Something told me to keep my braids in a little while longer, but I wanted to try this thing called “letting my hair breathe,” which apparently I don’t do often enough. Little did I know, a pandemic would sweep the nation and shut down all beauty supply stores, braiding salons and even limit my options on StyleSeat. Dammit.
Women like me are turning to Instagram Live and social media tutorials to learn how to braid and manage our own hair. I mean, when life gives you COVID-19, make passion twists, right? In an effort to stay indoors and practice healthy social distancing, we can’t just up and go to our local braiding salons to get our edges snatched – literally and figuratively. Because they aren’t deemed essential business, therefore we have to fend for ourselves and if you’re anything like me, you can’t even do a decent braid out.
For a small price of $5, local Detroit hair braider Niani Barracks has created an online class, “A Safe Space For Black Girls That Never Learned How To Braid,” which was made just for me. Hair braiding, marley twisting or cornrowing your own hair is an essential skill set for anyone looking to protect their hair during the trying times of the rona, especially if you don’t have a wig or some clip-ins ready to go for your morning Zoom conference call. Hell, this is a skill I didn’t know I needed until it was too late – I should probably cue up some tutorials, shouldn’t I?
Oftentimes, not knowing could lead to the revocation of your “black card” meaning that you didn’t have the true childhood experience that constitutes you as Black. “Learning to braid can present its own obstacles, too. Not knowing how to braid or how to keep hair healthy is a source of shame for some black women,” Ms. Barracks told the NY Times. “It is like the stereotype that all black people know how to dance; that is not necessarily true.” For anyone reading this, believe me, you’re not alone.”
These are times when I miss sitting between my sister’s legs and having her experiment on my hair — for free. However, because of boundary setting and social distancing practices, with her in North Carolina and myself in New York City, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. If anything has taught me that I don’t know a damn thing about the hair on my head, it’s been COVID-19. Though I’m forced to tend to my own garden, I’m excited to see what flowers will bloom when I’m done raking, sowing and watering. I wonder what protective style I’ll try first.
Learning to braid hair is also great for those beauty salon and barbershop owners looking to expand their clientele by the time that the quarantine is lifted, and a good way for beginners to identify a side hustle during these times of economic stress.
“There were some moments of anxiety when I realized I don’t have another job and that I won’t be making any money,” Niani told The Times. “Everything started shutting down except the bills.”
Sis, ain’t that the truth?
Follow Niani on Instagram @niani_b
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