Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Friday September 20, 2019, I opened Facebook to see an H&M ad of a little black girl with her hair looking “unkept” to some. Many black girls on my timeline were at H&M’s throats again.
I haven’t shopped at H&M since they had the little black boy in the monkey shirt. It’s obvious that they still don’t have any black people at the table when making these decisions.
I often wonder about the little black girl who’s been made a meme or went viral because of her hair. A piece of my heart breaks to imagine that little girl's realization that her hair is a problem, and it’s a problem because she black.
After the H&M ad, I coincidentally saw the crown act on my timeline. I smirked, but couldn’t fully smile. I'm happy that our hair can no longer be the cause for discrimination, but I’m sad that, 1. This is just now becoming a thing in 2019, and 2. That we even need the crown act at all. However, it gives me hope for what’s to come.
By Saturday, my day was filled with coconut oil and Shea butter baby hairs, short cuts, and bouncy Afros, curls, coils and kinks ranging from 1A to 4C and it was beautiful. I went to CurlFest, the first one ever in Atlanta. We celebrated the beauty of black women and black hair. It was utopic! It reminded me of my days at North Carolina A&T State University, when we as black women got to just...be.
When I was in the ridiculously long food vendor line, I listened to two young girls introduce themselves to one another and began a friendship with the exchange of numbers. They felt the nostalgia of being black and proud without being scared. One of the girls expressed how freeing it is to now work at an establishment where she’s not worried about wearing her fro or questioning if it’s unprofessional.
I knew how she felt. I received my first relaxer when I was four years old. I hated it. I remember the scabs in my scalp from the chemical burns and around my neck. I dealt with that every six weeks for 19 years until I went natural.
It was hard to maintain high self-esteem when you look in the mirror and see that you look “unruly,” that’s what I knew my hair as, unruly. I didn’t know what products to use, or how to style it. I would tie a scarf around it or straighten it.
Once, I got up the courage to wear my hair natural to a party. A guy I knew came up to me, hugged me and then said, “that shi*t is ugly AF,” while pointing at my hair.
My heart sank. This wasn’t the first time a guy had a mean comment about my hair, but it hurt more because it came from black guys who, I thought was supposed to understand the struggle when it comes to our hair. My natural hair journey was not one of liberation. I felt seen yet invisible amongst my peers, my black peers.
But, I felt none of that at Curl Fest. Everyone was beautiful even the men, who came to show off their natural tresses and to support a sea of beautiful black women.
Beautiful became one of the affirmations for the day.
I got a chance to speak to the Curly Girl Collective, Charisse Higgins, Tracey Coleman, Gia Lowe, Simone Mair and Melody Henderson.
I brought up little girls who have been suspended because of their hair, and asked what words of encouragement or affirmation do they have for the little girls who now realize their hair is political. Gia Lowe responded, “It's become political because something came up in the environment in the school, whether it was bullying or policy, the affirmation is, you are beautiful, you are beautiful, you are beautiful, over and over again. And, see imagery like this. We were able to capture a clip of a young girl from Ohio who said, 'I'm from Ohio, I've never seen so many beautiful black people in one place.' She was somewhere between 8 and 10 and you could see that she was just like, 'I feel seen, I see myself.' And so, I see you, you are beautiful. Those are affirmations we still tell ourselves, baby us and adult us."
She right, as an adult, I still have to remind myself that I am enough just the way I am, that my I matter.
I felt seen at Curl Fest, and very visible. I felt celebrated by a group of strangers who complimented me as I them. There were no talks of “good hair” or colorism and there was a product out there for everyone.
Creme Of Nature gave away so many great products as well as Aveda, African Pride, Shea Moisture, Dove, LivSo and more. It will be a couple of months before I have to purchase any hair products. I didn’t have to surf through mounds of products just to find something that works for black hair. It was all there and it was all for me.
There was even a makeup station. Hue Noir, founded by Paula Hayes, a product chemist, was there offering tips for all shades. I won a $5 off gift card plus 25% off, using the code SUMMER25. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become a bit of a makeup junky. If your'e anything like me, you’ll head over to huenoir.com to take advantage of the discount.
By the end of the day, my feet were hurting, I was all sweaty and tired, but I didn’t want the day to end. I knew I would miss seeing so many beautiful women of color congregating in one space.
When you get that many black people in one area, you know it’s all love and the icing on the cake was of course dancing to Beyoncé and swag surfing.
It was pure joy that was captured in time for the world to see black women just the way they are, Dope.