Back to the Basics

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

Welcome to 2020, another year and another day to be thankful for every person who has followed me this far. Because there are big things happening in the world and well, we’re only getting started.

And I’m starting it off doing something I’ve never done before (on my own, at least). 

I’m trying out my natural hair. It might not seem like a big deal, I mean, for a lot of people it isn’t. But for black women, for all of us who feel as if we cannot be our natural selves in a way that society supports, it takes a lot to grow into who we are and want to be. Hair has a whole lot to do with it.

Here, let me explain.

You see, I grew up looking at magazines and TV shows with women in it who all had silky smooth straight hair. I didn’t see people who looked like me; that says a lot about the world around us. At least, it said a lot to me as a child. 

It told me that I was outside the norm.

From what I can tell, the world around us has taken a turn towards a movement of acceptance, the celebration of differences. But growing up, I didn’t see that. What I saw was a whole lot of insecurity, the kind that you carry with you until it’s something you can’t ignore.

Photo by José on Unsplash

Now, I’m choosing to face it. Because I want to see what I can do without anything altering who I am, from the way I live my life down to how I wear my hair. There is something to be said for authenticity, right?

I have nothing against relaxed or straight hair; the thing is, I’ve never worked with my own hair in its natural state. I am 21 years old and I have never taken the time to embrace myself as I am. As undergrad winds down and graduation looms five months away, I feel that now might be just the time to do exactly that.

Do you know why?

Because how we look, what we do, the way we own our lives, it defines us. There are so many things that have happened in the last few years of my life that have completely altered my perspective on the world around us. I wrote a book of poems on the way out of high school (check it out here if you haven’t yet) and reading it back through, I am nowhere near the girl who wrote it.

I’m okay with that. Every year of high school, I changed my hair in one way or another. I guess you could say I was trying to find something that felt like me. Each style was something different, something fun—as a black woman, I have a whole lot of options to change my hair up if I wanted to.

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

Going back to the basics, going completely natural, is not one of the ways I’ve tried yet. It simply seemed too hard, too complicated. And a little far outside the boundaries of “normal” that I didn’t have the confidence to push. Maybe it’s time to challenge myself a little.

I’m not doing this because it’s a new year and I think I can completely change who I am simply because the calendar flipped another page. Not at all.

I’m doing this because I need to know who I am in order to change myself in the first place; I only aim for the first part of that process. Maybe you’ve noticed in the past couple months—years even—I’ve been doing what I can to get back to the basics. To rebuild the foundation of who I am, the one that’s been breaking and rearranging with every day that passes me by.

Weird that doing so starts with my hair, isn’t it?

In a way, that’s exactly where I need to start. How I look is one of the first things I have ever defined myself by, so I want to take control of that into my own hands this time. I wrote a poem a two years ago, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry, that spelled out how I define myself. From the stereotypes that follow me, the choices I make or the capabilities I hold, are things that can either hold me back or push me forward.

The first line of that poem was all about my nappy hair, how it makes me different. Instead of letting it hold me back the way it used to, I’m going to let it push me forward.

Forward, or right, or left, or diagonally… I’m rebuilding a foundation with whatever I’ve got. Whatever comes next.

So, it’s a new year with the same old me. But the year comes with a few new challenges; I think maybe I can be ready to handle them. Can you?

Here’s to whatever 2020 holds for all of us. Happy New Year.

A Black Woman’s Battle Cry

priscilla-du-preez-172598-unsplashJust like I promised last week, here is my piece that was performed in the Original Women’s Narratives Saturday night. Fair warning, there is explicit content in this and it’s a bit longer/stronger than what I usually write.

For good reason.

Growing up, I feel like the conscious stares whenever my classed talked about MLK in elementary school or the mumbled apologies when I walked past someone saying the n word in high school always showed up in my peripherals. Not because I wasn’t ready to notice them– I was– but because I was tired of having to notice them.

Did I ignore the stares? Yes.

Did I accept those apologies with a nod before moving on? Yes.

Should I have? I don’t know. That’s the thing, I don’t quite know where I stand on what it means to stand up for myself without seeming like the angry black woman in my own head.

That doesn’t mean I never said anything.

Sometimes I might stay quiet, but that doesn’t mean I plan to. I let my writing say what I usually won’t. So this is me, my definition and what I know I need to fight for in my own life. What we all need to fight for– not only equality, but equity.


Here is my spoken word poem, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry.

A Black Woman’s Battle Cry

eye-for-ebony-399310-unsplash.jpgWhen I was thirteen, I realized my hair was not like the other girls.

It didn’t swish and sway, shining as I walked.

It didn’t grow past my ass in less than a year.

No, it was different, it was curly, messy, kinky as they say.

All I knew was what it felt like, that I was different.

Then my mother called it one word: nappy.

That is the lifestyle of a black girl living around so many others who look nothing like her;

Standards get confused, unspoken boundaries get crossed

and people might ask me if I get “tanner in the summer”

or “did your hair grow 10 inches overnight?”

All I could ever reply was “sure.”

I let it go.

Because it’s not their fault they were ignorant, that they didn’t know…

Except maybe it was.

In youth, those words are a mistake.

In adulthood, this becomes ignorance.

etty-fidele-407371-unsplash.jpgBecause when the ignorant boys believe in that mistake,

they grown into ignorant men; they belittle me.

Whispers here and there, as I see a nudge and hear the words

“I ain’t never tasted chocolate before.”

As if I am some commodity to be consumed and disposed of.

That is not what I am.

Yet it makes me question exactly what defines that; what defines me beyond my skin color or my hair texture?

My athletic ability or my home life?

My academic record or my grammar usage?

What about my skin color makes it seem like it’s okay to overstep the bounds of being treated like a human being?

No, you may not touch my hair.

No, I do not play basketball.

No, I do not come from a one parent household.

And no, I am not someone you can throw the word “nigga” around with because you think the color of my skin is some invitation to violate the simple rules of morality.

Just because you know someone who looks like me, just because you’re friends with people “like me”

does not mean you know anything about who I am.brannon-naito-414362-unsplash

You do not know me unless I allow you to.

You do not touch me until you hear the word “yes.”

Am I a black girl, born and raised in a nice town, who acts a little more white than black?

Am I an achieving, dedicated student, with brains overlooked for color and assumed to be less than I am?

And am I a minority at one of the most prestigious CSU’S, representing women of my color while holding onto my own identity?

Because I am a scholar, I am an African American, I am a second generation college student, I am a minority,

and I am a woman.

Not a single one of these things alone can define who I am, yet we live in a world where people act like any one of them does.

Where pay is determined by chromosomes.

Where equality is determined by color.

And where opportunity is determined by causation.

So my question is, does society determine my purpose too?

Is it my nappy hair that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the girls;

camila-damasio-2720-unsplash.jpgNo easy “5 minute hairstyles” or “elegant updos done easy” that applies to me in doctors office magazines.

Or maybe the way they see me as a commodity, an opportunity, before tossing me around and treating me like a toy;

Not because my skirt was too short, because I was “asking for it.”

No, because they wanted to try out a darker shade for once.

Or maybe it’s the difference between a man and a women when I do everything I can and yet, my “womanhood” takes away from my proficiency.

Just enough to get paid twenty percent less, take out another dollar for the unprofessionality of my “nappy” hair.

How do we define purpose, define being, without looking past what we see?

How do we make change when so many people do not seem to want to see it at all?

I want to walk into a room and not be judged by my skin or by my body, no. Judge me by my mind.

By my intelligence.

By my character.

For it is believed that being born into different circumstance automatically puts you three steps back from the rest.

As we live in a world where it is assumed that the color of our skin and identified gender are constraints of our being.aman-bhargava-282998-unsplash

But they are not, if anything at all, they are simply boundaries to push,

lines to cross,

and glass ceilings to keep breaking down again and again

until they can exist no longer.

Because I am an African American, nappy haired, powerful woman who wants the equality I deserve.

And I’m ready to break this shit down.