All Voices Matter: locs and love

In+her+revival+of+the+weekly+column%2C+All+Voices+Matter%2C+staff+reporter+Sydney+Bishop+offers+her+take+on+various+social+and+cultural+issues.

Aden McClune

In her revival of the weekly column, All Voices Matter, staff reporter Sydney Bishop offers her take on various social and cultural issues.

By Sydney Bishop, Liberty High School - TX

If you would’ve told me two years ago that I would have dreads right now, I would probably laugh in your face. The mere thought of a permanent hairstyle back then would make me break a sweat. Candidly, my hair has always been such a large part of my self expression since before I could even do it myself. 

When I was young, people always had their hands in my hair. My mom would even warn me before I saw certain relatives, “don’t let them play in your hair, you know they’ll want to because it’s so beautiful.” It was always interesting how I was constantly reminded of how beautiful my hair was by my Black counterparts, and how fascinating it was to my white counterparts. 

Back then I would wear styles made up of several ponytails decorated with little bows and barrettes, afros that doubled my head size, cornrows and braids that decorated my head in intricate patterns, the list goes on. I often reminisce on how I never had to worry about how palatable my appearance would be, or being too young to care.

It wasn’t until my adolescence that my hair started to become a chore. My largest complaints were about how coarse and thick it was, and how it had an awkward length that didn’t quite reach my back but surpassed my shoulders. I would struggle to mimic the hairstyles of my straight-haired counterparts and began to resent my appearance when I failed. 

In the midst of these internal struggles I began to take up more intense extracurriculars like drill team, which required me to have long barrel curls that I couldn’t achieve every week without damaging my hair. I turned to protective styles such as box braids, and the costs would pile up. I wouldn’t say that I still resented my hair during this time, as I didn’t have time to resent or embrace it. It became something I simply put away when it wasn’t appropriate for the occasion, like an accessory. 

My research on locs began as recreational, the algorithm on my frequented social media apps would should me someone with them and I’d stop to listen. I first learned a lot about the culture surrounding them, and how “dreads” is a dead term coined from appropriation and racism. My research continued for years, and I would lightly entertain the passing thought; “what if I got locs?” but never for long enough to take action. This was until I got what I believe to be a sign. 

I got a Tik Tok on my “for you” page in which the message was pretty clear. In big letters “THIS IS YOUR SIGN TO LOC UP.” During the video, a woman showcased her long copper brown starter locs and I fell in love. I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do. 

Nothing has strengthened my self love more than locking my hair has. When I first began my loc journey with coils, it was a pivotal one. The locs had to go through the budding stage where they swell, get frizzy and the coil is loose at the root. At first I struggled with my hair not being “put together” or acceptable. But if it weren’t for this stage, I wouldn’t have challenged my beliefs of what defines acceptable for my appearance.

Looking back now when my locs are more mature and neat looking, I love them now just as much as I love how they looked back then. I’ve dismantled the framework in my mind that tells me my hair is too frizzy or too coarse to be beautiful. I’m now a firm believer that black hair isn’t meant to be burned off or pulled every which way in order to be seen as decent to an ignorant eye, it’s meant to be nurtured for how it grows and flourish.

I walk around now and take notice of all my fellow locked individuals. Our locs represent a direct display of our comfort in our culture and Black identity. Where some might say “dreads” are dirty and unkept, we are proud of our locs and the beauty we perceive in this hairstyle despite the opinions of anyone else.

Every loc journey is different, and I have such an appreciation for those who share theirs. If someone hadn’t done the same for me, I would be a completely different person today. This is why I share mine, and how locs are more than just a hairstyle I can’t remove, they’re a journey and a constant reminder of my culture and self love. 

This story was originally published on Wingspan on September 22, 2021.