"Don't Touch My Hair" 

  A Photo Series by Lex Scott Davis 

Photography By Von Jackson

 “A lot of people ask about my hair. Which then usually leads to a question about my nationality. Initially I say “thank you” to the compliments, but then I feel uneasy about answering the questions “what are you mixed with”? I have light brown skin…I have naturally long hair…and I AM African-American; A black girl from West Baltimore. The beauty about Black Women is that we come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Know that being “mixed” is not the only figment of beauty. Sure, historically speaking, there are a plethora of races that make up what African-Americans are today …but I Am A Black Girl. I’m Proud. And I am no better than the next.” - Lex Scott Davis [July 13th, 2012] 

Dating back to a time before barrettes, perms & press, existed The Fro. Before we cared & compared who had “good” vs. “bad” hair. It just was, and so, we allowed it to be. No name-brand products to make it do the things it did, rather just whatever was available from the earth’s soil. It would be a long time before I embraced this raw form. The earliest memories of my hair were not this untamed, wild, & free. My childhood (1990s) consisted of various styles meant to protect, or “tame”, this raw form because, if not, I was picked on for my hair being “too big” or “in the way”. When my hair wasn't done I was afraid of being an inconvenience for the people around me, thus holding down as much of it as I could with my toddler arms extending high over my ears. There are photos of this somewhere in the family vault. At that time, I was the only person in my family with this type of hair so I didn't have many peers who could relate. It was a long time before I embraced the uniqueness and discovered that the only reason I was picked on was because I possessed something seemingly unfamiliar. 

I grew up in the dance community, thus The Bun became familiar to me at an early age as it is a universal requirement in ballet classes. I remember when beauty supply stores started selling doughnut shaped foam and when “Hairagami” was invented and marketed to the straight-strand demographic who needed a little extra help in creating a full shaped bun. I was fascinated by this new device and needed to try it as soon as I could get my hands on one. Well, that didn't work out in my favor seeing as my hair got tangled around the rod and I needed to seek help from one of the older dancers to help me get it out. Honestly, I should have known better judging by the fact that there were only white women advertising the product. It just simply wasn't for Us.

A hairstyle can represent a lot of things: status, religion, culture, ethnicity, etc. The Cornrow, which existed for centuries within different cultures, regained a new meaning in the states during slavery that transpired into what we know of it today. Given its name from the direct reference to the geometric lines (or shapes) of the crops in the cornfields. Transitioning from elementary to middle school, I experienced a bit of a culture shock when I was placed into a predominantly white college-prep school. This was the era of me rocking cornrows, heavily! I will never forget a moment, during the first week of my new school, a young lady asked (while touching, of course) “how do you get the braids stuck to your head?” Bless her heart; I loved her honesty in simply not knowing, however I was still thrown completely off that anyone in the entire world didn't know what a cornrow was! Now, the 6th grade version of myself had to determine whether or not I should be offended or empowered by the idea that now I had the responsibility of educating white students on black culture. By default I became the “cool black friend” they always wanted to invite to their birthday parties. I’m still friends with a few of them till this day.

The word “Bantu” means “people” which is often indirectly used to describe the ethnic groups stretching across southern Africa. It has been said that the Zulu tribe are the original creators of The Bantu Knot, thus also having the nickname “Zulu Knots.” It’s fascinating to me that in my lifetime I have witnessed the idea of “beauty” go from having a stigma on natural women as if it equates to being less beautiful or of lower status, to seeing the fight for acceptance & value of natural beauty dominate the media today. I grew up struggling with acceptance even within my own community. The want for straight-strands and fair skin became a generational handicap as a result of slavery and discrimination. I also find it extraordinary that within our own communities today we have found the beauty in what is uniquely our own, and no longer striving to be something we are not. Although arguably there isn't enough diversity in media, ethnicity has managed to become highly favored and valued more now than ever and we see examples of this everyday within the majority. The gentrification of ethnic cultures and natural beauty. 

The Pineapple; it looks exactly how its described. Its sole purpose is to prevent one from ruining their curls while sleeping, but it’s also a cool style for us naturals. In most cases, and mine especially, its bigger than a church hat, making it difficult for people who walk, sit, or stand behind you to see. In other words, its a bold statement that I often enjoy in a room full of straight-strands. 

Whether your hair is curly, relaxed, colored, twisted, locked, long, or short, own whatever you decide it should be. We have the power of choice when it comes to our appearance in a time where there is less judgement for being uniquely who we are. Nor are we questioned by what we decide to do with what belongs to us. We’ve reached a time where it’s admirable to shamelessly be ourselves rather than try to be anything else because of someone else. Your hair is your crown, where your visions, feelings, soul, and truths are kept sacred. To not touch another persons crown is more than just those words; it is stepping into a museum and respecting the artwork. 

Using Format