Organizers of Natural Beauties of Augusta got confused looks, stares and even some whispers when they held their first planning meeting at a restaurant last year.
That proved to them that what they were planning was needed in this area, said Natasha Dyer, an organizer.
"The thing about 'sister locks' is that it looks different on everyone," she said. "We all had sister locks, and people were just giving us looks that said, 'What's going on with their hair?'
"It solidified that we really needed to provide a group to support people in our area who are already natural or wanted to go natural. For those who want to go natural, one of the most intimidating thoughts is, 'What will others think or say when they see me?' "
The group is or women, mostly black, who wear natural styles; have hair that is in transition from a chemical to a natural state; or want to learn more about natural hair.
Members wear a variety of natural hairstyles, including traditional locks, more commonly known as dreadlocks; sister locks, a technique in which hair is woven into a pattern and naturally locks around the pattern; two-strand twists; and afros.
"Natural hairstyles are so beautiful and can look different on each person," said Carol Eunice, another organizer and a sister locks consultant. "I think that when people with natural hair walk into a room, they light it up because of their natural beauty."
The group meets monthly to discuss topics related to natural hair and healthful living, share information and support one another.
"Going natural is a lifestyle decision," Mrs. Dyer said. "You can't do it overnight. Physically, yes, you can just cut all your hair off and start growing it naturally. However, mentally, you have to work on it. It takes time to get used to it."
It can take awhile to mentally adapt because of what black women have learned, she said.
"We have been taught from early on that straight hair is good and pretty and that natural hair isn't. So, growing up, we wanted to keep our hair as straight as possible," she said.
Pamela Watson, another organizer, agreed.
"After about a month or so, you'll see your hair transitioning, and when you're used to a straight look you start panicking," she said. "You want to run and get your hair relaxed to straighten it out. That's what we've been taught.
"This group is a resource and support system you can depend on to be there when you feel like giving up and return to using chemicals. We've all been there, so we know exactly what you're feeling. It's much easier when you have that support system."
Mrs. Eunice said that natural hair goes beyond appearance.
"It's a lifestyle change," she said. "When you change to a natural style, your attitude about a lot of things in life changes. You begin to feel comfortable with who you are. You gain a lot of confidence."
For more information about Natural Beauties of Augusta, visit nbagroup.ning.com.
Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.