Celebrate Your Locs at the Third Annual Issa Loc Celebration, Aug. 27

Celebrate Your Locs at the Third Annual Issa Loc Celebration, Aug. 27

Just last month, California became the first state to ban discrimination against natural hair, and New York soon followed a few days later. Both states understand that not everyone treats hairstyles with the same respect based on the person’s hair texture and skin color. Time and time again, the Black community is put down and looked down upon because of our natural hair. Our hairstyles are deemed unprofessional, although it’s the hair that naturally grows out of our scalp.

Locs have been one of the top natural Black hairstyles that society has chosen to label as demonized, unkept and not beautiful. Some even think the hairstyle is dreadful, which is why locs are often called dreads. But, whether it’s locs, afros or curls, hair in the Black community has always been a big deal.

We’ve been taught for generations to mutilate our hair to fit European standards, but every day, more and more individuals are embracing their natural selfs by letting their natural hair go free.

Radaya Ellis. (Picture by Sayvon Friend)

Three years ago in August, Radaya Ellis began her loc journey, which she said was the first time she loved her hair.

“[This was] me coming into myself,” said Ellis.

For most of Ellis’s life, she wore her hair straight because that’s what society has defined as beautiful. It took until Ellis decided to change her diet that other parts of her life began to change too. Once she realized she wasn’t eating correctly, she started wondering what other harmful things she was doing to her body, and one major issue she found was her hair.

She wanted to start her loc journey five years ago but was too scared to go forward. But once she went to college, she knew she could do what she wanted. While in college, Ellis transitioned from permed hair to a natural afro, which she said people didn’t support. They told her things like “what’s wrong with your hair?” or “I liked it better straight.” These comments made Ellis cringe, but they didn’t deter her.

Eventually, Ellis moved on from her afro to her locs and to celebrate her journey, she created “Issa Loc Celebration”—an annual free photoshoot for individuals with locs to come together in Milwaukee to celebrate their hair. Not everyone who participates in the celebration has locs, some have afros, curls or no hair at all.

Locs up-close and personal at Issa Loc Celebration’s first year. (Picture by Sayvon Friend)

Later this month on Aug. 27, Ellis will be celebrating Issa Loc Celebration’s third year. According to Ellis, 10 people came to the first celebration, 23 came to the second, and this year, Ellis is looking to have 30-40 people in attendance.

In the future, Ellis hopes to see more Milwaukeeans with locs. For her it would be “refreshing.” She also stated that it’s her responsibility to be a voice for the community, and she’s not just doing that through her hair.

Ellis has a B.A. in biological sciences because she “didn’t know too many Black scientists,” so she’s switching up the narrative and filling the gaps. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2015, Blacks made up only 6.8 percent of all science and engineering jobs. Currently, Ellis is in a Residency called “The Plug” through StillWaters Collective where she focuses on finding a tool to help those leaving incarceration get back accumulated into life.

“A part of community is knowing that we are a community,” Ellis said.

Issa Loc Celebration is held every second Saturday of August because the first one was held the second Saturday of August after Ellis’s birthday on Aug. 2 when she got loc’d up, according to a Facebook post.

“Who knew my life would change just due to hair. I was liberated and the Loc Celebration is to commentate that liberation through hair. Representation matters and the Loc Celebration portrays Locs in their true glory all while defying myths of dreadfulness and unprofessionalism.

I am not my hair, my hair is me,” Ellis wrote on Facebook.

This year’s Issa Loc Celebration will be held on Aug. 27, 2019 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Victory Park, located at 2601 N. MLK Dr. For more information, click here.

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