Babybangz: Black Power in Hair

[logo chimes]

[upbeat music]

[Anastasia] ‘Cause my father’s from here,

and his father’s from here, and his father’s from here,

that he has a chance to live it out where he’s from.

[dramatic music]

I’m Anastasia Ebel.

I’m from Uptown New Orleans, 13th Ward.

[ethereal music]

BabyBangz came about so organic.

I’ve always loved hair, I’ve always wanted to do hair.

And I just, I always wanted to be a hairdresser.

[ethereal music]

Ancient societies, the hair stylist was also the midwife,

was also the healer, was also the medicine man.

That’s an honor to be trusted to do that.

And I do believe that there’s chosen ones in the community

that are able to do that.

And they need a place to be trained.

[ethereal music]

I got to beauty school,

there was no such thing as natural hair,

they didn’t talk about it, it was avoided.

They didn’t even encourage black people

to come to the hair school.

Something in me just rebelled.

Every rule they had that I could break,

I figured out how to break it.

I’m refusing to do relaxers on relaxer day.

I’m just gonna cause a issue cause you need to feel this.

So before the pushback, it was never a thing.

But once I felt the pushback, it became everything.

Man, I could just tell you horror stories

of what it was like to do natural hair

in white salons that were like,

quote, unquote, curls positive.

Anything black, I had to whisper.

And you have to have black-ass conversations

in order for somebody to trust you in their hair.

[ethereal music]

I never had an issue filling my chair.

It’s like as soon as the word got out

that someone could even fucking detangle natural hair,

it was like wildfire.

I’ve never had an empty books.

Yeah, well, my daughter is the one

that freed me to wear natural hair.

I was one of those mothers.

I had been relaxing my baby hair, relax my hair.

She was like, Mama, please don’t put a relax in your hair.

And I was like, Oh God, don’t ask me to be natural.

[group laughs]

I had to go through withdrawal.

And I was like, Oh, please,

and she said, No, you’re gonna love it.

She says, I’m gonna help you.

[group laughs]

So she is the reason I come to Anastasia.

She says, ’cause she knows, and Anastasia knows,

I’m a religious patron.

I’m coming.

Every two weeks. Every two weeks,

I would come every week except Anastasia,

You don’t need to come this week. [laughs]

Yeah, nah, I don’t need to see you that often.

I don’t wanna see you that often,

do something else, you know what I’m saying?

So she helped me find Anastasia,

she says, I’m gonna find you somebody,

’cause my hairstylist is like my therapist.

[ethereal music]

[Woman] Your daughter wears a Afro.

Yeah, my daughter wears a Afro, consistently, yes.

By choice, she asked could she big chop.

So at the time, me and her stepmom both had big chopped,

and I wasn’t pushing it, like, whatever.

I’m kind of like a hippie parent,

like, Whatever you feel, girl.

And so one day, her stepmom called,

it was the summer and she say,

Ayana wants me to cut her hair, what do you think?

I’m like, If you want to cut it and she wants it to be cut,

just let her know it’s gonna be really, really short.

I’ve probably done thousands of big chops.

Let me tell you how them 12 year olds don’t be trippin’.

Like, you know, I give everybody the same ring around.

Everybody thinks they, everybody has a genuine experience,

but there’s levels of psychology I have to hit

when I’m doing a big chop.

There’s the same questions, I read their energy,

their response, their body language.

And, on the website it says,

Come emotionally and spiritually prepared for this,

’cause I ain’t got time to do this with you.

Those 12 year olds, that consultation is one minute.

They’re like, I wanna do this.

They already know. They don’t have

none of that, they really don’t have that.

It’s just like, what do you mean?

[ethereal music]

Being a mother made everything so real.

[ethereal music]

My son has a lot of pressure to, like, respect our heritage,

respect our lineage, honor our lineage.

‘Cause my father’s from here,

and his father’s from here, and his father’s from here.

It’s just important to me

that even if he doesn’t know the exact story,

that he has a chance to live it out where he’s from.

[ethereal music]

I lack foundation, we don’t have foundation.

We built this country, and we’ve worked so hard

but we all start from zero, that’s what it feels like.

And in what space do you feel safe right now?

That depends, like, is it safe, like safety

for my life, safety to be myself, like,

there’s so many different,

that’s why I’m surprised you said job

because I don’t think I’ve ever felt safe

to be myself at work, like as a black woman.

You have to tone down who you are as a person

to be taken seriously

because we already have this idea in the media

of what we should be doing,

and saying, and looking like.

Just a certain type of black woman,

whether that’s the angry black woman.

Like you have to play a character.

Yeah, so it depends on, like what part of safety?

‘Cause that’s a very, very broad question.

[ethereal music]

[Anastasia] I have created a safe space

but I’m only safe when I’m inside these walls.

Once I walk outside, I’m no longer safe.

We’ve lost a sense of community.

Gentrification’s definitely contributing to that.

I’m from the real New Orleans.

I’m from pre-Katrina New Orleans.

And if I go into the 13th Ward

and I go on the block that I am from,

I don’t even wanna use words like anxiety, it’s like rage.

New Orleans is my inheritance so I am not leaving.

I love the heat, I love the humidity,

I love the colors, I love the people,

the New Orleans people, real New Orleans people.

I love that feeling when, like,

every woman is there. [laughs]

And they all care about your safety.

I can’t lose that.

When I think about, like, post-Katrina

and the gentrification of our city and our neighborhoods,

Some people that are external

to this don’t fully embrace who we are are.

And you know, they wanna be able

to experience a Second Line,

but they don’t know a Second Line is an impromptu thing.

They want you to get a permit.

They wanna, they wanna live in Tremé,

but they don’t really wanna live in Tremé,

’cause you know they want noise ordinance

and they don’t want certain bars.

To know that like the most black people

that I ever saw out and about in New Orleans,

enjoying themselves,

was during Essence Fest and it wasn’t the people from here.

Like to know that we were all working,

like they were shutting down restaurants

and different establishments

because we were bout to be outside.

But it wasn’t even the people that were from here.

The people who are here can’t enjoy

what the city is producing

and what the city is giving everybody else then-

What’s the point? It seems too loud, exactly.

[Anastasia] BabyBangz is always gonna be a salon,

but I personally am heading into,

like, the education aspect of it.

I do a really intense training phase

before you can work for me.

There is a reading list and the reading list

is not necessarily about how to do a roller set.

The reading list is African history,

African American history.

Basically it’s like a deprogramming,

like [laughs] situation I’m doing.

It’s a lot of psychology

because our job is a lot more mental

than it is physical right now.

You have to have a strategy

for how you’re gonna handle certain conversations.

[ethereal music]

I’m great at doing hair.

Everybody wants me to do their hair, but,

I’m gonna expire eventually.

[ethereal music]

And it’s just so much more important to me

that this is a thing that’s available to people.

[Woman] That we could go, I feel, in America.

[upbeat ethereal music]

I cried about the name BabyBangz,

I was like, No, I’m gonna sound so ghetto.

And my ex-husband was like,

But, you are, what do you mean?

That’s perfect, that’s exactly what you are,

and that’s exactly whose hair you doing.

Your client is Keisha from up the block,

she just happens to be a judge now.

She has baby bangs,

she’s had baby bangs for the last 4 years.

They were just seen as inappropriate, but it’s not.

[upbeat ethereal music]

And it’s literally what they tell her not to be.

And that’s who she is.

[water tinkling] [ethereal music]

Who could live through a pandemic, a economic crisis,

and the, you know, inequity in justice.

Like this is the lowest low that we could go,

I feel, in America.

And so like Michelle Obama say,

When they go low, what’s gonna happen?

[Women] We go high.

We ’bout to go so high.

[group cheering]

[group chattering]

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