I developed a strong interest in growing dreadlocks after meeting a Rastafarian whom I greatly admired for his vegan lifestyle, dedication to Black culture, and long dreadlocks. Knowing my IT job in a corporation, he encouraged me to redirect my education and skills to projects and programs that help uplift the Black community. Motivated by his advice, I started volunteering for all progressive initiatives, actively participating in marches and protests.
However, I refused to quit my job to join the local Rastafari community. I felt that I could lead by example and show others that it's possible to work your way through college and find meaningful work. Having left my Christian-based home in Arkansas at eighteen, I wasn't interested in organized religion. Though I found aspects of Rastafari appealing (especially the dreadlocks), the scripture-based lifestyle was not in the spiritual direction I was heading.
Although I didn't adopt the Rastafari lifestyle, the desire to grow dreadlocks and make a statement remained strong. During a trip to New York, at age twenty-three, I saw numerous people with dreadlocks, hailing from diverse backgrounds and professions. Not all wore red, gold, black, and green colors associated with Rastafarians. Among them were individuals of African, European, Asian, Hispanic, and various other ethnicities.
One day, while standing at a corner in Manhattan, a Black man in a red convertible pulled up to the traffic light with the top down. He was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, and his long dreadlocks cascaded over the back of the car.
Intrigued, I couldn't help but shout, "Hey man, what do you do?" With a smile, he responded, "Making money and saving lives!"
The image and his words left a lasting impression on me. It was a defining moment that started shaping my vision of myself with dreadlocks. What struck me, even more was the realization that people with dreadlocks came from diverse backgrounds and held various levels of success in various jobs and careers. This inspired me to see beyond stereotypes and embrace the idea that dreadlocks didn't define one's capabilities or achievements.
In embracing my decision to grow dreadlocks, I knew others might have mixed opinions. Some might view it as a bold and empowering statement of self-expression, while others could harbor misconceptions or stereotypes associated with dreadlocks. Nonetheless, I was determined to stay true to myself and remain steadfast in my belief that my dreadlocks would not define my worth or capabilities. My focus was on living authentically and challenging societal norms, even if it meant encountering skepticism or criticism from those around me.
I started researching how to grow dreadlocks and learned some essential things about the process:
- Dreadlocks require patience and care in the beginning stages, as they don't form as quickly as one might hope.
- Growing dreadlocks is no universal secret; it depends on hair texture. Dreadlocks typically form when hair becomes nappy, uncombed, and unkempt as it grows.
- Each dreadlock comprises thousands of hair strands intertwined together, resembling a plaited nylon rope.
- The process of creating dreadlocks can vary, and what works for one person may not work for another.
- The worst way to create dreadlocks is by letting hair matte together with dirt, which involves not shampooing for months.
- Twisting, braiding, or letting hair develop naturally are different methods to form dreadlocks.
- I chose the freestyling approach, allowing my dreadlocks to form naturally without twisting or braiding, as it suited my preferences and situation.
On the day I decided to grow dreadlocks, I completely changed my approach to my hair. I stopped going to barbershops and put away clippers, combs, hairbrushes, doo-rags, and grease. My hair was less than a quarter of an inch long then. Given that I worked in a corporate environment where a neat appearance with military haircuts, white shirts, and ties was important, I realized I was stepping into uncharted territory. I didn't have a concrete plan yet, but I knew the first step was to let my hair be and not interfere with its natural growth. And that's precisely what I did.
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