Wrote this piece while watching a lady in a laundromat do her daughter’s hair. I know that struggle; I became a single Dad when my daughter was 9 months old and I didn’t know anything about taking care of Black hair. My best friend came to California to hang with me for the summer two weeks after my ex left. My sister visited pretty frequently that summer from the Bay area. Then my mother arrived three months later and stayed with me for almost a year. None of us knew a thing about braiding or cornrowing. Fortunately, my next-door-neighbors were Sudanese and both daughters taught me to braid, and I ended up dating a beautician… Well, I thought about how Black girls had to balance beauty with self-esteem in a world where it seemed no one–not even Black men–loved them and who they are, or how they looked. Here was my beautiful Black daughter, in a family of non-Black women. I swore she would never have straightened hair (although her hair is somewhat straight)–I even carefully chose mates who wouldn’t leave her feeling left out or feeling like her Dad didn’t value women who looked like her. This is the dilemma of raising a Black girl in a White, male-oriented world. Teach her not to love herself as God made her, and you run the risk of teaching her not to love herself. I get that. To some, it’s just hair. To those who know better-she is the young, female version of Sampson. You teach her so much more by the seeds you allow to sprout from her scalp. I whipped out a pen, grabbed a flyer off the wall, and wrote this piece. Hope somebody out there can feel me.
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with a fine-toothed comb
she sorted out kinks
lint, grease, and debris
remnants of four-hundred years of ugliness
hoping to straighten out her blackness as well as her naps
wants nothing but the best for her baby
painful process with the power
to pursue a pampered life
mother’s prerogative to pass on
a pretentious policy for a positive future
beauty, success and acceptance
all contained in what she perceives:
as if relaxing away her pretty locks with a perm
could also relax away the tense life of being a Black woman
“life ain’t no crystal box of crayons, honey—”
mother’s desire to elevate her daughter’s beauty and status
by eradicating her African roots
the ignorant notion
of solving and sorting out Black problems
with a damned comb.