a black girl + her hair
growing up, as is the narrative for many black girls, my grammie made sure my hair was kept up. from makeshift salons in her kitchen with the hot comb sizzling on the stove. flinching when it touched my scalp. her telling me to hold my ear down. from going to a salon to get a relaxer because my hair would be “easier to manage.” sitting for what felt like hours. i swear, the memory of those long hours has been etched into the memory of my tailbone forever. later, feeling for the number of burns that i acquired that session.
growing up, as is the narrative for many black girls, getting braids was a luxury. only happening about two to three times a year. i’d count down the days before it was time to get my hair braided; imagining the braids flowing to my shoulders. practicing my head switch which was a, literal, slight switch of the head to make the beads and things click together. after getting braids, you became accustomed to patting your head instead of scratching it because that supposedly made the braids last a little longer.
the thought of going natural or locking my hair never crossed my mind. i had become accustomed to this life of relaxers and braids until i moved to atlanta in 2008. my last relaxer was august of that year.
my first big chop was in 2010; a couple of months after losing my grampie, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. it was after one of many bouts with depression. and it felt like freedom. it felt like stepping into a different realm of selfhood. it felt like giving myself permission to grieve deep. it felt like giving myself permission to allow the healing to be as messy as it needed to be. it felt new and necessary and promising.
my hair. this black girl’s hair has always demanded to take center stage of my life. no matter how fried. damaged. braided. twisted. texturized. curly. natural. dreaded it was, my hair meant something to me. it defined me. it served as a representation of where and who i was in each stage of my life.
these images were captured in the tropical oasis of our hotel backyard in morocco. i felt like a goddess. quite literally. and my hair had a lot to do with that. i loved the way my locs reached down my back; the tips caressing parts of my skin that my hair has never touched before. i loved and paid attention to the way it enhanced my features; the way they elongated my face. i loved the compliments i received about the beauty of them; the compliments that followed up with how long they had been with me. that i should keep them forever.
they served as one of the greatest parts of me.
but i also loved the journey i had been on since having them: we grew through love. through heartache. through disappointment. through intentional boundary setting. through letting go. through honoring my space and my spirit. through patience. through learning to step outside of myself and into a realm of understanding. through finding calm and peace and quiet within wanderlust. through learning how to breathe again. through the magical experience of pregnancy. and crossing the divine threshold of motherhood; welcoming my sweetest creation.
they have served the highest purpose in my life and i am forever grateful. grateful for the lessons, especially patience. grateful for the growth. grateful to arrive at a place where i know and understand what i deserve.
my relationship with my hair has always been ritualistic. it has carried me and been with me through healing journey after healing journey. and in the end, i shed. like a caterpillar bursting out of a cocoon. i shed tears from the greatest depths of my spirit. and i shed pieces of me.
i stand as a new woman today. a woman who i have never known. a softer me. a more aware me. an enlightened me. a goddess me. maybe i’ve known her all along and it was time for her to emerge. so i welcome her. in new form.