Why I cut off my Locs and the politics of Black Hair

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On Father’s Day, I posted a picture on my Facebook profile of my daughter and myself.   At her daycare, they were having a small father’s day celebration where the toddlers designed a gift for Dad.

Nia Rad

Well this led to my Facebook inbox blowing up.   Not only due to the fact that my daughter is beautiful (yes I am very biased) – but due to the fact that I removed my locs.   All of the sudden, I am getting offers to attend various churches.   The assumption there is that I did this for religious reasons and that I am no longer an ‘evil’ rastaman.

On the other side, there are some who now believe that I am no longer interested in the forward progression of the Black community in Toronto because I cut of my locs.   Or in other words, “I am conforming to White Supremacy”.

The purpose of this blog post is to hopefully eliminate these misunderstandings and to avoid having to respond to every inbox message individually!

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.

The decision to grow my locs was made in 2002.   I was progressing fairly rapidly in my career as an IT Sales Professional.   At the same time, my political and social views were evolving.   I became more aware of issues surrounding diversity and equality.   This came mainly from volunteer sessions with young people across the Greater Toronto Area.

Growing my locs had little to do with a conversion to Rastafarianism.  I am influenced by certain philosophies that are core to Rastafarianism such as the respect for Africa, knowing one’s self and understanding the spirit that connects us all   Locs were also worn by Ancient Egyptians.  In 2002, during a trip to Egypt with Kemet Nu Productions, I saw this first hand when I saw this Pharaoh with locs in the Cairo Museum.

Instead, I grew my locs in hopes of enabling personal growth.  My locs were a test for me.  A test of my resolve, my strength and my ability to overcome challenges.  I also noticed that my locs became a source of inspiration for many people, in particular young black men who never saw any Black Male in a Professional position, much less a Black Male with locs.

2009 - Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo

2009 – Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo

The other large test was going to be aimed at Corporate Canada.  With all of the talk surrounding diversity and equality, my locs would help determine if all of this talk was hype or reality.   How would Senior Leaders in Corporate Canada deal with a professional black male with locs?   Overall, I found that most Senior Executives had no problem with my locs at all.   They were focused on the value that I would deliver for their organization.

It was middle managers and peers who seemed to have a larger problem with my locs.   As I was told once by a middle manager, “…. you scare a lot of middle managers because when you are in front of an Executive you deliver your message much more effectively than most of us… which means you are a threat.”   

Turns out they were right about my ability to deliver a message.   With my locs, I was interviewed on Canada’s Business News Network-BNN, TVO – The Agenda, CBC NewsWorld, 1010 CFRB and ran a political blog with the Toronto Star for the 2011 Provincial Election.

Overseas, I had wonderful professional experiences with clients based out of Malaysia, Thailand, China, Mongolia, Indonesia, Botswana, South Africa  and Nigeria.

Delivering a workshop in Malaysia

Delivering a workshop in Malaysia

Unfortunately, my most disappointing professional experiences were with leaders in Jamaica or within Caribbean populations here in Canada. Too many Senior leaders in Jamaica had the negative stereotype of locs cemented in their minds. Turns out that in retrospect, that many Jamaicans out of Jamaica have this problem, locs or not.   But that is another topic for another time.

There came a point 2 years ago where the thought of removing my locs starting to enter my mind.   I recalled a conversation with the first stylist, Ruth years before this point.  We were talking about why R&B artist India Arie cut her locs off.   While the patrons at Ruth’s style studio – Strictly Roots, were clearly upset, Ruth stated the following:

“You need to understand why someone cuts off their locs.  The removal of your locs is a serious matter.   The decision normally surrounds a life changing event(s) and/or a deeply personal spiritual matter.   It is a matter of personal, spiritual and mental resurrection.  So don’t  judge why someone grows or cuts off their locs. “

Here was the premier natural hair stylist in Toronto standing up for India Arie in this case.   Where most stylist would have ranted like we did, Ruth did not.   My future stylist,  Glen would repeat Ruth’s thoughts many times.   I would like to thank them both for their friendship and for playing key roles in my growth!

Ruth and Glen – the only individuals allowed to touch my locs!

While facing some very serious challenges and life changing events, I seriously considered cutting my locs off.   However, more challenges of an urgent variety continued to mount.   There was actually no opportunity to prepare myself mentally to go ahead and remove years of history that were represented in my locs.

However, after overcoming these challenges with the help of family, friends and other good hearted people – I finally found the spiritual/mental space.   I made the decision to remove my locs on June 6, 2015.  The number 6 and 13 have played significant roles in my life. Thus the date of June 6th seemed appropriate.

So no, I am not looking to change my faith nor am I now a tool for White Supremacy.

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.  It represents a fresh new start, and an appreciation for the ups and downs of life.  Life will have more tests and challenges and I am ready for them.

On to the next chapter of this journey called life.

Blog Post by Radcliffe Dockery