Lurie Favors & lurie favors husband : The beautiful intelligent lawyer who’s afro made it to the White House.
Hello Lurie, fist of all let me thank you for ever allowing me to take your picture. Your Afro portrait was one of the eye-catching pieces at exhibition. It’s absolutely pictures Natural Hair at its Best!
Can you please introduce yourself? For those who have seen your picture but don’t know you?
Hi Mireille, I actually should thank you for putting the picture in your exhibit. What an honor to be included in an exhibit dedicated to loving natural hair. My name is Lurie Daniel Favors and I currently live in New York. I am a married mother of a three-year-old toddler. I am a practicing attorney and educator.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born in Stuttgart Germany and attended schools there for most of my life. We spent some of my pre-teen years living on the west coast. I returned to Germany during high school and stayed there until it was time for me to attend college.
You spent part of your youth in Germany. When did you return to the US and what was the experience like?
I first came back to the US to live when I was in elementary school. It was an interesting experience because when we returned we lived in predominantly White American communities. It was a bit different than living in Germany in that while there is plenty of racism in Germany – it did not have the same feel, touch, scent or smell as the racism in America. There is something particularly oppressive about living in a land where slavery and race were defined by a one-drop rule. The success of America depended almost entirely on the free labor forcibly extracted from people of African descent. You can’t build yourself into a super power based almost entirely on race-based slave labor and not see the continuing impact of that.
The first time I was called a nigger, was when we moved to the west coast. He was a little blond haired boy who was in my class. I was so shocked I did not know how to respond. In Germany, where racism is also alive and well, being a Black American was seen as something exotic – something different. But in America, it is like being in the belly of the beast. Being Black was (is) seen as being a representative of a people who are the bottom of every statistical category.
Have you always been natural?
Ha! No way. I had natural hair up until I was in the 6th grade. My hair is really thick and kinky and it was a lot for my mother to manage. This was the age of the Jheri curl so…you know how that can be.
I started with the California Curl, then I had the Care Free Curl, then it was the Leisure Curl, then the Wave Nouveau. It makes me laugh now when I recall the names of these chemicals. All of them were pretty much designed to turn kinky hair into something “manageable”.
The problem is as Black people in a society that values whiteness above all else; there was no concept of being able to “manage” Black hair in its natural state.
I remember coming home from church as a young girl and my sister and I would put our slips or panty hose on our heads because we wanted to have long blond flowing hair. I got my first perm when I was in 8th grade. It was AMAZING!!! My hair felt so much like what I had dreamed it would. When I got my first perm I felt like I was pretty. My hair was straight! And it blew in the wind…at least for the first 3 days. But for a little Black girl surrounded by people of all colors who valued whiteness as the standard of beauty – I felt like I had a shot at being beautiful too.
Why do you choose to wear your hair natural?
By the grace of God, I had family members who were intent on teaching my siblings and I what it meant to be of African descent. When I was in high school, they began sending me materials to read and music to listen to that talked about being proud of my roots and being proud of who I was as a woman of African descent. I came to appreciate my big nose and my big lips. This was a big deal for a teen-ager who had previously used to put clothespins on my nose to try to make it straighter.
When I got to college I was like most Black college students. Except for the fact that I chose to major in Africana studies classes and joined the African dance team. That exposure to knowledge about my people, our history and our culture was mind blowing. When I learned about how Black people were systematically taught to hate our hair, lips, noses and everything about us that made us Black – I became angry and really started down a path of self discovery.
In retrospect I realize that the anger I experienced was a necessary part of getting my right mind back. A lot of times we are afraid of the anger that we feel as Black people, but we have to confront and embrace it if we are going to heal from what happened to us.
The fact that we hate our hair is not an accident – it was part of a plan. The fact that we hate our noses and lips was part of a design.
When I realized that – it bothered me that I could not picture my hair as “beautiful” in its own natural state. But it bothered me even more that my disdain for my natural hair was part of an overall, proactive and intentional plan to keep me and our people in a perpetual state of servitude.
By this point my mother started to grow locs and was on her own path to becoming a natural hair stylist and she knew about my frustration. I started growing out my perm – but was still hanging on also i did not want to do the big “cut” because like most Black women .
That was really metaphoric for me because it was symbol of the tension between being African and American in a society that despises Africanity.
My mother was a huge source of encouragement for me and after listening to me complain about it – she told me something I never forgot:
“Lurie, it is just hair. It will grow back.”
As simple of a statement as that was – it liberated me. We got out the scissors and cut off my perm that night.
I don’t know if it’s too long ago but can you compare your black hair experience in the US to that of Germany? Is there a difference?
There was not much of a difference to be honest. Black women all over the world are taught that straight hair is what you need, want and must have in order to be beautiful. No matter what country I have lived in or visited, Black women are on a universal hunt for how to make your hair do something it was never intended to do: straighten out and blow in the wind like White hair.
You are an attorney by profession. What made you want to become a lawyer?
Yes, I am an attorney and an educator by profession. When I was in high school we came to visit some extended family in the US. My uncle took me to listen to Alton Maddox speak. I was blown away. He was a civil rights attorney who used the law to make positive change in the Black community. After that speech, I decided that I was going to do the same thing and try to find a way to use the law to make a difference for my community.
Can you tell us more about your profession? What kind of law do you practice?
As an attorney, I primarily practice in the areas of non-profit law & business, police misconduct law and bankruptcy and consumer finance.
As an educator I am a co-founder and director in Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc. (www.sankofaempowerment.org) a non-profit dedicated to empowering people of African descent to change the condition of our communities. I am also co-founder of Breaking the Cycle Consulting Services, LLC, (www.btcconsultingservices.com) a consulting firm dedicated to empower educators, youth and parents through culturally relevant educational workshops that are specifically designed to break the cycle of academic, social and professional underdevelopment amongst urban students.
You have just opened your own office. Congratulations! I know it’s hard work. How is it going?
Thank you! It has actually been one of the most liberating steps I have taken in my professional career. I started out working in large law firms that were extremely stifling. I was not able to practice the type of law I wanted to and I could not work with the type of clients I wanted too. I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature so this was a natural step. I founded the Daniel Favors Law Group P.C. (www.danielfavorslaw.com) so that I could have the freedom to use my skills to directly impact the people in my community.
As a woman who knows law, can you tell us what our rights are when it comes to our hair?
Well, quite honestly – it depends on a host of factors – including what state you live in, your profession, etc. In many professions the employer is able to define dress code and what they consider “neat” and “professional”. A case called Rogers v. American Airlines set the standard that there is no fundamental recognized right to wear your hair in a natural style.
For example, in the military, you can’t wear your hair in certain styles (no matter what your race). The difficulty comes in proving that you are being discriminated against because of your hair. There is a huge lack of understanding with regards to what our hair can and should be doing.
But that will only change when we decide we have had enough. My sister was in the army some years ago and they hated her natural hair and wanted her to make it “neat”. She had some challenges but she was steadfast and forced her unit to redefine what “neat” meant for Black women. You cannot use White standards to evaluate Black reality. She was able to make them see that because she refused to give up and she educated the people around her about what Black hair is like.
Quite frankly, many White people (and some Black people) have never seen Black hair in any state other than a permed one. So if you show up to work with twisties or an afro-puff, you need to put some thought into the questions that will arise.
There is a need for a lot of education – and unfortunately, the burden is on us to get correct info out there. That is why I love your website!
Can women who are fired by their employer because of their hair come to you for help?
That is not an area I practice in per se. However, I would be more than willing to speak with a woman who had questions like this and try to help her find someone who works in that area.
I have heard so often from women that they can’t go natural because they are in the corporate world, especially if they are in law. You are an attorney who wears her hair natural. Have you ever worked for a lawyer and was your hair ever a problem?
Right after law school I worked for two major New York law firms and clerked for a federal judge sitting in the Eastern District of New York. These are very corporate environments. If I am being perfectly honest – I have never had a White employer take issue with my natural hair. They may do something inappropriate like to try to touch it w/o asking first – but generally the response is along the lines of “Oh, wow – your hair is so cool!” The main people I get negative reactions from are other Black women who could never even dream of going natural.
I have had Black colleagues, secretaries or other staff members try to “help” me by advising me to get a perm if I want to “make it.” These attitudes are reinforced by many Black institutions. Do you remember when the business school at Hampton University (an HBCU) implemented a policy a few years ago that women in the program could not wear their hair in natural styles? As I recall, the rationale was based on the belief that a Black woman with natural hair could not get a job in corporate America. Now when I first read the article about this, I was wearing a flat twist style that pulled back into an afro ponytail, sitting in my office in Times Square at a major New York law firm.
At the end of the day, I think I have been fortunate with my hair because quite frankly – I demand that it be respected. It is not an issue I am willing to “negotiate.” If I were seeking a job at a corporation where my hair would be an issue – I would not interview there. You have to be clear about the attack that Black women are under – and you have to live your life accordingly if you are going to break out of the mold.
I think, due to our culture as children of slaves, we do not know how to have an expectation of respect; either from ourselves or from others. We have to be bold in reclaiming our heritage, our hair-itage, and our rights to be self-determining. Quite frankly, a lot of us are not willing to do that. Which is a shame. It is understandable, but it is a shame.
As much as I promote natural hair I don’t know what to recommend woman when they go for an interview. Many say they wear a wig because they won’t get hired if they go with their natural hair. I don’t agree with that but at the same time I know that there is a possibility that an employer can say no because of how someone looks. I think that they way you feel is more important than how you look. If you feel confident it doesn’t matter. What do you think? Does a natural woman has less of a chance of being hired at a law firm?
Well it has not been a problem for me because as I mentioned before – I will not compromise and work at a place where my hair is an issue. I’m smart, committed and more than qualified – both in the Black and the White world. Call me entitled but life is too short and our people have been through too much for me to compromise on those issues now.
But that is the benefit of having learned (and continuing to learn) about my history. Because I know who I am – I am empowered in a way that allows me to live my life and wear my hair in a way that makes my ancestors proud. I have been protected because of it.
I have never straightened my hair for an interview. Now, I might not wear my Angela Davis fro (at least not on the first day, LOL) – but what you see is what you get. If you are in a position where you have little to no choice – then you have to do what you have to do. But in my experience – if you walk in thinking people are going to be looking at your hair crazy – you will see people looking at your hair crazy. You get back what you put out. When you walk in with your hair and your head held high, it does not matter. But you have to be willing to put in the work to get your confidence to the level that you can look them – or anyone – in the eye and stand on solid ground.
Considering what we have been through, we owe ourselves, our people and our daughters and sons nothing less.
As it pertains to being hired at a firm – here is an unofficial study: I am on a list serve of Black women who are all attorneys. 7 out of 10 of us have some form of natural hair – locks, twisties, you name it. All of us have worked for major law firms, federal and state agencies. I cannot stress enough that it is more about how you feel about yourself than anything else. Many of the Black women I know personally who are in the corporate world have natural styles.
Why do you think it is that in this day and age we Black women still feel that it’s not natural to wear our hair natural in this world and what do you think we can do about it?
We are addicted to Whiteness. I tell my students all the time – I am a recovering white supremacist addict! We are taught from birth to value whiteness and white values above all else. There is very little out there to counter this message and as a result, we try to fashion our lives around the values of white society. The key is to find a group of people and resources that can help you recover from this addiction. And do not be mistaken – this addiction is as powerful as any drug addiction out there. As a people we have very low cultural self-esteem and cannot see ourselves as beautiful unless someone takes some serious steps to counter the negative messages we receive on a regular basis.
We have to learn our history. We have to remember that we NEVER had an issue with our hair until we got on plantations and White slave masters and their wives put us in positions where we were taught to hate our hair.
I don’t “hate” on women who perm their hair. But it is important that we recognize that were it not for the fact that a group of people sat around a table to draft and implement a plan to make us a completely dysfunctional people so that they could get free labor – Madame C.J. Walker could have put her talents and genius to better use. We simply did not desire, crave or covet straight hair before we were taught to hate the hair that God gave us.
From the time we are little girls, unless someone takes proactive steps to undo the damage, we are taught that our hair is unattractive, hard to comb and is something to be despised. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that for a people who are taught to have a generally negative view of our selves that it would be extremely difficult for the average Black girl or woman to grow up loving her natural hair.
Can you talk about some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered thus far in your professional career and how you’ve overcome them?
Charting my own path has definitely been a challenge. As an attorney, I am in a very “traditional” profession that does not necessarily reward individuality. But I was fortunate to have had a number of strong individuals in my life who were able to show me the value of remaining true to myself, my people and my purpose. I am blessed in that I value the condition of my community far and above over the “acceptable norms” of the legal profession.
What has been the highlight of your career up until now? If you have a couple, feel free to mention them also.
As an educator, the highlight would be growing an organization that is dedicated to improving the state of communities of African descent. SCE started as a small group at Penn State and roughly 10 years later we have community forums, after school and Saturday school programs throughout the Northeast and are in the process of expanding in the south. We did most of our growth with no funding and little to no resources beyond our commitment to our people.
As an attorney, the highlight would be my participation on the trial team in a recent case in Brooklyn, NY. Four Black and Brown men (the men were NYC teachers and college students) were racially profiled and wrongfully arrested, charged and prosecuted. The men were actually profiled and arrested while they were sitting in court as community supporters for the Bushwick 32 (the Bushwick 32 was a group of 32 students who had also been racially profiled and wrongfully arrested while they were on their way to a funeral). In the end, the four men went through a 5-day trial and were ultimately acquitted of all charges. These two cases were great examples of how the New York Police Department uses its power to terrorize and racially profile innocent Black and Brown New Yorkers. The case was particularly personal for me because my husband was one of the four men arrested. The day we won that trial was one of the happiest days of my career.
What advice would you give to black women who are aspiring a career in law enforcement in general or as an attorney?
You have to know what you are doing it for. Why are you choosing a career in this field? What do you hope to get out of it? How is a career in this field related to your purpose? The law is not the most “fun” or “self-fulfilling” career. Sadly, many of my friends and colleagues in this field are quite simply depressed and unfulfilled. You have to have something that defines you and fulfills you outside of this profession if you want to remain excited about your career.
Is there a particular area or industry where you like to see more black women break into and why do you think it’s important?
Anything involving math and science. I always wanted to be a pediatrician as a child but was scared away from the field by math and science teachers who were comfortable with girls not excelling in the area. I bought into the idea that girls “just aren’t good” at math and science and regret it…
It is important because as women, we often limit ourselves according to the standards of the rest of the world. It is high time we start demanding more of ourselves and start opening doors in these areas. ( lurie favors )
Who inspires you and why?
2 women: my mother and Harriet Tubman. My mother is a huge inspiration because I have seen her go through many, many of the typical issues that Black women endure. But I have also watched as she has taken control of her life and charted a new direction. She is now the founder and owner of The Woven Wool, Inc. (www.thewovenwool.com) and is a natural hair and damaged hair care specialist and sister locks consultant. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known and she is a true role model. ( lurie favors)
Harriet Tubman because of her sheer daring and bravery. Can you imagine? A woman doing what generations of people had only dared to dream of doing. She is truly phenomenal because she was not only concerned with securing her own freedom. Once she created a safe space for herself, she dedicated the rest of her life to doing the same for other people. Most of us concern ourselves with just the state of our own lives – how much more powerful could our community be if we followed her example? (lurie favors)
You also serve as co-executive director of Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc. (SCE). Can you please tell us more about that?
Yes, SCE is one of my great loves! We are an organization dedicated to educing and empowering people of African descent to changing the condition of our deteriorating communities. We create community forums, workshops, after school and Saturday school programs for Black youth, high school and college students, and community members that allow participants to focus in on key issues our community is facing and to create and implement solutions. ( lurie favors)
What is your goal as a mother, attorney, wife and director of SCE?
To create and be a part of a “Kujichagulia” community. Kujichagulia is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and stands for the principle of self-determination. As a people, our biggest lack is the lack of self-determination. You show me a people who can determine their own destiny and I’ll show you a healthy community. Show me a people who cannot determine their own destiny – and I’ll show you a people who are in essence, still living the life of slaves.( lurie favors)
People will look at your Afro photo and say: She can’t be a lawyer, lawyers can’t wear their hair like that. What would you say about that?
LOL – I would say they are not totally wrong. Most lawyers probably wouldn’t wear their hair like that – but not because they can’t. More because they would not choose to for the same reason they would not choose to part with their chemicals. But that is ok – not everyone has to rock a nappy fro. Just don’t stand in the way of those of us who dare to do so. (lurie favors)
What is your hair care regimen?
I wash and style my hair (or have it washed and styled at my mother’s salon) once every 2 – 3 weeks, depending on the style. Once a style is in, I will wear it for roughly 2 weeks or so and then take it out and wear a loose twist out (the look you get when you take out twisties). After a week or so of the twist out, I’ll start the cycle all over again. (lurie favors)
You are blessed with a head full of hair. How long does it take you to wash it if I may ask? Women with half as much hair say that it’s too much work and that is why they relax their hair.
Thanks! It takes about 20 – 30 minutes to wash my hair and about an hour or so to comb it out and maybe another hour or so to style. It used to take longer but that was because I was using the wrong tools. We tend to use these tight little combs and brushes w/ all of these bristles because that is what our mothers used on our heads. But the best thing I discovered was what I used to call “the White girl brush”. It’s the brush that White women tend to use with only a few bristles that are not very bushy but rather are hard and stiff. ( lurie favors)
If you think about it – if it takes 3 – 4 hours to do your hair every 2 – 3 weeks, then there is no way in the world natural hair takes too much work. I literally style my hair on a 2 – 3 week rotating basis. Once it is done, it is DONE!!! I wake up and look in the mirror and it is done! How is that too much work? We have to start thinking more clearly about what we are saying because a lot of time we are simply repeating what we have been told without thinking about it. ( lurie favors)
Also – don’t get it twisted. I had to read books about how to do my hair. My mom did not become a natural hair specialist until I had been natural for a few years. So in those early years, when I went natural I was on a university campus in central Pennsylvania. There was not even a Black hair care aisle at the local drug store – let alone people who were sporting natural hairstyles. (lurie favors)
When I first started combing my hair on my own, it was after it had been chemically processed. The only experience I had with natural hair was combing my cousin’s hair with barrettes . Which simply was not going to work for an adult in college! So when I went natural at 20 years old – I had to do research. Now, with the Internet, there is no reason for the average Black woman with an Internet connection to not learn how to do her hair.
You have to remember that our hair has traditionally been considered something of an easel or a blank canvas. The style of your hair could indicate who your people are, what rank you have in society, if you were married, had kids, etc. The reason our people were able to have such elaborate and beautiful styles was because we had our own tools that were tailored to combing our hair. (lurie favors)
Can you imagine a White woman using a jar of grease in her hair? Sounds crazy right? Well it makes about as much sense as a Black woman using a comb with tiny teeth or a brush with a million bristles. Natural hair requires the right tools. (lurie favors)
What is your favorite style?
It depends on my mood. When I need a Power Day – I rock the Afro Also When I need a sensual style – I like the twisty blow out Again When I am teaching – I like any style that will let young Black girls and boys know that they can be beautiful while breaking from the status quo.
Your husband has beautiful locs. Have you ever considered locs? Can you please elaborate?
Thank you! I have actually considered locs – a lot! They are truly beautiful. But I don’t’ think I will lock my hair – at least not any time soon. Part of the reason I wear my hair like this is to serve as an example to young girls and boys. It is vitally important for them to see that they can be beautiful the way that God made them. (lurie favors)
While I absolutely love locs (especially my husbands, LOL) – they are often an “easier” style to wear in mainstream America because they often tend to be long and straight – the principle ingredients for that ever-elusive “beauty” formula that we adhere to in this society. (lurie favors)
If you have unloc’d natural hair you are embracing a standard of beauty that is completely polar opposite from the norm. Now, I’m not saying locs are “easy” or are not met with resistance. Rather, I’m saying that it is important for our people to see examples of hair that they may never see anywhere else. (lurie favors)
Besides that – if I loc’d how on earth could I rock an Afro? LOL.
Another notion is that you won’t find a man if you are natural? How was your hair when you met your husband?
This makes me laugh. I get much love and respect from Black men – all on account of my hair. As I mentioned before – the main folks who give me issues about my hair are other Black women – and they often cite this example as one of the reasons they cannot go natural.
Well when I met my husband in 1997 – I had just cut off my perm and was pretty much bald. In fact, he has never seen me with a perm and when he looks at old pictures of me with a permed style, he often shakes his head and tells me how glad he is I was natural when he met me and how much more attractive he thinks I am when I am in a state that embraces how god created me. (lurie favors)
I have talked to a lot of brothas about natural hair and quite frankly, the energy I get from them on the street when I rock a natural style is COMPLETELY different and much more RESPECTFUL than the energy I got when my hair was permed or the energy I get when I have on a hat and they can’t see my hair.
Quit frankly, I get more respectful comments from random Black male strangers on the street; they say things like they “love that style, sista!” or similar comments. (lurie favors)
I know there are men out there who want a woman who is the epitome of the White standard of beauty – but seriously – is that what you want? I mean, do you want a mate who cannot see you as truly beautiful unless you look like the women who oppressed our ancestors? If so, then go for it. Best of luck to you and God bless.
But for me – I wanted and got a man who could see me for me and love me for me. I am very grateful for that.
We have to start demanding more as Black women. No one else is going to do it for us.
What do you think about the fact that your portrait was accepted by the White House as a gift?
It’s a little crazy actually – who says you have to perm your hair to get to the white house!?! 😉
How did you get your hair like that?
I had just washed it and fluffed it out that morning. That was a summer day – and a bright summer day is a PERFECT day for an Afro!
Do you often wear your hair in an Afro?
As often as I can or need to. But due to the care of an afro (i.e. you need to braid it up at night to avoid getting split ends). It is not a style I use as much now that my hair has grown longer . I tend to wear it more in the summer because I like to wet it up so that it can fluff up more . It’s not a good idea to walk outside with a wet head in the winter so it has become more of a seasonal style for me.
Your picture is really one of THE eye catchers out of all the portraits that I have. Why do you think that is?
Thank you. I think it is because people don’t see Afros like that every day. When James Brown sang I’m Black and I’m proud – that was the height of the Afro movement. But for far too many people it was only a style to wear because it was “in”. Afros like that are not “in” any more so for many people it is the first time they have seen one. Another reason is because most women simply can’t fathom wearing such a symbol of Black pride and resistance in this day and age. Like it or not – Afros have a legacy of representing a political movement we have drifted away from. (lurie favors)
Another reason is due to color-ism. An older Black woman once told me that she appreciated that I wear my hair like this because as a Black woman on the lighter end of the color spectrum . I could choose to avail myself to styles more in line with White standards of beauty (i.e. as lighter skinned sista . I could wear my hair straight and get a lot of the benefits that come with aligning oneself with Whiteness). So to see someone proactively reject that standard and to do so with a style that sends so many messages of Black empowerment is rare. But happily – the response to the picture has been positive which is a good sign for our people. (lurie favors)
What do you see in and what do you want people to see in that picture?
A woman , who unapologetically loves herself and her people and refuses to believe the “lye” that I need to recreate myself in someone else’s image in order to be beautiful. Hopefully they will see the picture and gain some strength in their own ability to do the same thing. (lurie favors)
Hair by Khamit Kinks
Dress: Cassandra Broomfield bridal gowns
Accessories: Beauloni Style Photos: Mireille Liong