(Letters to Editor)
This is a time of awakening for African-American self-preservation and beautification, and a natural hair care guru is leading by example.
Isis Brantley of Dallas, Texas is a style influencer and the recent recipient of the “Nzuri 100 Carat Diamond Award” for pioneering natural hair care; and being a trailblazer for over 20 years in the natural hair care industry. Isis was recently awarded during the Nzuri Natural Hair, Health & Beauty Festival’s 100 Carat Diamond Award Gala event.
Isis Brantley has been a practitioner of natural hair care in the African-American community for 30 years. She is also the brainchild of the annual Naturally Isis Hair Parade and Festival with celebrity songstress Erykah Badu as the Grand Marshall. According to Isis, braiding natural hair has been a career endeavor that has been challenged by ideologies that insist on denouncing cultural expression, economic liberty and civil rights.
Isis’s most dramatic encounter was a highly publicized airport security alert when her afro set off a panic response by TSA officials in Atlanta, Georgia who were concerned that Isis was concealing a weapon in her hair. The incident was an embarrassing spectacle for Isis and made national news headlines. Currently, Isis has been challenged by the state of Texas for illegally operating her Institute of Ancestral Braiding College without becoming a licensed barber instructor. Isis has opened a federal suit against the state of Texas challenging the economic liberty and due process of the law in order to continue to operate her school. Isis seeks certification that will be recognized by the state and allow her students to be able to operate legally as braiding professionals.
“This is a natural hair care and braiding business. We don’t barber, heat hair or use harmful chemicals; and there exist no licensed school that trains and certifies for braiding natural hair. This is a practice that is apart of indigenous African culture, and I’m offended by ignorant outsiders attempting to regulate a cultural practice that is a civil right, a human right, a God given right!” explains Isis. “What I do is important to people of the African diaspora because we offer healing through the hair and the expression of culture. African-Americans need to be re-educated about the beauty standards for black hair care. Many of the popular products and practices in the market cause damage to their hair.” say’s Isis.
As a natural hair care guru, Isis keeps her focus on the nexus of cultural beauty and ethnic style by wearing elaborate ethnic fashions. At the December 6th Nzuri Diamond Awards event, Isis Brantley wore a TeKay Designs gown with bronze, gold embroidery that was hand made in Ghana, Africa. The gown has a mermaid silhouette with a sexy opening on the dress skirt with embroidered scalloped edges. The fabric is cotton jacquard, a high quality embossed cotton fabric. The gown has a modern fit and the embroidered African fabric makes a significant cultural statement. Isis’s fight for preserving cultural identity for people of the African diaspora is represented from head to toe. Isis uses ethnic fashions and beauty to heal the community by promoting cultural style. According to Isis, self-expression through cultural fashions is a part of a healing process.
Isis explains,”There is healing through cultural expression. This is a culturally related industry, so ethnic fashions complements my identity. This is how I represent! My wardrobe is styled by Tekay Designs because I love the bold colors, soft fabrics and Afrique Chic styles. For me it’s important to support other creatives from the African diaspora. Africans are trendsetters and influencers of style. Other ethnic groups have fashioned products to the African-American consumer’s demand; we need to also patron black owned businesses that offer African cultural products. Patronizing is apart of the healing process for the black community. This is a time of awakening for African-American self-preservation and beautification. And I’m leading by example. By changing suppressive policies and social conformity, while promoting cultural awareness and wellness through my profession.“
According to a popular belief of those who practice cosmetology formally and informally, the mindset is that, hair relaxers can be both a blessing and a curse for many African-American women. African-American woman are targeted with marketing by the chemical industry that offers hair-straightening products that provide for easy, time saving preparations for getting ready each day. However, when not applied professionally, the harsh chemicals can result in hair loss, breakage and even scalp burns. Isis explains:
â€œThe time we take grooming ourselves is a labor of love, and we should not regress into a mindset that we don’t have the time to take care of our natural hair.“
Through her teachings, Isis Brantley re-establishes wellness, cultural identity, and reinforces the love of black beauty in the community one kinky curl strand at a time.