Boy, do we have a treat for you today readers! Meet Isis Brantley. Take a look at the video below. before we get started…
TGC follows Natural Hair Legend and hair stylist, Isis Brantley (or as she’s better known around the world ‘Naturallyisis’), very closely. We learned about the educator and community activist by learning that she is the hairstylist for Goddess Isis’ favorite musical artist, Erykah Badu.
Goddess Isis had the honor of interviewing the Natural Hair Guru on Jakzun Paul’s ‘True Nubia‘ Radio Show. Read more of Goddess Isis’ spiritually liberating interview with Naturallyisis:
**NOTE: The radio interview can be listened to (but is also written below)by clicking here. Fast Forward to 1:06:28 (66:58) for the beginning of our interview.**
More often than not, when you find a Black person who has a talent, their not normally thrilled about sharing the secret of how to do it with others. You know they say “never teach someone everything you know…” but I believe you’re truly helping to building the Black community up through sharing your love and passion for natural hair. Was there any particular events that moved you to open up your [hair braiding] school and give so many people access to your expertise? Oh my God…Yes, there were several events. One was the arrest that took place in ’97. It was random.Out of nowhere. I wasn’t prepared for it. It caught me off guard and when I realized I was going to jail for doing something that I thought was legal and natural, it just blew me away. So after I went through the ordeal of going to jail and being released and the crime being braiding without a cosmetology license, that was the second ordeal to catapult me to the level and the love of wanting to embrace my African heritage and be vocal about it and let people know that this is something that is natural to us as an African people and why should we persecuted for it?
I was just outraged after getting out and seeing how many of our own people thought that I was wrong. Like, “You don’t make the laws”, “You should go ahead and comply”, “Everyone has to get a license, so what makes you different?” and so I had to not only fight with against the state of Texas against something that they were forcing me to believe I was in violation of, but I also had to deal with my own people and people that looked like me that virtually turned me in. Who went four hours away from Dallas to the state of Texas to turn me in to the state of Texas. So I had to deal with these things and I just made it up in my mind… “If Harriet Tubman could lead people down through the underground railroad, than I’m an extension of that underground braiding movement that is happening under ground without people even knowing. Before they even knew of “Isis”, I had already built an underground movement in my community for 20 years. So, that’s what kinda gave me the fuel to stand up and fight because someone has to stand up for our children, and for our culture, and for our identity–and they chose the right person to come up against.
The last time we spoke, you said something that has stuck with me ever since that day. You thanked me for walking in my purpose and at the time, I have to be honest, I didn’t realize that that’s exactly what it was that I was doing. When did you realize that you would become this incredible advocate and guru that you are today? What helps you to continue moving forward? Do you feel like you’ve actually reached your potential? Oh God, let’s see. I think I became aware of my advocacy and my leadership in my community when I started to see more women transform. I literally took up under my wings over 150 women in the Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex who were down on their luck, had children, were homeless (in many cases)… I saw them transform right before my eyes just by giving them the skill of natural hair care and braiding. It was a skill that they had already had lying dormant in them. Not only did I teach them and share with them the skill of braiding, but the spiritual aspect of being a Black woman in this country and how important it was for them to raise their Black children culturally. Giving them a sense of worth. That was one of things and then being able to show and share with my own children the importance of having your own. Not looking for someone else to give you a fish, but learning to fish for yourself.
I knew that something great was happening when I was able to go on my journey and become a priestess, learn more about the energies of God as it relates to African people. What I mean by the different energies… being a priestess taught me how to stay centered. Like, I don’t always stay on the higher plane of my thoughts, but I know how to get back there. I was able to learn the importance about my ancestors. Why it’s important to honor and venerate those that have gone before you. What that means to lead. I was able to take all of the things I learned as a young teenager into my adulthood and then having children, and then giving other births and realities to other children and other people. I was able to take that abroad. So that’s what helped me to understand the importance of raising a village, and standing strong as a community, and being the original aspect or the original energy that God created for the universe. The original energy. Being the Earth… the mother… the grounding. So that’s what kind of made me know I was up to it and then when I went through the whole political thing with the braiding and I saw how people from other parts of the state were pulling together the information of African braiding and the political side of where we stood as a PEOPLE, those people who come and tell me “there hasn’t been anyone that was arrested and taken to jail for doing braiding, so we think that this is something significant”–and I can understand what that meant–no one went to jail for braiding hair, but a lot of people got persecuted, and a lot of people got fired off their jobs, and a lot of people still are being harassed about their identities, their cultural hairstyles, how they wear it, how they grow it and what they do with it. So that was the thing that really made me wake up and say, “Okay, maybe I am the resurrected soul and spirit of Marcus Garvey, Madame C.J. Walker”–I try to stay away from the different people that had their own issues and the reason why they rose above the oppression during their times, but I think I really share a strong liking to the spirit of Marcus Garvey because he stood up for the whole ‘African beauty aesthetics’ back then and they were opposed to people trying to alter those beauty standards back in the 1900’s.
Just to see other flowers bloom, just from me being myself virtually. Erykah Badu tells it better than anyone. When she saw me and she came into the atmosphere that I had at the time, she instantly thought–she thought she was a natural woman–but she instantly transformed into a ‘supernatural’ woman.
Erykah Badu is my absolute, most favorite musical artist. As I was telling you the first time we got a chance to speak, that’s how I learned of you by seeing some braids that she had and that’s how I found your twitter and all that different stuff. I would love to know what kind of things do you guys talk about while you braid her hair because it looks like it takes a long time. If you could share a few topics that would be great. It’s really funny you said that, I was there one year during the time Puma was being conceived–I think she was carrying Puma. She may have been about 8 months. Puma is now 9, I think, but anyway she was trying to get DOC to the doc of course. She was trying to get him to rub her feet and he would not massage her feet. And I’m looking at her like “Are you serious?!” and she’s looking at me like, “Yes Yeye..”–that’s what she calls me–she doesn’t call me Isis–she calls me ‘Yeye’ like my children, they call me Yeye. She said, “Yeye, I am so sick of choosing men beneath me. We both do it..” and we kinda agreed with that… “the men I choose may not be men that (sighs) celebrate me or that compliment me even”, but she was just saying that and I kind of felt sorry for her in a way. I couldn’t believe it. Like, who wouldn’t rub the feet of Erykah Badu? That’s what I was thinking. Like, why would someone ignore her like that? So we talk about things like that.
She was telling me just recently, I did some long braids on her, and she told me–this is funny too–that the new mental illness is menopausing. I thought that was crazy and that we had to get her some medication for it. You had to take some personality altering herbs to keep you sane. So I had never heard that before and I thought that was really interesting. Sometimes we talk about the different herbs like she introduces me to Chinese herbs she is using to balance her hormones, so we talk about that. We talk about girly stuff, she’s always telling me she can’t wait until I start singing. She pretty much knows that I want to sing and I love to sing, but I have my whole mission with the hair thing and she’s just like “you should let that go and just go on stage and come go with me” and I can’t; I wish I could, but I can’t. And [Erykah] is just like “Can you go on the road with me just ooone time, just one time YeYe?” and I’m just like uhhh I don’t think so. So she really thinks I’m a scaredy cat. She’s thinks “you could have done what I’m doing long before me, but you’re just scary. When you get out of the fear and everything you think and feel and just be you and be yourself, you’ll do it.” So I have to prove to myself that I can do some of these things outside of the braiding and that’s my next life. So those are just some of things we talk about and, of course, she’s always loving on my babies and I’m loving on her babies all the time.
Most of the ‘Living Naturally’ readers are women who are just now starting their natural journey–I know you’ve been growing your natural hair for decades–and I was reading about the disrespectful TSA search that happened to you at the airport. I literally my mouth dropped open. I usually ask the people i feature if they ever feel ridiculed or judged by their choice to wear their hair in it’s natural state just to let people know that these kindso f things do actually happen. Especially like, with myself, I have blonde dreads and it’s really hard (especially in NYC) to get a “real job” based on how I look until I open my mouth and people understand, “Oh, she’s really educated”. What advice would you give to natural hair women who do become discouraged based on the discrimination of other people. You know what? That is really happening and when I realized that it was time to stop the perm in my early teens, I’ve always embraced my naturally curly hair–very soft and cottony, mixed with African and Irish. I just thought that it was crazy that I went through the checkpoint, I cleared the checkpoint… no one else was interested in my hair. I think it was the African women that had never seen anyone wear a big afro out in public. And I think the main thing they were curious about was why it didn’t beep when I went through the checkpoint, because ‘obviously it can’t be all her hair’. So, they took upon themselves to after everything was cleared–I’m going down the escalator, ready to board my flight–this Black woman who happened to be African and some goofy-looking White guy come running down the stairs talking about “Hey lady. You with the big hair, stop. We forgot to check your hair for bombs.” So I thought they were joking so I kept walking and basically the security guard came and said “You are not going to catch that flight if you don’t allow this lady to check your hair for bombs.” I was like, “you are kidding me.” So the people in the airport–this was in Atlanta–they were very outraged because they checked my hair in front of everyone. No privacy. No nothing. Like “Look n*gga, I said stop and let me check your hair for bombs!” It was just simple, cut-and-dry like that.
So one of the TSA people that witnessed this happening said after they left, “Ma’am, I really think you need to go back upstairs and ask to speak to the manager because this is not the policy of TSA.” So I went and asked for the manager and she was really upset. She was very, very attentive. She wanted to know what happened from my perspective and made me point out the persons that were guilty of what just happened. And I saw her take the woman by the arm and say, “why did you do that? She went through the checkpoint and we cleared her.” [She responded] “Well I didn’t do it by myself, someone else did..” and the White guy said, “‘Well y’all are not doing your jobs, her hair should have been checked.” So they got him and took him off too and it was just one big mess. So I said, “Okay, something is seriously wrong with this picture”, so I took it to the news people. I was like, “..these people violated my human rights and my person and they had no legitimate reason for doing so. They were in total violation of me and my rights and they basically didn’t even make an apology. They didn’t care. They were like, “look… we rule you… you like this and we’re gonna show you.” And I was like, “No, I don’t like this and I’m going to show you that you’re out of place and out of order” and I just took it to every news media channel that I could take it to, to let them see themselves. And after that, believe it or not Isis, after that happened to be in 2011, TSA started checking every Black woman with locs, afros, braids, weaves, straight hair–everybody got harassed. Not just here in the states, but overseas as well.
In speaking with Isis we learned so much. The many issues she has faced throughout her journey have shed so much light on the fact that we definitely DO get discriminated against by wearing our natural hair. We’re trying to spread the words to those who do wear their hair in it’s natural state and even those that don’t that this is a real issue. It’s not everybody and it’s not every where, but it IS happening. People like Isis Brantley are fighting for a cause that people ignore daily. I’ve been rejected from a number of ‘professional’ jobs because I choose to wear my locs, but I don’t allow it to break me. Isis Brantley is taking a step to bring light to these issues.
She has a campaign for the first ‘natural hair school’ in the world. She’s asking people to go to the indigo-go campaign and donate. She’s asking people to go the Naturallyisis website and donate as little as one dollar. She’s trying to raise money to have schools all over the country. She feels we [Black people] need our own schools to teach our people to love themselves the way God has made them–with their natural hair. She spoke this very powerful message in the end of our interview that really changed my outlook on natural hair and our Black people:
“We are the creators of beauty aesthetics. Every woman wants to be the Black woman and they can’t be us. They can’t have the kind of babies we have. If we mix with them, it’s over with for them. They can’t be the original woman, but we need these schools so that by the time our children are 11 and 12, they are entrepreneurs making their way, just with their hands, by being creative. Even if it’s not something they would master in, or if they become doctors or lawyers, this is a skill you had to learn in Africa before you were six. It was called your own rights of passage–the youth rights of passage. We all have rights of passage that we’re going through. People that want to go natural, it’s a rights of passage. You’re going to have to endure all the pain that comes with it, all the hate that comes with it, all the things that people say about us that comes with it–and you have to stand before them and love yourself and be passionate about it. Black people have to fall in love with one another again. Once we start this romantic relationship–stop romanticizing with what the movement is and how much money we can make out of it and the commercialism of it–forget that. That’s beautiful. I want to become a Miss Jessie’s too, but I’m not. I want to love myself and pass that love on to the next Isis or the next baby that’s crying because her parent is putting ‘Just for Me’ on her head and she’s only two. These are the things that we have got to deal with. No one is going to change it so we need donations. We’re asking people to go to moveon.org and sign the petition because we’re sending it President Obama. How dare they, in 2013, keep harassing our children.”
[To Isis] As I’ve said many times over, you are such an inspiration. You give me a reason to stay committed to my purpose in life. Your energy is contagious and your knowledge is food to my soul. I love your story and I’m so glad that I had the privilege of sharing it with my blog family. We promise to continuously support the movement. We have become your adopted child. We want to help represent the challenges, the beauty, and the passion of the Black woman. As you’ve uplifted our spirits, we know that your words have touched many of our readers as well. THANK YOU GODDESS. May your light forever shine. Peace and blessings. -Isis
We’re personally asking each and every person that read and supports the words that have been shared with us in this interview to please donate to a beautiful, much-needed cause. We believe The Institute of Ancestral Braiding could really change lives and, in turn, positively affect the world. If you cannot donate, show your support by purchasing Sisters of Isis Natural Hair Care Products made of the finest organic and natural ingredients for healing. If you cannot support monetarily, please show your support by signing the petition that will be sent to the President. If you can’t find it in your heart to do any of those things, then we ask that you be a light among others. Love yourself. Share your love for being who you are with others. Share your love for your natural hair with others. Educate yourself on our ancestors. Appreciate the beauty of Black. Stand strong in our heritage. Learn more about Isis Brantley and her movement via naturallyisis.com and also follow Isis on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As we leave you, we would like to share Erykah Badu‘s quote about the first time she met Isis:
“My soul wandered into her little herb-filled, smoke sweetened shop. Relaxed and purposed, her hands began to touch my head. Something boiled in a nearby pot. I smelled, imagining what beauty she would create. It was a magic shop. She was a Queen–A Goddess–Timeless. I remembered her from some far away world. I knew because my soul never forgets things like that. I was 9 years old and that was the day I remembered myself and where I belonged. I was no longer natural, I became a supernatural. Isis heals with her hands. Give thanks, Yeye. -Erykah Badu, 2001
Peace and love, dear reader. Let’s help make a change in our culture. Let’s be the change in our world. I need your help.