I Need That ‘Creamy Crack’: A Conversation Around the Politics of Hair in Haiti

Central America


What she mean ‘she don’t like her hair?’ Get rid of that colonist mindset sis, it’s 2019! Get on that curly girl wave!

As a Haitian-American, I’ve noticed that it’s easy for us to say that in The United States, where we have complete autonomy in how we choose to live our lives. But in “developing” (or Globally South) countries like Haiti, hair is political. And for most women on the island, plaiting that “creamy crack” every 2 weeks is essential.

A woman carrying goods on her head on the road towards Kenscoff, Haiti.

Everywhere I went to in Haiti, I saw a lot of women permed their hair. Little girls from the early age of 7 were already slicking their beautiful coils back with texturizers. When I asked my aunt why people kept perming their hair, she simply said that it was just easier to maintain. Which is absolutely understandable because once upon a time, I was that little black girl that begged my mom for that ‘creamy crack.’ I hated when my mother raked through my hair with a thin comb, expecting it to miraculously untangle every bit of knots in my hair. Over time, I grew to hate my hair and my mother only fueled that resentment with broken combs and tough jerks on my head.

Me overlooking the breathtaking views in Furcy, Haiti

She loved putting texturizers on my hair, but I hated my hair even more. The happy girl on the Just For Me box fooled me. It was easy for her to part my hair in sections, use thin-combs through my ‘straight’ hair, and style with no problem. I suffered through the burnt scabs left by perms, ruthless hot combs, and sitting through endless pain at Dominican hair salons. That creamy crack was absolutely no joke and I was too young to understand.

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve realized that my resentment towards my hair was only fueled by my internalized eurocentrism. I’ve learned to celebrate all of my blackness overtime, which included cutting off the texturized-ends that reminded me once of my ignorance.

Haitian shop in Baptist Haiti Mission.

I’ve been saved from my own internalized ignorance, what a relief. But when I walked through the bustling streets of Port-au-Prince, I was heartbroken by the amount of strong Haitian women who were victims to merciless burn wounds from relaxers. I’m talking about edges literally snatched. My heart ached. The battle is real. While I’m totally against the ‘creamy crack’ and witnessing a lot of black women use it, I have no right to judge anyone for their hair choices. It’s not my hair, it’s theirs.

Yet, Western culture is a powerhouse. From a young age, children of color are sold this idea that Eurocentric beauty standards are the norm. It’s become massively westernized with numerous beauty and advertising companies following this agenda of targeting communities of color. This leads to women resorting to perming their hair in response to societal pressures to ‘appeal to Eurocentric features on the screen’ and neglect their cultural features. I even was getting my hair braided one hot day, and the women in the salon were making fun of my natural hair! The plot twist!

This is why celebrating your cultural features from your hair to your face structure, to your skin tone, should be a daily ritual. Challenging Eurocentric beauty standards and the status quo is important. Our hair is immaculate. Spreading that love is vital because you don’t know who absolutely needs to hear it.

Haitian merchandise at Baptist Haiti Mission.

This curly girl season, let’s remind ourselves of some important celebratory steps for our natural hair:

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    Educate yourself on your hair and share it!

    Most people perm their hair because: 1. it’s convenient and 2. people most likely don’t know how to take care of their natural hair. Being in Haiti opened my eyes to the social realities that I’ve become blissful to because I lived in America. To be free to express ourselves the way we do is an absolute privilege. The lack of education on black hair is pervasive, resulting in women using chemical products to style their hair. Educating yourself on what’s good for your hair is the ultimate self-care; you’ll know what your hair needs, not what society wants for your hair.

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    All hair is ‘good hair’

    A groundbreaking way to challenge societal pressure is challenging the internalized perception that loose curls (often associated with lighter skin) are superior to tight, coily, natural hair. A dark-skinned Black woman with long hair seems ‘too good to be true’, resulting in invasive questions such as, “Are you mixed?” Let’s debunk that myth. All hair is ‘good hair’, period.

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    You are not your hair

    India Arie said it best:

    I am not my hair

    I am not this skin

    I am not your expectations

    While getting my hair done in a Haitian salon prompted jokes and unwanted stares, I had to learn once again, that I am not my hair. My 4c hair is no less beautiful than another’s 3C hair. My short hair doesn’t make me less of a woman. My natural hair is not comparable to permed hair. 

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    Respect Black women’s hair choices

    Your choice to be natural is your decision alone and it has nothing to do with anyone else. Sometimes we’re bombarded with unwanted questions/statements about our hair choices that seem invasive. “Why don’t you perm your hair?” Or “I could never be able to go natural, my hair’s too much.” We often forget someone else’s hairstyle is not ours. With today’s societal pressures to wear lace fronts and other expensive hairstyles, it’s easy to question one’s hair preference. Look, sometimes we broke and can only afford a twist out at the moment. Or a perm. Either way, it’s your choice, not theirs.

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    Being natural is a journey, not a sprint

    Comparison is the thief of joy. I’m sure you’ve read or heard that somewhere but it’s true. Your natural hair journey is way different than the natural hair YouTuber with 3 million views. Your hair may react differently to famous natural hair products other naturals may use. Understand that you are on a journey to understand and grow along with your hair. Think of your natural curls as a plant. If you don’t take care of it, it’ll become dry and brittle. If you over-moisturize it, it’ll become weak and prone to hydral fatigue. Find your balance and enjoy the ride.

Driving through Kenscoff, Haiti .

For Black women, our hair is an immediate representation of us. It is the literal evidence of our Blackness, seriously. Our hair is our crown, and it’s an imperative staple in our lives. Hair not done? We not goin’ nowhere. We don’t feel like ourselves. But whether you rock an afro or perm, cultural features, regardless of race, should be celebrated, not scrutinized.

Does the way anyone wears their hair determine their integrity? Perm or not, let’s be supportive in the name of the natural hair movement.

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