let's be honest, many people view dreadlocks as "dreadful". There are historical accounts that the term "dreadlocks" originated as derogatory term for the hair of Rastafarians in Jamaica because the upper classes who wished to suppress the Rasta movement believed that the Rastas and their hair were disgusting, frightening and dreadful. Despite evidence that locked hair was worn in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and that locks are prevalent on both the African and Asian continents among the Maasai, Himba, Hamar and Sadhus, among others, locks are still sometimes viewed as faddish and rebellious. Further, the misconception that all methods of locking consist of not washing hair leads many to think of locks as unsanitary. In reality, many methods of locking require washing the hair, combing the hair is what is forbidden. Given these facts, it is not shocking that people with locked hair often fall prey to hair-bullying. Last year, little Tiana Parker was expelled from the Deborah Brown Community School for wearing locks and earlier this year, the U.S. Army banned female soldiers from wearing locks.

I sincerely hope that change is on the horizon. Locks are a tried and true method of safely maintaining and growing long afro-textured hair. Locked hair does not require combing and excessive combing is what often causes hair breakage, especially for those with kinkier hair textures. The stigma associated with locked hair is a major barrier with respect to encouraging many women with kinky hair to eschew toxic chemical straightners and grow their own long natural hair. Niyya Tenee, the founder of Locs Revolution, is on a mission to uplift the image of locked hair and as part of that mission she is promoting Loc Appreciation Day on June 28, 2014. Please read my interview with Niyya Tenee below.

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Niyya Tenee (Courtesy of Niyya Tenee)

AY: What inspired you to create Locs Revolution? 

NT: I created Locs Revolution because I felt that there was underrepresentation of locs as part of the Natural Hair Movement. I found that even among other naturals there are a lots of misperceptions. Thus, I founded Locs Revolution with the mission to erase the social stigma of wearing "dreadlocks" through education, celebration and support. 

AY: What is your view of locks with respect to their beauty, spirituality and cleanliness?

NT: I love everything about locs because locs represent our hair in it's most natural state. Contrary to what some may think, locs don't require any hair products. So from a  cleanliness perspective locs can be much "cleaner" than the hair of the average loose haired natural because less products go in the hair. All you need to loc your hair is time and water. The styling options are endless and locked styles are artistry that reflect not just the natural beauty and versatility of hair but also our innate cultural creativity. Further, embracing 100 percent of your natural self tends to have a spiritual effect. Many people will often find that even if they think that they are installing locs as a hairstyle, their hair journey becomes a spiritual journey.

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Niyya Tenee (Courtesy of Niyya Tenee) 

AY: Please explain the genesis of Loc Appreciation Day?

NT: Loc Appreciation Day was founded in 2011 by a youtuber called QoChemist. The moment of Loc Appreciation Day primarily existed on social media. In June 2013 I decided to host the first Loc Appreciation Day event in NYC because while the power of social media is great I believe there is no substitute for live human interaction. Since my NYC event in 2013 I have worked with groups and organizers in a number of cities to help facilitate meetups and event is in several locations.

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Loc Appreciation Day NYC Flyer (Courtesy of Niyya Tenee)

AY: What are your goals for Loc Appreciation Day?

NT: While there are many aspects of Loc Appreciation Day, my goal is to see a Loc Appreciation Day Meetup or event in every major city in the world. The Loc community is out there. It's all just about promoting unity and solidarity among people. 

AY: Please give us the when, where and how's of how people can celebrate Loc Appreciation Day?

NT: Loc Appreciation Day falls on the fourth Saturday, in June each year. It is a community driven activity and people can get involved but by participating in Loc Appreciation Day collaboration videos, submitting for the logo contest or buying apparel,  hosting or attending a event or coming up with their own fun activity to celebrate the beauty of locs.

AY: What do you think are the obstacles with respect to locs being celebrated everyday and by everyone?

NT: The primary obstacle in promoting the celebration of locs are the various misperceptions around what it means to wear locs. When a person with locs is seen their appearance evokes a world of assumptions about their religious beliefs, their diet, their political stance, hygiene, etc. People first have to move past their negative thoughts before they begin to celebrate.  

AY: What role do you believe locs play within the natural hair movement?

NT: Locs play a very unique role in the natural hair movement for a few reasons. Historically, locs have held a very a strong spiritual significance, from the Sadhus of Nepal to the Rastafari on the hills of Pinnacle.  Locs have always been the next level of natural. You can't have a natural hair movement without locs.

AY: Insofar as Loc Appreciation Day is about accepting oneself and celebrating all of one's physical, spiritual, intellectual and creative gifts, I am all for it! Like the character Sunne in my book, Sunne's Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God's Gift, many people with locks have to overcome negative misperceptions and bullying. Let's hope that Loc Appreciation Day will help people with locks overcome and emerge victorious.

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