Program offers safe refuge for Black women living with HIV/AIDS

Shanasha Whitson is the WILLOW program coordinator at the Minnesota African American AIDS Task Force (AAATF). WILLOW, which has been around for three years, used to be a four-week program. It was formed by women who are HIV positive for other women who are HIV positive.

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Salute to the armed forces’ curlies!

On March 31, 2014 the Army released an updated appearance and grooming policy known as AR670-1. In the proposed changes, unauthorized hairstyles include twists, both flat twists as well as two-strand twists; dreadlocks of any style; and cornrows must be uniform and no bigger than a quarter of an inch.

As you can imagine, this created an uproar in many communities and has taken many to social media to express their outrage over the U.S. Army’s new regulations on hairstyles, which have been called “racially biased’’ against Black female soldiers.

These regulations apply to all Army personnel, including students at West Point and those serving in the R.O.T.C. and the National Guard. Although no ethnicity was mentioned, it’s not hard to conclude that certain sections specifically pertain to Black women, since they refer to hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks — limiting or banning them outright.

For most Black people, hair naturally grows in a curly/coily pattern that makes the hair come up and out from the scalp, not down or flat on the scalp. Thus, styling options can vary based on texture.

The biggest concern isn’t that the Army does not have the right to enforce a conservative code; however, they must consider the diversity of hair textures. An article written in the New York Times stated, “Army’s regulations assume that all hair not only grows the same way but can be styled the same way. For example, one permitted hairstyle is a bun. Yet because of the thickness of a lot of black women’s hair, a bun is not always possible unless the hair is put into twists first. But twists and dreadlocks, no matter how narrow and neat, are banned in the policy and labeled ‘faddish’ and ‘exaggerated.’”

In the Army Times, Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard, who wears her hair in two twists, stated, “I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear.”

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