AU Students Discuss "The Big Chop"
The “Big Chop” is a phrase that practically every Black woman has become familiar with. Over the past few years, the Natural Hair movement has swept across the black community allowing Black women (and men) to say goodbye to relaxer and hello to their natural hair. Politics and social media has encouraged people to challenge the standards that society puts on them and embrace the characteristics they have that used to be judged or rejected by societal standard. Below are just some of the courageous faces that cut their locs and have decided to embrace their natural hair.
Lauren Money, Freshman, College of Arts and Sciences
“I did a Big Chop in 2015 and cut off a foot of hair,” Money recalls. Standing just over five feet, Money’s curls are in thick braids that land just above shoulder length. “I decided to do a big chop because my hair was getting a little long and I thought it would be easier to manage if it was shorter and I was also looking for a new look because I’ve had long hair all my life and I did hair processing before, when I was younger, and I wanted to cut all of that out,” she explains “And I ended up donating all of that hair.”
Cutting off a large portion of your hair is a difficult transition for many. “I actually started crying when they cut off my hair because I’ve had it all my life and I felt like I was cutting off my childhood, so... it was really emotional but I was happy in the end.”
“If people are thinking about [the big chop],” says Money, “they should do it because they might think they’ll regret it in the end but… hair grows back.”
Over the past few years there has been a huge movement encouraging Black women to grow their hair naturally. “[The natural hair movement] allows black women to feel beautiful in their own skin. Instead of what society tells us, to change our hair, to change our big butt, to change our big boobs, or our hips. It just allows us to be beautiful in our own skin.”
Taylor Dumpson, Senior, Law & Society Major
American University’s Student Body President, Taylor Dumpson, did her big chop on May 7, 2016. “Cutting my hair was really impulsive,” says Dumpson “I remember I told my mom, when I was home for a week during sophomore year that I was going to cut my hair and she was away at work. Then, I got in the shower and when I got out I had already cut my hair. It was a pretty big turning point for me.”
Dumpson is thankful that she made the decision to do the big chop, but says that she would not recommend it for all Black women because everyone is different. “I think, for Black Women, our hair is so amazing. We can do so many different things with it and it’s entirely up to you to make that choice,” explains Dumpson.
“[The big chop] was a difficult thing for me because I didn’t know how to do my own hair. I didn’t know what works, what didn’t work, how to style my hair, and I had to experiment,” says Dumpson. “It’s not easy, especially if all you know is your hair being straight,” Dumpson explains.
“I absolutely love [the natural hair movement] and I guess I’m part of that movement.”
“It inspired me, seeing women rock their hair natural and discover all the things they can do with their hair. Our hair defies gravity and that’s pretty freaking cool.”
She goes on to remind us that “The natural hair movement is making a comeback especially because of the times we are in politically right now. It’s very similar to the civil rights movement. The radicalization of hair is doing the same exact thing as people trying to defy the status quo.” Dumpson explains that during the civil rights movement you saw women with their hair pressed but you also so women that we more on the radical side like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur “wearing their hair the way it came out of their head”. Seeing women like this is inspiring to Dumpson because it shows that you don’t have to appease the system every single day of your life. “If I want [my hair] straight, I’ll do it but not to meet any pressures of society,” says Dumpson.
Dumpson credits the revival of the natural hair movement to politics “the way our country is changing inspires more people to challenge the system in a variety of ways. There is not just one way to protest,” explains Dumpson.
Professor Sybil J. Roberts, Professorial Lecturer, Department of Performing Arts
Professor Roberts has worn hair natural since age 19. “I had a perm for a bit. I actually had a Jheri Curl, and I cut it all off and that’s how it started when I was 19,” explains Roberts. She explains that she liked her hair short and, for no reason in particular, she felt like she wanted her natural hair. When Roberts cut her hair there was no movement to encourage Black women to have their hair natural. “I love seeing young people embrace their natural hair, but I am concerned to see it become an industry,” Roberts notes. In recent years, you are starting to see more and more brands specifically catered to Black women’s hair. There has even been a classification of hair types that have become more known over the past few years (4a, 4b, 4c, etc.). “I don’t want it to become a commodity,” Robert explains. “To embrace Black beauty in all of it’s forms is really important and when we start commodifying it, it loses that base of what it used to be.”
Jordan Tobias, Junior, School of Communications
Junior, Jordan Tobias did her big chop in January of 2016. “It was actually after I broke up with my boyfriend and I just wanted a fresh start,” Tobias explains. For a lot of people, cutting their hair is either very freeing or very hard to do. “Cutting my hair felt very liberating and I felt a beauty within myself after I cut my hair,” says Tobias.
The big chop is something Tobias would recommend other women to do, especially if they have relaxed or permed hair. “I know, for many reasons, we conform to the European standard of beauty, so that’s why we do the perms and whatnot, but like I said earlier [doing the big chop] is really liberating and you’re able to find a beauty within yourself and you find your own strength.”
Tobias loves that the natural hair movement is encouraging young black girls to have their hair natural because she never had that encouragement when she was growing up. “I remember when I was younger, I wanted a perm and I used to cry, but now my natural hair inspires me to embrace who I really am.”
Joshua Karebo, International Studies Major
Junior, Joshua Karebo decided to cut off all of his hair on the first day of this school year. “I really just wanted to make space for new growth,” explains Karebo. Karebo started his dreads three and a half years ago, “I used it as almost a transition from boyhood to manhood,” Karebo elaborates. “I went through a lot of important phases with that hair that I had before, graduating from high school, getting baptized, I grew as a person.” When Karebo first started his dreadlocks, they were very short and because of this stage of his hair he wanted to cut them off. He had to keep reminding himself not to cut the dreads off and wait for the growth. “Especially when you’re starting your dreads very small, it’s not the easiest or prettiest thing to look at,” Karebo explains. Karebo has become so used to the hair that he didn’t need that reminder anymore. It finally came to the point where Karebo decided he was ready for this change and the next stage of his life, “I think that [change] would be best documented by cutting off my hair,” he adds.
The natural hair movement is something that Karebo is excited to see, however he hopes that people are wearing their hair natural for the right reasons. “I hope they do it, not as a fashion statement, but as something that marks an inherent spirituality,” comments Karebo. Karebo got his dreads when he was baptized and he went through a lot of change in terms of spiritual growth. “I used them as a mark of my coming to God,” says Karebo. “I hope everybody takes that step, no matter what you believe in, to have it be more important than just a physical statement.”