For the longest time, I had my hair cut short, so I decided I needed a change. I then decided that it would best if I let my hair grow. The reason why I wanted to do this was because I always found it empowering to see my cousins with their natural hair. Subsequently, I started to think about growing out my own hair and looking for that empowerment in myself. That reflective moment guided my contemplation over the stereotypes of black males with thick natural hair. The stereotype was the affiliation with gangs because of how they looked (whether it was in cornrows, twists etc). Nowadays, if you see rappers or famous singers with braids or with an afro, they tend to sing about sex, drugs and money. Unfortunately, many people (of all races) will then copy and paste this image onto people who look or style their hair in a similar manner. Both of these images are portrayed in the media, but how did this come to be? Black men have been growing out their hair for centuries, long before these artists even existed. They grew their hair out before the media was created and before gangs were even popular. From royalty to peasants, braids and lengthy hair were, for the most part, a normality. Take King Tewodros for example: This man was one of the most influential people in Ethiopian history. And guess what? He had cornrows! Imagine a black Canadian candidate with cornrows running for office as prime minister. Would you listen to what he has to say or deem him as unsuitable, simply because he doesn’t look professional? The point I’m trying to make is not whether it looks professional or not, but rather that these braids and hairstyles represent so much more than what meets the eye. They represent our history as black men and as black people. Needless to say, braids and afro-like hairstyles are important to me because they represent my culture and my heritage.