L: My name is Lurie. I’ve lived in Brooklyn, NY since I was in law school. Before that I was in Pennsylvania, and before that Germany. My dad was in the army so we basically moved around Europe every 2–3 years growing up.
I’m a consumer rights and bankruptcy attorney. My law firm is dedicated to helping people with money problems use the law to address problems with debt. Most of my clients are either being harassed by debt collectors, getting sued by debt collectors, or considering bankruptcy. I also help run a non profit organization called Sankofa Community Empowerment whose mission is to educate and empower people of African descent to change the condition of our communities through educational and leadership development programs. My husband and I run Breaking the Cycle Consulting Services LLC, a consulting company that teaches teachers how to teach kids in urban environments.
Why did you go natural?
L: Since we grew up mainly overseas my family members in the States were concerned that we weren’t learning enough about our culture so they always sent us books and information about what it meant to be of African descent. In college, I majored in Africana Studies & Spanish so I’d spend a lot of time critically analyzing how black people came to be in the conditions that we are in. Once I began learning more of the truth about what happened to us, I began questioning everything about who I was and why I held the opinions that I (and seemingly everyone around me) held.
When I learned about how Black people were systematically taught to hate our hair, lips, noses and everything about us that made us Black – I became angry. I mean, it’s one thing if we naturally thought we were ugly and our hair was ugly. But once I learned that we were taught to hate ourselves, it drove me to a path of self-discovery. I now know that the anger I felt was a necessary part of getting my right mind back and beginning to heal from that trauma. A lot of times we are afraid of the anger that we feel as Black people. But just like the assault victim has to confront what happened to her, we have to confront and embrace our history if we are going to heal from what happened to us.
How did you transition into natural hair?
L: I first cut my hair April 6, 1997 during my second year of college. I started by growing my hair out for a few months and one of my girlfriends (who was the resident dorm room hair & nails powerhouse) would press my roots to help me “pass” as an undercover natural. The only problem was that I’ve always sweated out a press in a matter of moments – so my transition was challenging. I used braids and extensions to help me grow it out a few inches so I had something to work with. I did not plan on doing a “big-chop.”
Back then there were not a lot of natural heads so there weren’t websites, books and other women who were readily accessible with a ton of information. My hair began breaking at the point where the natural met the chemicals. (I always thought that was a bit symbolic – in many ways we have to recognize how our connection to a hostile society is hostile to who we are as a people… but that is another topic).
I was holding on as long as I could to length because remember, when you’re a black girl, you’re taught to want 2 things: 1) “good hair” and/or 2) “long hair.” My mother came to visit me at school in April 1997 and she watched me going through all sorts of crap to keep my press straight. Finally she said the words that just liberated me from all of that: “Lurie. It’s just hair. It will grow back.” Five minutes later half of my hair was on the floor. I haven’t looked back since.
I feel much stronger and more confident in who I am as a result of rebelling with my hair. For some people going natural has nothing to do with politics. But as someone who has studied the Pan African reality for so long – it’s hard to ignore the fact that we are all historical products and who we are today is a result of things that happened yesterday. So I know that even if I were completely a-political – the rest of the world ascribes a message to my hair.
Many Black colleagues, secretaries or other staff members tried to “help” by advising me to get a perm if I wanted to “make it.” These attitudes are reinforced by many Black institutions. A few years ago, the business school at Hampton University (an HBCU) implemented a policy that said female students could not wear their hair in natural styles. I believe the rationale was based on the belief that a Black woman with natural hair could not get a job in corporate America. I first read the article about this while I was wearing a flat twist style that pulled back into an afro ponytail, sitting in my office in Times Square at a major New York law firm. A lot of our hair issues are projections of our own insecurities (which we were taught). It’s sad – but understandable.
How would you describe your hair?
L: Very thick, very nappy. Most people don’t believe me when I say it’s nappy until they see my afro. It can be hard to imagine how long, soft, flowing twisties can shrink up into a 2 inch thick, stiff afro if you just add water. It is also very independent and has a mind of its own.
What’s your regimen?
L: I typically wash it with my mom’s products. She’s a natural stylist & damaged hair specialist in Queens, NY and has an all-natural product line called Yanla’s Nature. The scalp detox & shampoo cleans it really well. I also use the strengthening conditioner to comb and style. During the week I use a spray that we make from rosemary, nettle, sage and burdock teas as a leave-in conditioner. At night, if it’s in a hanging style, I’ll typically braid the twists into fat braids. This helps keep the style and makes sure that the twists don’t shrink up before I want them to. Around two weeks after it’s styled, I’ll take it out and wear it untwisted for another week and a half (usually until the puff is too much to easily manage).
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
L: Using the wrong tools was a huge mistake. I cringe when I think of all the hair I pulled out using tiny combs with teeny tiny teeth. The combs and brushes I used when I had a perm are totally inappropriate for natural hair. Instead of using tiny teeth combs or brushes w/ millions of bristles, I started using the classic “white girl” brush and big tooth combs. They were much better suited to naps.
The other issue was wanting natural hair – without unlearning European standards of beauty.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
L: I don’t try to control it. At first I wanted my natural hair to act like my permed hair did. After months of frustration I realized that I was setting both myself and my hair up for failure. It wasn’t until I recognized that European standards and hair expectations were completely not applicable to me that I began to relax and enjoy the natural road.
I realized that what I wanted my hair to do was the opposite of what it was designed to do. I had to not only cut my perm out – but I also had to cut out my expectations for what my hair should do and be. All of my expectations were based on a European hair model. I learned to accept the fact that straight hair can be controlled, gel’d and sprayed into place and natural hair will do its own thing. My hair and I have been getting along ever since.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
L: Yes. You can find me at www.NYCDebtAndBankruptcyLaw.com, www.blogtalkradio.com/danielfavorslaw, or at www.btcconsultingservices.com. I am also working on a new site (still under construction) called www.raceandrecession.com.
Anything else you want to add?
L: An older mentor once told me she admired me for wearing my hair natural because as a lighter skinned woman I “had the option of wearing styles that look more European.” She was a darker skinned woman and had lived through segregation in the south.
I realized then that it’s not enough to change our hair if we do not change our ability to accept ourselves as God intended & designed us to be. There are millions of little girls and boys out there whose ideas about their lack of beauty and self-worth are reified each time they hear about “good hair v. bad hair” or “light skin v. dark skin.” It is imperative that we create more spaces like this site where black women can put our feet up, let our afros fluff and enjoy the beauty of the almighty nap, the bodacious big nose, the lovely full lip and the bountiful behind. It’s our own model of beauty – modeled after the design God chose for us to have. And it is good. It is very, very good.