St. Clair Detrick-Jules is a recent Brown University graduate who seeks to merge Academia and activism in her work that centers on immigration justice, women’s rights, and Black liberation.
An award-winning filmmaker, photographer, and now published author, in her newest book titled My Beautiful Black Hair: 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood, the D.C. native illustrates an important piece of Blackness, of Black womanhood through a multi-generational, even historic lens.
In the Foreword, St. Clair writes of how her natural hair journey started when she was twenty years old. She details how going and staying natural re-connected her with the hair rituals she and her grandmother would do together when St. Clair was a child. Though in adulthood, St. Clair had to take her hair matters into her own hands.
Like many Black girls who have been conditioned to view their natural hair as unkept and undesirable, St. Clair had to unlearn the negativity associated with our hair texture over time. And (re)learn of all the value that can come from returning our pressed and silked hair to its natural state.
Ultimately, the result of St. Clair’s accomplishment in educating herself on how to care for her hair and embrace her natural hair texture is My Beautiful Black Hair. When St. Clair and I spoke, she noted her little sister Khloe—who also has a page dedicated to her—was a big inspiration in publishing her book. In our conversation, St. Clair describes how Khloe was self-conscious about her afro at only 4-years-old. To rectify her sister’s growing insecurity, St. Clair sought to remind her of her beauty through words of affirmation.
Although as many Black girls and women alike know, it unfortunately takes more than encouraging words from family members to reverse internalized misogynoir. Thus, St. Clair wanted her book to be a reminder to her sister and Black women from any walk of life that you’re hair—however you choose to style it— is inherently worthy.
This last point is why I felt drawn to My Beautiful Black Hair. Like the Black women who are illustrated throughout the book and like the Black women who are not, I have my own natural hair journey and it wasn’t easy. Growing up in a predominantly white/non-Black city and going to predominantly white/non-Black schools also caused me to be insecure in my 4c curl pattern.
So I began relaxing my hair at the early age of eight and didn’t stop until I was in college when I attended an HBCU for the first time.
There, I saw others who looked like me and was then able to appreciate the beauty in my hair as well as the roots that connect all Black people to our hair, our lineage, and our history. I’ve been natural for four years now. And outside of the bubble I grew up in and with more self and social awareness, it’s hard now to see why I hadn’t gone natural sooner.
The awakening I had while attending my HBCU will hopefully be the same experience for Black female readers while digesting My Beautiful Black Hair. Alongside every anecdote, is a photograph of the writer featured in this project, rocking different lengths and textures of their beautiful natural hairstyles.
In their notes, these women describe finding their confidence and their personhood. They describe the process of decentering eurocentric beauty standards and loving their Blackness more intimately. But ultimately they sought to give themselves a chance. All of which will undoubtedly help readers see the potential and significance of unconditionally loving your Black hair.
Admittedly, taking the natural hair plunge after years of white society telling you to tame it isn’t easy. But learning to love yourself and your natural kinks in the process of going natural makes the journey well worth it.
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