She declared Juneteenth her natural hair freedom day!
Akilah Davis is a Race and Culture Reporter with ABC11 North Carolina. This past Juneteenth, while many were remembering the sacrifices of our ancestors and that day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston, TX received word that all slaves were free, Davis decided she would partake in some liberation of her own.
In a segment discussing how Black women’s freedom is intricately connected to their hair, Davis invited her own parents on air to reflect on her natural hair journey to loving the texture of her hair and how her parents played an integral part in that.
“Growing up, my hair texture was misunderstood…From ponytails to beads, my tight curls were difficult for Mom to manage…Unknowingly I internalized this idea that straight hair was good hair and afro hair like mine was not,” Davis recalled.
Her mom and Dad then explored their own thoughts about Davis’ hair as a child, her mom Debra Davis saying that her go-to styling methods usually involved straightening her daughter’s hair to make it “more manageable.”
“I didn’t think she had bad hair. She just didn’t have the texture I had. The only way I could fix it was to either hot comb it or perm it,” explained her mom.
It’s a sentiment many Black women and girls believed growing up, not having the tools to accurately care for their hair while existing in a society that often reflects a more European standard of beauty.
“The message really stayed with a generation of Black women in particular who really had to work to overcome the idea that something about their hair was inherently inadequate,” explained Dr. Jasmine Cobb, professor of African American studies at Duke University.
Over the last decade, as more Black women grow to embrace their natural beauty amid nationwide racial reckonings, they’re finding a lot of that newfound freedom is tied into the way they style their hair.
“One way we’re redefining and reclaiming our identity is through our hair…Just get up, shake your hair, move on with the day, and not have to worry about rain or humidity, " explained Maya Anderson, a loctician at Locs, Naturals & More.
But that hair freedom has also brought about some ugly truths about respectability politics and the way some view Black hair as “unprofessional.” It prompted legislation nationally like the CROWN Act, which helps prevent jobs and schools from discriminating against a person based on their natural hairstyle. As the times changed, Davis hoped to be one of those people who could reflect the change, working with Anderson to install microlocs in her hair in December 2021.
While happy with her decision, Davis continued to cover her natural hair at work, opting to wear wigs over her locs instead. For her Juneteenth segment, she explored that decision, enlisting fellow anchor Janai Norman of Good Morning America, who also made her natural hair transition on air in 2018, to give her perspective.
“The way that we as Black women think about showing up as our authentic self, it’s rooted in fear. The fear of will I be looked at as professional. It takes courage. It takes strength. It takes resilience,” said Norman.
Davis then let viewers know that Juneteenth would be her own day of liberation and the last day they’d see her wearing wigs to cover her hair. Her parents expressed how proud they were as Davis debuted her gorgeous golden locs on camera for the first time, saying she hopes to be an inspiration to other little girls.
“I chose Juneteenth to share this journey to hair freedom with all of you because it’s liberation day for me. So moving forward, this is how you’ll see me on TV, and I’m hoping to inspire women and little girls struggling to embrace their roots. I see you sis and I’m with you,” said Davis.
Congratulations Akilah! You have freed yourself and in doing so, freed others.
Cover photo: Meet Akilah Davis, the journalist who removed her wig, revealing her sister locs in honor of Juneteenth/Photos Courtesy of @DavisABC11/Instagram