DescriptionMary E. Sims (65) talks with her friend, Linda Jones (66), about attending "Nappy Hair Affair" gatherings at Linda's house where women, and later men, of color were encouraged to wear their hair naturally and learn how to style it. The two reminisce on childhood memories that formed their opinions about hair and unpack how trauma and healing are linked to how they choose to wear their hair.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Mary Sims
- Linda Jones
Recording LocationsDallas Public Library: North Oak Cliff Branch
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00:05 My name is Mary Sims. I'm 65 years old. Today's date is November 8th 2019. We're in Dallas, Texas and I'm interviewing with Linda Jones. She's a friend of mine and we've met I can't even remember but a long time ago.
00:32 My name is Linda Jones. I'm 66 and today's date is Friday, November 8th, 2019.
00:41 We're in Dallas, Texas and Mary is my interview partner and she is my friend.
00:54 Linda do you remember how we met?
01:00 Out of the year. So we met more than 20 years ago 21 years ago, and we met over business but our relationship establishes friends establish over hair nappy Hair Affair.
01:27 Yes, and I was trying to remember how you came to that how you was there?
01:34 Do you remember the first time you came to one of our yeah, I'm gathering is the Gathering and it was just phenomenal to see so many black women that were willing to give up the house cuz it perm with this Brandon at a hair. So it was a lot of women giving it up and addiction to there where we called the creamy crack. So I was just impressed with that because I was going through that transition myself and I'm trying to remember how I told you about it. It must have been
02:07 It is able to shop. Okay and Kathy and I came to you now. I remember our relationship has been so seamless that do the beginning that it took me a minute to remember but I had to get my grandmother's piano bench upholstered. I wanted to go to the Post Office and to keep it is from the upright piano. That's what I had. That was Memento that I could still carry around with me. I could no longer have all the furniture the other piano. I still have it and we
02:53 I'm sure it was conversations just
02:57 Getting to know each other, but you were wearing your hair naturally at that time. And I told you about a gathering of sisters at my house where we were just doing each other's hair as a way to celebrate who we are through our hair and our choice to wear. I hear Natalie black women always had to wear scarf around here cuz you know, nobody want to see that and we always hear that hair when when the the straightening gum came out then we could go to leave the head Rags off, but
03:48 You shared with me a hair experience you had when you were growing up or what your experience was like having nappy hair growing up.
03:59 Man, I was telling me about that. My hair was short. I mean just you could barely touch it because I had a mixture of coarse hair in a mixture of fine. And then you put the hot comb on the fine it burns it up. So but my mother and my grandmother didn't understand that so they would just burn my hair out and burn my ears and back of my neck and I was I just couldn't wait to get older where I could do my hair the way I wanted to do, but it was rough coming up like that. My sister had long hair and my head just wouldn't grow. I remember my mother.
04:42 At the time I hear with thick kinky coarse thick and it we will get it straightened on Saturday night in the kitchen, you know near the stove.
04:56 And she would like a flashback. She would take the cone and of course straighten her hair, but I remember even before that she would pull us if we were small up to the sink and have a clean back and shoot wash your hair in the kitchen sink. And before we get real real dry, she would straighten it and a little damp. Not not not wet but the rule against a little damp and and I know that because when she would straighten the hair take that hot comb once it was hot.
05:42 And pull it through her hair.
05:45 ETO that sizzling sound and she
05:50 And if it hit our Scout that heat you would sometimes it wasn't the comedor scalp getting asked out. It was that steam in that heat, but I remember what she would do even better take hops the title from the hair grease. It was the Royal Crown in a Dixie peach and put it for the ear to protect. Year from being being nicked by the cob and she would say hold it to you and we would if you know didn't have for some reason the calf we would have to take a finger at home. But I remember when the cap would be over a year.
06:31 I just so much noise should be hitting that that on top. So that was a lie atop that could have that would have been over here in the back of your neck and my mother was trying I was the oldest so I was the experiment. She didn't know how to straighten hair. She did it by myself. She did she manage and it was so we could be presentable for church on Sunday morning. And I my I I really admire she had a way of straightening hair to wish she never touched. It was just that way. She would just turn that calm and go through your hair. And now I wish you would take the curling iron quickly quickly, you know, I'm putting there and would never you never felt I never felt it burned I never
07:31 Really think she was that's how she made extra money. I remember when we go to the beauty shop. The smell was different than the smell in your house. Right your mother would burn you smell hair burn unless you go to the beauty shop. You didn't smell hair burning like that.
07:53 That's true. I don't know if it was exhausting. So I don't know I think the new to temperature because in it but didn't have it. We had the gas fire, and in the beauty shop they had just the heating element and all that man. That's true. But that, that's what she with the grease buildup and you know what I didn't realize this until you think that
08:20 That smell of hair burning which is what it was was common in the household specially on weekends. And I mean it was Comin it's because you didn't know and I think it only happened one time that I mean that I remember but someone said, what's that smell and I don't know why it might have been in college or something like that because nobody black what it said that black people know know so it might have been somebody in college or either was a store there so early but I remember this story because it was that what smell and then decide straightening her hair and we were accustomed to that smell and you had this time time you had to straighten your hair everyday.
09:16 That may well depend on if you had a know if you had a rough night in with your lover and your sweating. So yeah and you fix your hair the next morning and his you-know-what and that that speaks to this is taking me places cuz that speaks to the house. So many African Americans did not know how to swim. I don't have the picture but just speaking anecdotally it was that fear of getting your hair straightened or reluctance to having to go through that again. I'm going to go out there and get your hair wet because if you weren't doing the perms and at the time when we were growing up and even when they did have it we could really afford it. So.
10:11 It would take sweat for Healthy Living to make your hair go back to go back and I know a lot of black guys at and knew how to swim but very few black women, which is the water when will just rip tonight. So we could I have I had other reasons. I didn't know how to swim in if I see him again. I'm going to swing on my I had a crush on the at the why I had a crush on the guy who taught beginner swimming, so I would keep going back to beginners to never graduated me. He didn't know I wish I he didn't know I had a crush on him but to this day I could just manage face floating back floating.
10:59 I don't know but maybe in a pinch I could save myself but I officially don't know how them when I am as well as cabs did not protect our hell I did the Caps make you sweat and sweat is the enemy and and then their nappy Hair Affair and sharing stories of Young Thug. I never hear.
11:35 Group passionate collector. I remember one time that's what's the most traumatic thing. I went through in my childhood.
11:54 My hair was short. I mean this long my sister's hair was all to his shoulders and my grandmother came to town one time. She live in Chicago she came to town and she told my mother I'm going to make her hair grow. So she stripped took strips. I know about 50 strips of copper sheet twisted my hair and then I had all these trips and Knotts and is he kind of plaited up teasters? I had a long white plaits down to my shoulder. I was like but quick she planted planet of the sheets, but they were tied in knots all in my head songs and Sunday is this going to make my hair grow. She's like, yeah you where it is and I went to school like that and it teaches only make so much fun of me though. The kids made fun of the kids thought it was cute. I got all these ribbons in my hair and the teacher said you look like buckwheat.
12:54 Buckwheat Boyz. Yeah was considered an attractive guy, you know as we became more aware of how beautiful we are. At least I'll speak for myself and I look back at the pictures of Buckwheat and I say my God, this is a beautiful child, you know, rich dark skin, but at that time with what we were watching on TV and how they were made people who look like that's what made like character did like that all week week. What did you do? And I just I just speak to her but I didn't my Grandma will cook real nice meals. I didn't even want to eat cuz she knew I was trying to take some things off before I went to bed every night. She Titan America.
13:54 Man that damn it really all he had no it was rough man. I'm trying to think of
14:04 Ayo, I remember a time when my sister dumped up popcorn box full of dirt in my hair
14:14 Picture of a kid what is he doing the kid and we played and dirt and I don't know it was in a situation where you know, I'm going to do this for you intentionally. Is this something that kids did dirt? I don't know yet whether kids did it normally but one of those kid things that mess of course having to get my hair washed and straightened sort of off-season if you know what I mean, because if it was yeah and I I remember that oh my God.
14:57 You mentioned nappy Hair Affair and you know, we wound up calling those hair days, but
15:06 It wasn't anything that went by that name in the beginning. It was just me and biting friend over so we could do each other's hair washing in the grooming in the twist. It was nice just had some food, right and it was potluck and we had to take her shoes off everybody at night if I choose you. I'll bring it in the house. So everybody could just be as relaxed as possible and it was so beautiful because we got to relax and I remember hearing stories from other women who came about their experiences choosing to wear their hair. Naturally. That's why I had people over because
16:02 Well, that's so much for the stories. But so they can have a place to come and do each other's hair without judgment and celebrating their hair without judgment because I had friends who are frustrated because they didn't know where to go and get their locks taken care of at least not to a salon or place where anybody would understand or somebody to help someone, you know to remember the Seahawks a lot of friend needed help reaching to the back of her hair to get to the back to do a lock. So she needed help with that in there is a concern about expense for those who had seven budgets and so forth. But once I'd heard these different stories and then
16:49 The straw that broke it was when a colleague who had just come to where I worked at the time had glorious locks young lady and she just couldn't find a place to get her hair done. And I said enough we're going to come to my house and we'll just do our hair ourselves and I know some other friends and loved going to call them and then everybody just everybody I call my God. Yes, when women who hungry said, so I'm just going to cancel an appointment that with the hairdresser just said appointment to do something else. She just wanted to be there and that first day I remember it was the third Sunday in May.
17:34 21 years ago now that about 20 women came over and we set out in the backyard and washed hair twisted side of Nepal role model and talked and there is music sharing her experiences. Lamb Bells. What a day is Manning and nobody talks about doing it again, or are we just moving on to something else? But I remember that's how you gave me my name. That's where my nickname. Came from I was sharing with you.
18:21 One day we were talking and I was sharing how
18:26 Women would come and after they would get their hair done and none of us knew netsdaily what we were doing. Just did what we grew up doing plaiting hair or watching hair and grooming but
18:43 Giving space to appreciate our hair the way it was born right now and so many women with leasing. I feel so free. I feel so sorry for you. And when I said that remember what you gay I thought I was thinking about how free I feel that way. I was okay with my hair being nappy and I said,
19:06 You're like Moses you're freeing us. I said Moses and I dropped my head a kind of bout a little bit. I said no you are most data most a lot of people thought was that it was your name that actually because with the gatherings in the sharing and the joy there.
19:42 And the story is here in the subscriber funny stories, but there was some stories that we're pointed they were
19:51 Sadpanda stories about their experience of being judged harshly judged that I decided to do other things t-shirts in and write about it. I had a newsletter called nap E news. Yeah. Yeah those Pawn don't worry. You know I get shout out to people who decided to go natural. So there was a section called nuclear people. Let us know somebody with natural and so it was a way of continuing to celebrate and letting us know in a fun way. It's alright to be who you are.
20:39 But do you remember how some women came in this is true about that their men the black men some black men were not attracted to women with nappy hair. That was a big as a man don't want me to have my riding habit, even though his hair is nappy. So that was something they had to go through one time, you know at the shop at all my customers white and
21:09 And when I visit when I started the shop, my hair was permed and my one customer hadn't seen me in a while and I had gone natural and he came in he said oh my God Mary. How did you get your hair like that?
21:22 I said, how do I get it like this? This is my hair. He said okay. He touch nothing. Yeah. I said see that man right there. He said yeah. I said he's a black man in the black woman. He said that we have the same kind of hair is it? Oh my God around other women with the black hair with nappy hair and the story is it it was who?
21:53 I remember when.
21:57 I was trying to think of something to do for the the latest nappy news. I am and
22:04 I have a friend who used to come to the Gathering. So it was a regular they were going to adopt a child. They were adopting a child and at the adoption center.
22:17 They were told Avi supervisor social worker told them about.
22:24 A baby that was returned back to the Dobson center from the adoptive parents because the child's hair.
22:35 Had turn nappy. So you know how it is. When babies are born again knew that was their hair during silky straight hair and then in a matter of time the truth itself baby has the hair right? And she said that that couple
22:56 But that baby back because that's not what they were prepared for a couple black. We don't know how we don't know. They think of it. We don't know but that child later was adopted by, you know, I love him a couple more kind but to see that as a deformity, you know, Laura sickness in because it was she was saying that there is some kind of in the agreement that if you didn't know about a particular medical ailment or something if that wasn't revealed in within that period of time than they could I guess dissolve the contract or something because there is no full disclosure things like that. But to think to imagine that how deep that sickness goes now on.
23:56 Don't know whether or not it was a black family, but what we know about the the brainwashing in the ugliness that surrounds the good hair bad hair situation. Would it be a surprise if it was a black family what happened? But we don't know but we when you hear the stories because there's
24:20 This is something that we know a lot a lot about in our community that people outside the community are one thing really is all that going on going on at the Curiosity. So
24:33 Someone who?
24:36 Has who Harbors negative?
24:41 Feelings about things like that is who did that to that baby and actually shave the baby's head when they bought it back. So but fortunately was a happy ending but it's tragic it's tragic and those are the kinds of things that made me want to become an app active in and do these positive things. So when you said mosetta and I started writing things like the king's commandment Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house shall not lie Lya NFL with the LIE we put it about having good hair and it was so much fun. It was celebrated and then what to add soap fun. Is it with the women getting together? We were exchanging stories of black women and feeling so comfortable.
25:42 Then the men the guys are saying we'll have a good weekend, whatever your help and I remember asking permission of the group, you know guys want to come you're you okay? What did they were okay with it and I'd say well you guys are going to get your hair done before they come right cuz we're still going to pick me up and I told the guys now you going to have to do here to we don't know how to do hair. Well, you going to have to massage scalp sore rubbish shoulder massage older than you do and they did and it was so beautiful in the children were already, because some of the women with mothers
26:23 Cell for the children to see this kind of family interaction. And for the women when the guys would come in here be sticking up all over the hair to care. We're getting our hair done when I thinking about you and the guys would come and you know, because we would go in the backyard if if the bathtub was occupied with somebody watching someone's hair and the kitchen sink in the bathroom. We get the water hose out there in the back, you know is so wonderful. So the kids could see that and everyone will get involved and there was some really special moments when the guys we're doing a couple situation where one guy would help another guy with his hair without any issues about gender or if this is like that it was a planet again said, you know, and I would just get goosebumps just looking around at all that you know, it's something about
27:19 Somebody when you kneel before somebody and when we did the hair you were between their needs and let him down like when healing us something is I don't know is something like in church feet-washing or something, but it was something you felt something when you between somebody's knees and they are doing your hair cuz remember we grew up with that you sit down between mommy when your mother told me your hair grow back home. And if you went too much might take her needs and Bop you in the sky, but it was a safe place. It was a safe place between their knees and that was I'm glad you mention that because
28:03 I would do more watching and looking or I'd do somebody's hair but I'm running around making sure you got to let me know you going right away, everybody's comfortable but to take pause and look around and you know, it might be someone sitting on the floor then someone sitting in the chair. You know, the one on the floor with is between the news of the day. But it's standing up behind me and like stairs and doing here and to look at the Expressions Bliss. And you know, my mind would want to do to the women who serve everybody else aren't serving themselves or but here they are Nestle's and in Comfort Inn and was like, it was just such a peaceful log and doing hair and talking and sharing and remember Leon someone we would take videos of those Gathering.
29:03 Primarily because I wanted to see what was going on. Yeah after everything. He's done it sit back and because I often miss so much when I have Gatherings and people tell me later. Did you know what this? So is that what did I know? What does that? So it was that it wasn't like to take a video because we're doing a production. He was just capturing moments and I remember Sharry Maan video with my mother at the time when she was living in Ohio. I shared it with her and I shared it with some other people and one thing that I got several the one to side with
29:41 My mother said honey. Nobody's talking about anybody. Nobody has got some Migos on anybody, you know, and she said in another friend said, you know in a Bad Thing men or any it was he had a different wonderful stuff, but you know, it's nothing but the difference is I don't know. I don't know but it and that's why I think it struck several people when they saw that because we're able to get together and not the caddy at all that is sniping that goes on all the time to think about when we grew up and you know, we're doing that and how comforting it was. So, you know, I love that but one of the things along with your giving me my nickname Mose Allison you gave me and I have to say a gift of of a story.
30:41 When we were once again talk it was after hair day and we were talking about.
30:47 Hair stories and sharing things and you share with me something that was so powerful about how you decided. If you go to do natural. Yeah, that's right. I forgot about that that that that sound of putting it spreads cuz I had a perm then what you put Spritz on your hair and you put the trailer now and only and me being a a crack addict that sound of that's reason a curling iron was I just like the crack pipe was a trigger it was a traitor and it was months before I figured out that that was a traitor, but I was doing my hair one night.
31:35 And when I did hit me that that's what was doing it. I could only curl half of my hair and then try to find my Dope Dealer. I had not a house with half of my head done. That's when you told me that I remember I wanted to fall out of my chair because we've had conversation as you said it matter factly that you were recovering right at the time. It was 10 radius and recovery, but what do you what made you stop was not?
32:08 Wanting to hear that sound of that straightening because it would take you to places to take you to the crack house. Something happened that the one of the times you went to go get and that just change your resolve. Yeah, and
32:32 It was a sound in because you know, what's a simple about her hair and our self-image and I'm lying and so forth that actually going natural actually saves your life because if you if you're holding a crack pipe and you got enough Coke and crack in the pipe and you put the light on it and that good Sizzle, you know, you got enough crap on it and when you curling your hair you get that sound, you know, you got to have a nice girl and it was just like God I couldn't is no way to do that cuz you got a hold of a big rock on your pipe. I had to stop that was so powerful and I remember oh man when you told me that
33:21 There was a time when I hadn't seen you in a while and then I saw you and your hair was straightened or perm.
33:32 And I remember asking you if I think I called you about it cuz it was bothering me and I wondered whether you let going back and I said are you all right, and then I can explain to you why I was concerned practicality hair straightening does the sound doesn't bother you said that well, you tell me what cuz it was is it didn't bother me and I had done I did that to see if it would bother me of this this particular time. It did Bobby. I'm sitting at the beauty shop and it did bother me and I left the Beautician and went straight to the AA meeting. So I had to I had to I wasn't ready I had to wear my hair natural again for about a year and then I Baxley it and start straightening my hair again. I kept owing to see if the sound with vodka. That's what I'm doing and this time but there is
34:32 It did bother me when you tell me that I just took a breath and my kids did the same thing my son you okay. Are you okay? You're not going to go back to drugs? I said no. I'm okay, then. Yes, it has the reason why I even do what ya and there's a gorgeous silver great life you have now how many years in recovery. 27 III welded writing a poem as you know about that became performed call this afternoon. And I remember that thank you. I remember when I when I did it when I would do it, sometimes I get emotional because what was going through my head is the things that we do to alter ourselves to be something that we're not and the effect that it can have one that's in different ways. So all of that was
35:32 Going through my mind when I would do the poem starting out with that loud of the straightening comb that I would get emotional sometime and in cry and so at the end people what I would perform at, you know at a poetry Setter something people would come up to me telling me their stories of recovery. Like it was me and it was thought it was you but it was you and remember the time that I bought you all. Yeah you into any of that poem and introduce you
36:05 And you were the real person who experiences dad so many women in recovery came to even acknowledge that that sounds and they had been panting and paid attention to that. But with you doing that skit they said who that is so true. I was just like your hair being straightened is powerful. But you know, then who we are is powerful to so I never thought that nappiness save somebody's life get you off of drugs stop straightening your hair will but I'm so glad we ran into each other. I know I'm looking at you now. It's still have to continue in and help out people.
37:07 When you look at your natural hair, what do you think now?
37:13 I'm glad it's still there because you get older your hair falls out, please and it's is best for me not to come it cuz it doesn't want to become a registered religious Laura to silver grey Wrangler. It's like a little ornament in the area of the house. So I'm so glad we reconnected to talk about this now. It's a beautiful story and I just hope you can do the performers more because it's excitement. I've seen it several times, but I cry every time you do it the honor to me was that it it it told your story white because the first time you told me that story
38:05 Sitting at the kitchen table. I just started writing notes. I didn't I didn't know it was going to be like, yeah, so to be able to share it in a way poetically traded me and have it touch people and to touch you was a gift as our friendship is the sound of our friendship hot sizzling. Thank you for talking to me today. I enjoyed it. I was as wonderful.