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"Natural Beauties Who Follow My Blog"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"SPOTLIGHT" by Abena

Sisterlocks hair care gains footing, despite price
Sheri Madison Kwarteng/Contributing Writer
Issue date: 3/9/08

One-by-one, Shonta Williams, a resident of northwest D.C., removed the aerosol cans, jars, and tubes of hair care products from her toiletries cupboard, just days after having her hair Sisterlocked last March. Among them were a variety of shampoos, conditioners, oil sheen sprays, and hair dressing oils. She packed them into a box and dumped them into the trash, ridding herself of over $100 in hair care products and over a hundred years of society's Black hair care propaganda. This was a major milestone in her Sisterlocks journey - a journey of self-empowerment that challenged everything she knew about black hair care. "As Black women, we have been taught to use products to keep our hair moisturized," said Williams. "But the Sisterlocks method stresses the importance of keeping the hair care process organic."Shonta made her transition from relaxed to natural hair styles during her grad school years in 1997 after hearing a peer talk about her experience going natural which she described as liberating. "I cut [my] hair … leaving only the new growth that had not been relaxed," said Williams. "For me, it was more about acceptance. I realized I had to accept myself in my natural form." But 10 years after her transition, she still found herself spending an unseemly amount of time and money on maintaining her natural hair twists, which she wore for 10 years before converting to Sisterlocks. After seeing consultant's Sisterlocks, and reading the numerous blogs of women who are now wearing the locks, Williams was sold. "I had never seen Black natural hair so beautiful."Through skillful manipulation, Black women have broadened their hairstyling options overtime. Relaxing, pressing, and hair weaving are just a few methods that allow Black women to enjoy a variety of hairstyles. In its natural state, Black hair is often course, kinky, and difficult to comb. As such, the upkeep can be labor intensive and time consuming, making braids and dreadlocks a very attractive alternative.

Similar to traditional locks, Sisterlocks is also a locking system that forms with the matting of the hair. But unlike other techniques, the Sisterlocks system matts the hair in relatively smaller portions, which in turn, allows for more versatility in styling options. The locks are created with a tool that intertwines small pieces of the hair together that have been separated by a boxed parting system. Because Sisterlocks are created with very few strands of hair, women are still able to enjoy many of the same hairstyles they wore before having their hair locked.Sisterlocks was created and trademarked in 1993 by Dr. Joanne Cornwell, a professor of African-American studies at San Diego State University in California. Dr. Cornwell specifically marketed her hair care system to African-American women because she understood the dynamics of African American hair and cultural expression in the U.S. Her goal was to create a collective sense of comfort and pride in Black hair in its natural state.Since its inception, the Sisterlocks technique has evolved into a multi-faceted business, offering a signature line of hair care products to clients as well as training for those interested in becoming certified consultants. Dr. Cornwell said the rate of growth is accelerating and her soft stats demonstrate just that. "We've been in business for 15 years - it took 10 of those years to establish Sisterlocks as an entity in the natural hair care business," said Dr. Cornwell. "We initially trained eight consultants in our first year, 1993. Five years later, we had trained over 100 consultants. Now, ten years later, we are training an average of 400 people annually.Women who desire to become certified Sisterlock consultants are required to take a 4-day training course facilitated by the Sisterlocks company, which costs $1495 and can be paid in installments. The training course gives the consultants a hands-on locking experience where they can experiment with mannequin heads. "In addition to 30 U.S. states, we are training consultants in Kingston and the Bahamas, and will soon be offering training in France as well," said Dr. Cornwell.

Iverline Hewitt of Silver Spring, MD received her first hair relaxer as a child in Jamaica. According to Hewitt, those who opted to wear natural hairstyles in Jamaica were stereotyped, and as such, the relaxer became an inter-generational tradition that shielded Blacks from socio-economic discrimination in the marketplace. Hewitt continued to relax her hair until she encountered some new hair growth revealing her natural hair texture that she could no longer hide. "At the age of 20 I discovered my hair and fell in love with my own texture. I was so excited about it that I cut off the relaxed hair and let my hair grow out naturally," said Hewitt.Hewitt soon became a fan of natural hair styles, wearing styles such as twists and braids until she was introduced to Sisterlocks at the age of 23 in 1998. After thee years of wearing Sisterlocks, Hewitt became a certified Sisterlocks consultant. Now, in her seventh year of business, her sole source of income is derived from her Sisterlock-client base which is comprised of approximately 70 clients. What Hewitt enjoys most about being a consultants is the opportunity to help others discovery the beauty in their natural hair texture. "I always tell them that the transition is about a lifestyle change," said Hewitt.Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, a resident of southeast D.C., is also an exclusive certified Sisterlocks consultant whose has a client base has extended beyond 45 clients.After years of relaxing her hair, Blackett-Dibinga realized that she could invest no more time or money into her hair after enrolling in a science in foreign service program at Georgetown University. "It just didn't make sense once I went to college," said Blackett-Dibinga. "Money was tight and I was traveling from Georgetown to the Shaw Howard area to get my hair done," Blackett-Dibinga was also becoming more health conscience at the time. "I became a vegetarian and started eating more natural foods and working out," said Blackett-Dibinga. "I also became very concerned about research results that were linking perms to Lupus." By creating a brand and that celebrates African-American cultural identity, the Sisterlocks company has been successful in their mission to combat the stigma that has made Black hair socially unacceptable."What I love most about being a certified Sisterlocks consultant is seeing my clients change their mindset about what is beautiful and acceptable," said Blackett-Dibinga.

2 comments:

So said...

It feels good to fall in love with your texture. I was very young when I got a relaxer and a little more than I year ago I cut it all off with no regrets. I love to see women to be who they are and how God made them. Many Blessings

Chosen Vessel {Abena} said...

Amen and many blessings to you as well :) Thanks for stopping by.