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Wear Your Crown: Here's How To Care For Your Huge Afro

Queens boldly wear crowns.

Hair

OK, I don't know about y'all, but as someone who personally likes to rock an Afro, more than just a lil' bit, I've had a hard time finding articles that are specifically dedicated to styling that powerful natural hairstyle. It's like there are plenty of pieces of how to handle Afro-textured hair yet not ones on how to just let your Afro glow in all of its Blackness and glory.

A wise person once said that if you don't see a solution to a problem, maybe you should be the one to create it. Indeed. INDEED. That's what I'm about to be on today. For the record, in order for your hair to qualify as a bona fide Afro, you need a good 3-5 inches of natural hair on your head to start (shorter than that is a TWA which stands for a "Teeny Weeny Afro"). But if you've got that and you're ready to wear your hair out more often than you currently do, I've got some tips on how to care for and style your Afro, so that you will be the focal point of everyone you come into contact with (because we all know that Afros tend to have that effect on folks!).

1. Definitely Do Some Pre-Pooing

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There are a few reasons why I'm such a fan of the pre-pooing process. For one thing, it helps to bring some additional moisture to my hair so that the shampooing process doesn't result in my tresses becoming drier than I want/need them to be. Another thing I like about pre-pooing is it helps to add some "slip" to my locks so that there's less detangling that I need to do, both before and after washing and conditioning my hair. One more thing that's cool about pre-pooing is it can actually make my conditioner even more effective which is really important since I want my hair to be as shiny, soft and manageable as possible.

If you've never pre-pooed before, all you're basically doing is applying an oil, butter or both to your hair before you actually wash it. Simply separate your hair into 4-8 sections (depending on how long and thick your hair is). Then apply a generous amount of an oil like olive oil (which is loaded with antioxidants), jojoba (it deeply moisturizes and soothes dandruff) or sweet almond oil (it helps to seal your hair's cuticles) or a butter like shea butter (it contains vitamins A and E) or mango butter (it helps to reduce breakage) and allow it to sit on your hair for 30-45 minutes. Then shampoo and condition your hair as usual, making sure to thoroughly rinse your hair with lukewarm water before beginning the shampooing process. I can assure you that you'll notice a difference if you do this.

2. Shampoo Your Hair with Some Black Soap

An Afro just ain't right if it's not super soft. That's why it's so important to avoid using any shampoos that have sulfates in them. The reason why is because sulfates have a tendency to really dry your hair out. So, unless you're looking to remove a lot of "gunk" from your hair, steer clear of that kind of shampoo and go with something that is sulfate-free. As far as brands go, one that I've recently come to like is a Black-owned hair and skin care brand called Alaffia. They've got an all-in-one African black soap line that's pretty dope. One, because you can use it all over your hair and body. Two, because it comes with different additions to it like tea tree and mint, honey and lavender (to start).

Anyway, black soap is great for your hair because it's high in vitamins A and E, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium. As a result, it's the kind of soap that is able to feed your hair's follicles, help to define your hair's natural curl pattern, soften your hair and also deeply cleanse your scalp without drying your hair out in the process.

A lot of us are always looking for some high-end shampoo brand to treat our hair when something as simple as black soap can be all that our hair really and truly needs.

3. Deep Condition It

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Back when I was only semi-serious about growing my hair out, I would slap some conditioner on my hair, let it sit for five minutes tops, rinse it out and go on about my styling way. Yeah, that was definitely working against me because, since most of us have a much tighter curl pattern than women of other ethnicities, it's difficult for the natural sebum from our scalp to get all the way down our hair shaft. Deep conditioning helps to compensate for this fact. Not only that but it helps to restore our hair's natural pH balance, can make our hair way more manageable, it strengthens our hair and it makes our hair more elastic too (which makes it so much easier to style).

As far as the deep conditioning process goes, it's a good idea to apply the product of your choice to your hair right after shampooing it. Make sure to leave it on for no less than 30 minutes (honestly, a couple of hours is pretty ideal). Then rinse with cool water to seal your cuticles back. And what deep conditioners should you use? I personally go with about any brand and then add some Chebe powder to it (you can read more about what makes Chebe so awesome by checking out "Uncommon (But Totally Natural) Things That Are Great For Hair Growth"). Sometimes I leave the conditioner on for two hours; sometimes I wrap my hair up and leave it on overnight. As far as specific conditioners that can do wonders for your locks, our site has the articles "8 Hair Masks & Deep Conditioners That Revitalize Dry, Damaged Hair" and "5 Deep Conditioners Your Curls Deserve" that can help to point you into the right direction.

4. Also, Use a Leave-in Conditioner 

It might seem a little redundant to follow-up deep conditioning with a recommendation to also apply a leave-in conditioner but chile, ever since I've added this extra step, my hair has not been the same—in the best way possible! Because moisture is something that our hair can always benefit from, a leave-in conditioner can help to give your hair that extra bit of "umph" that it needs to avoid becoming dry and brittle in between wash days. Something else that I really like about it is, it makes styling my hair so much easier to do, plus it reduces frizz and also helps to define my natural curls.

Although there are plenty of leave-in brands on the market, my personal go-to leave in is Aunt Jackie's Quench – Moisture Intensive Leave-In Conditioner because the slip is amazing and the moisture lasts for literally days on end. When it comes to leave-ins, another route that you can take is making your own. It's really not as hard as you might think. If you'd like to give it a shot, Kinky Curly Yaki has an article that features 14 DIY recipes. You can check it out here.

5. Try to Not Permanently Dye Your Hair

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As someone who used to permanently dye my hair, almost about as often as I changed my clothes, I get how much fun it can be to switch up your hair color on a dime. You can still do that—just opt for going with a semi-permanent dye, some hair color wax or a natural hair highlight option (like a coffee rinse or cranberry juice rinse). The reason why permanent dye is bad for your hair is 1) it contains ammonia that definitely dries your hair out and 2) stripping the melanin from your hair and then adding the ammonia to it causes your hair cuticles to swell which can damage your hair over time.

The woman who currently holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest Afro is a woman by the name of Aevin Dugas. Her hair currently sits at a whopping 9.45 inches tall, 9.84 inches wide and 5.15 feet in circumference. I'm pretty sure she would cosign that color is cool—permanent dye is absolutely not.

I'm very much aware of the fact that some of us get frustrated with our lack of length retention and immediately chalk it up to our hair isn't growing. Listen, as long as you're alive (and you don't have some sort of hair condition like alopecia), your hair is always growing. Problem is, you might not be seeing inches because the damage is happening at the same rate as the growth, though. Color can be a culprit when it comes to that. That's why you should chill out from using it.

6. Braid Up and Air Dry

When it comes to this particular tip, I'll just put it right on out there and say that I am definitely a fan of blowing my hair dry on my wash days. Although a lot of people in the natural hair community say that heat is an absolute no-no, I personally don't agree. Stretching my hair out this way has actually helped me to gain more inches because there is less pulling, tugging and fairy knots. Now what I will say is, based on what your hair type is, sometimes blow drying can make your hair look straighter than you would like for it to be when you want to wear an Afro. This could be a good reason to leave your blow dryer alone.

If you want your Afro to have some of the texture and bounce that typically comes with having one, it's actually best to dry your hair with a T-shirt (to safely sop up excess moisture), coat your hair with a butter like shea butter (you might want to seal your ends too with the help of some Jamaican Black castor oil) and then section it all out and braid it. You can cornrow it or braid your hair down into plaits. Let it completely hair dry (this can take a day or two depending on length and volume) and then take your braids out and use your fingers or an Afro pick to style your locks (more on that in a sec). Doing it this way can help your hair to have "spring" to it which is ideal when wearing an Afro.

7. Follow the Right Afro Pick Rules

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When it comes to actually styling your Afro, something that isn't brought up nearly enough is you can wear it picked out so that it's stretched and tall in all of its natural glory or you can use your fingers to give it more of a texturized look.

The benefits of the latter option is you significantly lower the risk of damaging your hair because so long as you move slowly and gently—and you add a bit of oil on your fingers to give your hair some slip—you don't have to worry about the pulling and snagging that styling tools can sometimes do. As far as Afro picks go, they're pretty awesome when it comes to making your Afro as big as possible, so long as you use them correctly.

And just what does that mean? Definitely use picks on dry hair (if you need help to manage through your hair when it's wet or damp, go with a very wide-toothed comb). While holding your hair, in sections I might add, start from the ends and work your way up to the roots if you want maximum volume. If you'd prefer to keep your textured look but you still want some height, use your comb to gently lift the roots of your hair up only. For some additional tips on how to pick your Afro correctly, I really dug a how-to video by a woman by the name of Alexus Crown (who has a really dope Afro in it!). You can check it out here.

8. Trim Semi-Regularly

By far, one of my all-time favorite Afros is featured in a story that I did last year that I had no idea so many of y'all would be interested in. Any of you remember "Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back"? Whew-whee! Anyway, when you take a look at EfikZara's hair, you kind of get the impression that she's not following the standard "trim every 4-6 weeks" rule. Honestly, when you're trying to grow out an Afro, it's not really a necessary thing to do. So long as you follow all of the other tips mentioned in this piece, you should be able to go every 8-12 weeks; especially if you're gonna rock a textured 'fro, more times than not. The main thing you need to aim for is an Afro that isn't top-heavy, is pretty symmetrical and isn't frizz city (which can be a sign of split ends or excessive damage) all over your head.

As far as the trimming process goes, some folks prefer to plait their hair and dust their ends while others prefer to pick their Afro all the way out and run some clippers over the ends of it. By the way, you can also always go to a professional stylist too. Bottom line, there's no need to go scissor happy; especially if you wanna see real progress. Just make sure that your Afro looks tight 'n right.

9. Use Satin or Silk Hair Ties Only

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If you're going to wear your hair in a protective style during the week and your Afro on the weekends, this point doesn't really apply all that much. But if you're someone who wants to wear your natural tresses out most of the time, in order to protect your hair from the weather, invest in some satin or silk hair ties. They are perfect for pulling your hair into a big 'ole Afro puff or even just keeping in your purse if you want to pull your hair back off of your face, every once in a while. The reason why the ties need to be made out of satin or silk material is because they are less prone to creating friction on your tresses or drying your hair out.

10. Braid It Up at Night

In order for your soul to glow in all of its glory, it's important that your hair remains as stretched as possible. That said, you don't want to rely on applying heat on the daily because that could lead to breakage. You also shouldn't just tie it up at night because your body temperature tends to shift as you sleep and the sweating could lead to shrinkage. The solution? Braid your hair into plaits (or cornrows if it's still kind of short) before turning in. It will keep your tresses stretched, protect your ends and give your hair a little more texture if the finger-styling route is how you prefer to go.

11. Oil the Parted Spaces Before Tying It All Up

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Your hair grows from the roots. At the same time, if you want to maintain length, you've got to focus on your ends. While braiding your hair up at night can help to protect your ends from the friction that comes with tossing and turning all night long, oiling your scalp can help to feed your hair follicles. When it comes to the kind of essential oils that can increase blood circulation and stimulate your hair follicles, some of those include cedarwood, clary sage and peppermint. My two cents would be to mix these up with a carrier oil of some type.

Tropic Isle Living features oils that I like because the bottle has a nozzle that makes the oil easy to apply. You can choose from all kinds including black seed, sweet almond, sunflower, olive, argan, Cerasee and black walnut. If you heat up the oil for a couple of seconds in your microwave beforehand, it can be a super soothing and relaxing treat for your scalp.

12. Make Your Own Bonnet

Here's a true confession. I don't always like to tie my hair up at night. I just don't. What has convinced me to do it more often is that fact that just braiding my hair alone doesn't necessarily or automatically protect it from breakage because moving around at night can still cause friction, dryness and breakage to any of the strands that come loose. So yeah, while a satin pillowcase is cool, if you know that you're someone whose head isn't going to stay on it all night long, you really do need a satin scarf or bonnet to keep your tresses protected. There are dozens of bonnets on the market. Or, if you want, you can always make yourself one. I checked out some pretty easy DIY YouTube videos. Take a stab at it by going here, here, here, here or here.

Welp. There you have it. A few things that can help you to put forth your very best Afro. If you've got one, please don't hesitate to show off in the comments. There is nothing like a Black woman in all of her crowning glory. For me, an Afro hairstyle tops the list.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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