World Afro Day: Three generations from North West discuss relationship with their hair

  • Video report by Granada Reports Journalist Lucille Brobbey.

A family of three different generations from South Manchester spoke to each other about their experiences of wearing their natural hair on the fifth anniversary of World Afro Day.

World Afro Day, which runs alongside the Big Hair Assembly, is an occasion celebrating afro hair, culture and identity.

The natural hair movement encourages black men and women to embrace their natural afro textured hair. It became popular in the 1960s during the civil rights movement in the United States and became popular again in the 2000s.

Heather is the grandma of Lyshae and Danielle is Lyshae's mum.

What generations are they from?

Heather is a Baby Boomer and said that as a teenager, her generation went through phases when it came to their hair.

Heather said: "My generation as a teenager - well that was a long time ago - we went through phases.

"We had the afro hair, then we had relaxed hair, then we had extensions and then it was back to relaxed hair again. As a teenager I swapped and changed."

"To be different was to be abnormal, so you went with the flow - whatever everyone else is doing you do."

Danielle is a Millenial - also known as Generation Y. She said that in her high school, during the 90s, most people went through a phase of chemically straightening their afros.

She said: "When I was a teenager, everybody had relaxers. Even sew-in and glue-in weaves. Rarely, you would see people with natural hair."

Lyshae is a teenager who is part of Generation Z who are known for being social media savvy.

She thinks her generation are more in-tune with their natural hair.

"Because we have social media and the internet we can Google different styles to wear and I feel like we appreciate our hair more.

"The other generations didn't really have a clue about it, but we have more knowledge now because we have the styles, we have the products and accessories."

What is a sew-in or glue-in weave?

What is a relaxer?

  • A relaxer is a a lotion or cream that is used by people with tightly curled and afro-textured hair to chemically straighten their hair.

  • It works by permanently breaking down the keratin bonds in your hair - this means after the process, the hair would not revert back to curly.

  • Some people see it as an easier way of managing their hair.

The trio answered questions (Q) and statements (S) all about their hair: 

Q: What is your first memory of your hair?

Danielle said: "When I was about five years old, I would have single twists and I would have those really hard bubbles that we would have at the end of our twists and they would rattle when you were walking - and slides on the end.

Heather said: "My earliest memory is my sisters cursing me for having to comb my hair. I think they used to purposely used to plait my hair the way I didn’t like it.

Lyshae said: "My first memory of my hair was just going to school with like a massive puff on the top of my head and everyone kept trying to touch it, but I also had those rattly bubbles sometimes depending on the hairstyle my mum did."

S: ''I was taught by my parents to love my hair''

Danielle said she wasn’t taught to love her hair in its natural state when she was younger, but she got older, she started to embrace it in. One of the reasons she mentioned was about setting a good example for her daughter Lyshae.

Heather agreed that she didn't teach Danielle to love her hair when she was younger and said it was easier to manage Danielle's hair when it was relaxed.

She said: "Relaxing it was easy as far as I was concerned. My was relaxed, relax her hair, then you wouldn’t have to plait it all the time. It was just a bobble or a pony tail or whatever and go.

S: “I would feel comfortable wearing my afro to work.’’

Danielle said: "When I went for my job interview, at the time, I deliberately changed my hair because I knew I was going for an interview. So yes, I have changed the way I wear my hair to make people feel more comfortable unfortunately."

Although there are no laws prohibiting afros in the workplace, many people still fear employers will view the style as unprofessional. 

Danielle's mum Heather said: "I wear it for me. I am professional. Like I say people make comments, however, I where it however I wear it."

Lyshae: "I remember I went to school once with my hair out and I remember people kept trying to touch me or saying I look like I got attacked by a hairdryer and that was just too much for me to deal with.

"But I feel like once I leave school I’ll be able to fully embrace my natural hair."

JT2 Hair Salon in South Manchester said that in the last decade they have found that more of their clients are embracing their natural hair:

Receptionist and Hair Stylist Elise said: "We hardly do any chemical procedures anymore. A lot of the clients that used to have weaves or relaxers, perms, they’ve gone natural, they’ve got braids.

She also says that people with naturally curly hair that prefer to straighten their hair shouldn't feel like they can't: