New documentary explores the difficulties of living with natural Black hair

·3 min read

Dirty. Slave-like. Lazy. Controversial.

Those are some of the things people have been told about their natural Black hair, according to a new documentary now making the rounds in film festival circuits.

And all of it sounds familiar to Saly Davis, who owns LSD: Le Salon Dieppe.

Davis, a member of the Black in the Maritimes panel, told Information Morning Moncton that she has received all kinds of insults about her hair, including it being "very derogatorily compared to pubic hair."

She said that was the most common insult she received as a child.

The 30-minute documentary, entitled Beyond Curls & Kinks and produced by Osas Eweka-Smith, explores the experiences women have had with their natural hair and how it has influenced their lives and self-esteem.

"I have been spoon fed that it's the most hideous type of hair that you could ever have," said Davis.

She said she's even had her hair set on fire — more than once — as a child.

Marcus Marcial, co-founder and co-host of the Black in the Maritimes podcast, said the stories are quite common.

Jessica/Break Apparel
Jessica/Break Apparel

"It's mind-boggling and quite eye-opening," he told Information Morning Moncton. "If you were in our world, you would see it a lot more."

Marcial said he was lucky to grow up in a Black family that cultivated pride in the family's heritage and culture.

Josephine Watson, on the other hand, said she dealt with such insults directed at her hair "with quiet shame."

Watson, a bilingual poet and spoken word artist from Moncton, said she chose theatre so that she could get away from being Black.

Davis said she's been scarred by her childhood experiences.

"You don't recover from this and I think, as a parent now, I am absolutely scarred and terrified to have my children feel the same way about their hair as I did. Because to this day, looking in the mirror is an issue," said Davis.

She said "our hair has been used as a weapon against us."

All three talked about how difficult it is to find barbers and stylists that could cut their hair.

Watson said "I don't do salons." Growing up in Fredericton, she said there simply weren't any salons who knew how to handle Black hair.

Submitted by Josephine Watson
Submitted by Josephine Watson

If she had walked into a salon in her youth, she said everyone would have turned to stare, and say, "Oh my god, I don't know how to deal with this."

Davis said it was easier to just shave off her hair with No. 5 clippers.

She also says cutting Black hair isn't any more work than cutting any other type of hair, yet stylists often charge a hefty premium for Black hair.

"It infuriates me that stylists are doing that type of discrimination in their pricing," said Davis.

And they all agree that people have to stop touching their hair.

"All listeners, everyone, please. Don't walk up to somebody and touch their hair," said Davis.

She said the faux pas is on par with strangers touching a pregnant woman's belly.

"When someone walks up behind me and grabs my hair, my immediate instinct is defensive mode and attack," said Davis.