'Hoping to inspire.' ABC11's Akilah Davis declares Juneteenth as her natural hair liberation day

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023
ABC11's Akilah Davis shares her personal hair liberation journey
Akilah Davis shares her personal hair journey and reveals her natural hair in locs, celebrating it as liberation day on Juneteenth.

"It takes courage. It takes strength. It takes resilience."

For Juneteenth 2023, ABC11's Race and Culture Reporter Akilah Davis is celebrating the hair freedom she's always wanted.

Growing up, her hair texture was misunderstood. Her mother used a variety of hair-straightening techniques to make her hair "more manageable."

"I didn't think she had bad hair. She just didn't have the texture I had," said her mom Debra Davis. "The only way I could fix it was to either hot comb it or perm it."

Unknowingly, she internalized the idea that straight hair was good hair and afro hair was not. Marketing campaigns on TV and in magazines didn't help by echoing that thought.

"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," said Dr. Jasmine Cobb, professor of African American studies at Duke University.

It's a topic Cobb explores in her book entitled, "New Growth, The Art and Texture of Black Hair."

The professor said Eurocentric beauty standards created a perception that only straight hair was beautiful.

"Reclaiming our identity."

While George Floyd's death sparked a global racial reckoning, a quiet movement among Black women was also growing.

"One way we're redefining and reclaiming our identity is through our hair," said Maya Anderson, who's a loctician at Locs, Naturals, & More.

According to Anderson, more Black women are loc'ing their hair, which she believes is a freedom and form of self-expression.

"Just get up, shake your hair, move on with the day and not have to worry about rain or humidity," she said.

In December 2021, Anderson established microlocs in Akilah's hair. However, Akilah has been covering them with a wig. She wanted to reveal the big transition on TV on Juneteenth.

Good Morning America Anchor Janai Norman made the natural hair transition on the national stage in 2018.

"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," said Good Morning America anchor Janai Norman.

"It takes courage. It takes strength. It takes resilience."

Davis chose Juneteenth to share her journey to hair freedom because she wants to be true to herself on TV. She hopes to inspire women and little girls struggling to embrace their roots. It's a hair freedom she's always wanted.

"I'm just proud of you doing what you're doing and being brave by presenting yourself how you want to present yourself," her mom said.