Although the disparity between Black lives and non-black lives taken by law enforcement has been an issue for some time, 2014 was a year that catapulted the issue onto the world’s stage. Demonstrations took place around the globe protesting the killing of unarmed Blacks by law enforcement across the United States. New movements were formed, spearheaded by everyday people who before 2014 would have never considered themselves activists. One of those movements was Naturals4Change. I spoke with the founder of Naturals4Change, Natasha Gaspard, and we discussed the marriage between natural hair advocates and those who believe black lives matter.
According to Natasha, the marriage is obvious.
We’re naturalistas but we’re mothers, we’re sisters, we’re daughters and we’re black, all of African descent affected by the loss of our loved ones, so I decided to post this question.
What was the question? “What can WE do?” And the response was tremendous.
People were emotional. They were ready for something like this. They were DMing (direct messaging on Instagram) me like ‘if you wanna start something I’m with it’. It’s been a snowball effect.
For those who think this is about hair. You couldn’t be more wrong. Natasha says it’s about using the strength of the natural hair community to raise awareness and address the underlying issues.
It’s seems like it’s about a hair style but as black women we know it’s deeper than that. There are internal issues. There is texture shaming, kids being sent home from school because of their hair. These are issues that need to be addressed as well but they weren’t being discussed at natural hair conferences and I found myself disappointed.
A lot of naturalistas are mothers, wives and business women who may not have the time to protest, march or write op-eds but want to be apart of something that they feel connected to. Admitting that there is a problem and bringing awareness seems simple but it’s activism.
Anybody can be an activist…sayin I’m fearful, I don’t want to be alienated at my job, by family and friends because of my natural hair.
Women have identified with that and the support has been amazing. Although the impact has been immediate, Natasha says the creation of Naturals4Change was a long time coming. She just took small steps until everything came full circle.
Identify what you’re passionate about and partner with others who have strengths that you don’t have. If you’re not ready to partner just take small steps. I had never protested before but I took that step and I was hooked lol so a small step can get you started. Read books, attend seminars. Knowledge is empowering.
I asked Natasha if adding a second issue to champion for was challenging. I mean being a natural in 2015 is hard enough. Her answer was clear. The issues are one in the same.
I feel like it’s the same issue. It’s so intertwined. Natural hair being depicted in a negative light, blacks being depicted in a negative way…The same fear and misconception behind wearing natural hair is the same history, the same imagery and the same misconception that is behind the loss of black lives.
An example of that is the recent controversial comments made by E! correspondent Guiliana Rancic about actress Zendaya Coleman’s faux locs during the network’s red carpet coverage of the 2015 Academy Awards. Rancic said that Zendaya’s faux locs made her “feel like she smells like patchouli oil and weed.” Zendaya’s choice to wear her faux locs on the red carpet was a brave one and one that Natasha believes adds to the landscape of celebrating ourselves.
That is part of our mission. The acceptance of natural hair around the world. Who says that naturals hair can not be on the red carpet? I believe that the natural hair community is great because we are celebrating ourselves.
Join the new Naturals4Change campaign #ChangeLooksLike! The campaign builds on their Black Lives Matter/New Year No Resolution campaign by inviting the community to share their ideas on what real change looks like. Share your idea of change by posting a selfie on Instagram holding a sign stating your solutions using the hashtag #ChangeLooksLike. You may even be featured in their next PSA video!