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“Walking in Joy” may require walking with a friend.
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In 2006, soul and R&B singer India Arie, released I Am Not My Hair. The social climate at the time held a lot of misconception about a Black woman’s skin, hair, and her identity. She addressed this issue when she spoke of a separation of one’s identity from their hair and skin tone. She sings, “I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within.” Existing as a spiritual African American woman, however, has taught me the exact opposite. I am the sum of the complexities of my hair and skin that when well managed and cared for, flourishes. It requires water for moisture, oil for sealing in moisture for length retention, and quiet as kept, daily words of affirmation for intentional hair growth. Everything I am sharing here are things I wish I knew when I began my natural hair journey.
In 2009, I began my journey down the natural hair rabbit hole. There was a limited supply of information on the subject because back then, it wasn’t as accepted as it is today. All I knew was that I was tired of picking scabs from my sensitive scalp. My mom suggested I transition my hair with protective styling until it reached a length I was comfortable with, but I was very impatient with my hair and thus decided to have a Wal-mart stylist chop off my relaxed ends. In short, I hated the results, the way my curly hair looked like a mushroom, and how uncomfortable I felt. I didn’t know what to do and a few weeks later, I had my mom relax my hair. There weren’t many stylists advertising a specialty for natural hair, or platforms like Pinterest or Youtube to gather ideas for styles. There were no google searches catering to the natural hair community, which highlight the different textures of hair and levels of hair porosity. It was this lack of information and self-esteem, that caused me to go through three cycles of “Chop, Grow, Relax, and Repeat”. It was a truly draining process, but looking toward college, I was determined to grow in my spirituality and my knowledge about growing my naturally curly hair.
Thankfully, six years ago, I came across the video Praying to God For Long Hair by Dephne Madyara. Finding her page was a game changer. Prior to her video, I had never heard the concept of praying or speaking over my hair. I knew the Word spoke of a woman’s hair being her crowning glory, but I didn’t know I could speak a word, and see growth. It was soon after watching that video, that I stood in the bathroom mirror of my mother’s old apartment, and made a conscious decision to give my hair to God. That sounds kinda deep because for me, it was. I told God to show me what He was doing in my life through my hair and He did just that. I would notice subtle changes that would communicate what was taking place in my spiritual life. I noticed how my hair grew when I followed my intuition, but also when I was impatient and rushed into decisions. The last time I ignored my intuition concerning my hair, shortly after, I regretted it. I sitting in my grandmother’s guest room when I felt a heaviness come over me and immediately, I knew it was about my hair. I thought I could wash the feeling away and the moment reminded me of Solange’s Cranes in the Sky. When I felt the same heaviness the next day, I knew I needed to cut it. For those of you who have been consistently following my hair journey, I hope this gives you a deeper understanding of why I cut my locs.
Hair, unbeknownst to me at the time, holds memory. It also carries frequencies/energy that hair can retain when it’s loc’d. Thus, transforming my hair into an antenna for higher frequencies, that when tampered with, causes issues. I had that moment of clarity while cruising in the car the other day, when the thought hit me that every time I let a stranger do my hair, I had to cut it because their frequency didn’t match mine and their energy was off. For my 27th birthday, I decided to have a loctician style my hair. I had done some research, but didn’t follow my gut that told me “not her”. The loctician was in a mood the day she did my hair and it transferred to my hair. My loves, don’t ever let someone you don’t know and trust intuitively work with your hair. My impatience and ignorance was my downfall. Having someone in such an intimate space should be held with high regard and and shouldn’t be invaded by any and everybody who wants to get a feel. The best way to combat the politest of requests to touch your hair, is to give a firm, yet respectful “No”. If you’re patient enough to explain why, bless your heart! lol but if you’re not, a “Sorry not sorry” will suffice because at the end of the day, it’s your hair.
To this day, I am actively working to do the due diligence for my hairs optimal health. I no longer use the aforementioned prayer I came across six years ago, but I find using mantras to speak over myself to be as effective. If you want to do more research, I came across an article by Chris Jeffrey-Hall that you may find helpful.
4 Word Mantras (affirmations)
I want you to know that properly caring for your hair isn’t something you have to do alone. There is a community of men and women out here pulling our knowledge together to share freely because knowledge is power. Until next time, I love you all!
Navigating my way through the natural hair community has been a struggle for multiple reasons. Firstly, many of the prominent figures for women with type 4 hair, who don’t actually have that hair type but rather looser curl patterns. I find this to be extremely detrimental to young people such as myself, who have kinkier hair and are questioning why they are not producing the same hairstyles as the women who are advertised to us.
Secondly, although one could argue that the upkeep of natural hair isn’t as expensive as braids, weaves, or wigs, natural hair requires a lot of trial and error in terms of products that work for your specific hair type. Hunting for good products does in fact require quite the bit of money; money that I do not have. I’ve noticed during my exploration that hair products that are geared toward black women are often times more expensive than the products intended for women of other races.
I’ve found that just the initial process of buying hair products can be quite tiresome. Oftentimes mainstream stores either don’t carry the entire line of products from natural hair brands, or they don’t carry any products from brands at all; not to mention that the products that I do need are locked behind glass cases with locks that only an employee can open. If only there was an employee in sight.
An alternative to this could be to shop at my local beauty supply. Their prices for those same natural hair products are relatively cheaper than a store like Target or Sally Beauty, however I as a Black woman don’t always feel welcome in a space that I supposed to be catered to people like me. I almost always feel as if I am being watched or judged. I’ve noticed the way shop owners keep their eyes on my every move as a walk through their establishment, zeroed in on the products in my hand. No, I don’t need help finding anything today.
Another issue that I have run into is that a lot of these so called Black owned hair care companies that cater to people with my hair type, are not owned by Black people at all. In a lot of these cases, the concept of the brand was created by Black people, but they end up selling their business to predominantly White domains. My issue with this is that I often try to support Black owned businesses and many of these natural hair companies lead their consumers to believe that their brands are owned by Black people.
I’ve also noticed how a lot of the packaging, particularly the pictures of different women on the packaging for each product has changed. By this I mean that at one time darker skinned women with large type 4 hair and vibrant curl definition used to be the images that these brands were using to sell their products. However now, a lot of what I see tends to be racially ambiguous women with looser curl patterns. While there is nothing wrong with opening up marketing campaigns to women of different curl hair textures and skin tones, it seems that a lot of the darker skin and kinky hair representation has fizzled out. This lack of representation has been hard for not only myself but other natural hair goers of darker complexions and tighter curls because we often feel as though these brands are not making products with us in mind anymore.
While my hair is not long, it’s not incredibly short either. There are times where I feel that the natural hair community on social media tends to uplift and applaud women who have naturally long hair and many of us with shorter hair are looked passed. I myself have felt at times a little insignificant because my hair doesn’t look like what’s often advertised to me. My hair isn’t long enough to braid, my afro is small, my hair grows at different speeds in different places, my edges are hard to shape. Sometimes I genuinely have no idea how to style my hair because the front of my hair is wavy but short and I don’t know how to showcase that.
For these reasons I’ve been tempted to do the big chop and cut my hair; a fresh start. Good hair is healthy hair and I believe that at this time, if I cut my hair I will be able to grow all of it out at the same time. Not to mention cutting my hair will make my wash day routine a lot shorter.
We as a society place so much emphasis on hair and appearance—from social media, to celebrities, to family beliefs, to the Bible. As silly as it seems, I worry about maintaining my femininity with shorter hair. Just this past summer I got accustomed to seeing myself without makeup and letting my beauty from within show on the outside. As someone who spends way too much time on social media, I’ve noticed that pro Black pages on Instagram who post Black women with short hair, strategically make sure to post women with short hair who have a full beat face of makeup on.
As I sit here, writing to you today, I am undecided on when is the right time to make the big chop. Perhaps there never is a right moment or right time. I can confidently say that from every woman close to me that I discussed this topic with, they’ve all done the big chop and absolutely loved it. I think that in the past year I have learned that femininity is something that can be expressed in multiple ways. Perhaps it’s not one’s hair, makeup, or clothes, but the way one moves through life. The confidence they exude, the way they carry themselves.
From a young age, my mother has enforced in me the idea that my type four hair is beautiful. She taught me that good hair is healthy hair; that hair texture is not important and that everyone is different and unique in her own way. Like many Black women in Corporate America she spent many hours in a beauty shop chair under a hair dryer letting ammonium thioglycolate soak into her scalp to make her hair straight. After having me, her pride and joy, she decided to go natural in a successful attempt to teach me to love the hair that God intended to grow out of my head.
But as I grew up, went to school, associated with new people who looked different from me, and joined social media, I began to notice a pattern in which our society praises and uplifts people with tighter curl patterns, and typically, those people do not look like me. I also noticed how society is so quick to put an emphasis on masculine and feminine; short hair is seen as masculine and long hair is seen as feminine. While no one explicitly told me that I was masculine, as I got older I became more self conscious over my appearance and my hair because it as, and still is very short.
I’d never had an issue with my natural hair until I joined social media. Being the only Black girl in my grade level through elementary and middle school, being different worked in my favor. It made me stand out and set me apart from the other students. However, when I joined social media, I was introduced to other Black girls who didn’t wear their hair natural. Girls who wore weaves, braids, and wigs. Girls who had longer hair than me.
So here I am at thirteen years old, taking all of this in at once, and like every other person my age, I started to compare myself to these girls.
Flash forward to 2020, now a high school senior I can confirm with great pride that my confidence levels have increased tremendously. But I’ve been faced with a dilemma that brought me years back to my early days of social media. I’ve been thinking about doing the big chop and cutting my hair.
Society has always had an altered view on a woman’s body. From the large chest size, to the tiny waist and flat stomach, hips that flare out, the perfect height; not too tall, not too short, these expectations are often times unrealistic to expect of a woman’s body.
My weight has always been has always been one of my biggest triggers. I’ve only ever been thin once in my life, and I’m pretty sure I’m never getting back to that place. Most people aren’t explicit with their disgust for my body, but my immediate family made it very clear I was too fat.
In December of 2019, I was 210 pounds. In September of 2020, I am 140 pounds. I know for a fact that I gained weight between December 2019 and March 2020. But as of now, I am 140 pounds and while I now love the way I look, I also hate it.
I lost 70 pounds between March 2020 and September 2020. I know that there is no way I did that in a healthy way. I starved myself, point blank. I would deprive my body of nutrition so that I could feel beautiful; and while I do feel beautiful and look great on the outside, I feel awful on the inside.
There were times where I wouldn’t eat. I would lay in bed, feel my stomach ask for food and refuse to give my body energy. if I did eat, I would over eat on purpose to make myself vomit, because in my mind, if I throw this up, all of this food won’t go to my stomach, my thighs.
It’s been hard to accept the way I look. I get more compliments now that i’m thinner, now that my waist is smaller. I get more male attention now that my body reflects the body of a woman whom they desire; large breasts, a smaller waist, a more profound behind. All I’ve been given is positive feedback; but how can I accept these compliments knowing that I achieved this look in an unhealthy way?
I am writing this post to encourage women to love the way they look. There is no such thing as the perfect woman, and male attention is not the end all be all.
Colette J is a Bay Area high school senior and youth writer who wants every woman to remember that she is beautiful.
It’s hard to have an ugly yard in California. Many residents in Southern California pride themselves on lush gardens with blooming flowers and Tennessee Bluegrass, but for environmentally-conscious people, watering thirsty plants in this hot arid land is untenable. Add the challenge of the dry Santa Ana winds from inland that desiccate the land and summer temperatures that rocket to the triple digits for weeks at a time. Basically, transforming a garden to a waterwise feature is not easy in the high deserts of Los Angeles County.
Owing to SoCal’s intense heat, gray water makes inhospitable ground for new plants, even adapted species and natives. The water here is mineral rich, causing calcification to household appliances like dish and clothes washers. One needs imagination to maintain efficiency will modifying a typical garden to a draught-tolerant, water-wise and creature friendly environment. Like all major changes, the transformation is not always easy to bear, to see or experience. Homeowner’s curb appeal may be temporarily reduced. That’s why many people pay gardeners and landscapers to do the work. But not me! I like to feel the dirt under my nails and the strain of my back as work this good earth.
Gardening always embodies mindfulness: One must pay attention to everything. I learned that the earth here is packed solid as rock in summer–especially without persistent watering. The soil is dense and claylike and water does not penetrate the top layer. It remains on the surface until the sun and wind evaporate it midmorning. The earth acts like a terra-cotta planter; roots cannot penetrate the solid surface. This hurts plant roots and hinders growth. All this means a gardener must use plants that will tolerate less water and consolidate plants in areas where water is used efficiently. Even so, to keep such a garden content, soil amendment is required.
Among the challenges of xeriscaping a property is adapting to the local conditions and climate as well as finding plants and arrangements that optimizes water use, while minimizing the demands for potable water, an increasingly scarce global commodity that is essential for life. I don’t mind the awkward transitions; xeriscaping my property gives me hope, because I can model a patient approach to land stewardship that embraces the local environment and creates a sustainable environment for all of us.
Edissa is cultivating an organic edible garden and xeriscaping her SoCal property.
So this horrible event happened to you, and your world has been flipped upside down. You don’t know who to turn to, and in some cases, if you were to speak up, the person “supporting” you would just make you interact with your perpetrator or dismiss you altogether.
Reporting sexual assault requires a strength that many survivors don’t have. This is usually due to the experience and the stigmas that are applied to the survivor. These stigmas make it that much harder to speak up, and those that speak up carry a considerable burden. For many, this expectation is a deterrent, and for every Black woman that reports what happened to her, 15 Black women do not.
For those that live in low-income communities, the correlation between assaults — particularly assaults with a weapon — increases. These attacks have historically been a way to silence and suppress Black women, and by extension, Black men. While Hollywood tends to portray these transgressions in a sensational manner, such as the stranger who breaks into your home, the truth is a bit more mundane. Often, assailants are people that the victim knows, such as a parent, sibling, or a romantic partner.
Sometimes, drugs and alcohol are introduced as a way to relax the target’s boundaries. Assailants are often adept at assessing whether the mark exhibits traits of anxiety or people-pleasing, and will often use gaps in power as a way to gain control of the interaction. This includes promises of food, money, popularity, protection, preferential treatment, or some other perceived need.
Listen. If you are a supporter, center the survivor, and if the event happened to you, listen to your feelings. Our justice system is ill-equipped to handle these cases. Please keep that in mind as you ask the survivor why they didn’t report. Reach out to programs that assist survivors in their healing. Understand that healing is not a straight line, but cyclical — be gentle and don’t push. Exercise, counseling, art and crying are all very helpful.
With unexpected changes happening every day, I’ve found that it’s important to find a routine or a ritual. For me, it is walking in nature to breathe the air that refreshes and heals, taking warm showers with luxurious soaps and salts that soften and cleanse, and drinking the teas that bring forth healing and wash the worries of the day away. These sensual indulgences link my body, mind, and spirit and allow for optimal psychological and spiritual health.
Mental health, our internal heaven, sometimes seems to elude us but is always available to us. A fragile, steadfast friend, it wants to stay with us — through connecting with our friends and our family, scribbling in a journal with tattered pages; a trusted and empathetic psychiatrist or counselor, or the paintbrushes tucked in our studio.
These rituals simultaneously connect us to and vehemently release us from the realities of life, while life makes it possible to enjoy and revive our bodies and souls. With our staunch collective obsession of all that is new and theoretical in our Western society, coming back to that which is tried and true can be a welcome respite from the pressure to be different.
Still, a mysterious danger remains of being stuck in the past, present, or even future instead of being edified by it. We must embrace cycles in their full spectrum. Cycles are not just a hallmark of fertility although that is certainly significant; these cycles are cues that allow healing, sleep, emotional development and stability, calm.
These rituals and cycles — circling, and spiraling — undo the knots of symptoms such as anxiety and anger. Our internal revolutions unfurl the painful memories locked into our psyche and cells and are expressed as inflammation. Whether you call these experiences cytokines or prostaglandins, rituals to remove stress can stop the overabundance of pain.
We also stop the pain with laughter, the ultimate healing ritual amid the friction that can be described as systematic subjugation. I laugh with my ancestors: they get the joke, the absurdity that we should have to fight oppressive forces all this time.
My rituals help me to tap within, to figure out why we do what we do. Where do we fit into the seeming madness of the world? It seems like we all have desires that appear to be at odds with each other, yet make up a composite mosaic that is reflective of our collective experience.
If your vibe is deep relaxation, experience the cure that is literally in the award-winning waters of Desert Hot Springs, California. Fall in love with the simplicity and serenity of Palm Springs’ neighbor by booking a few days at El Morocco Inn and Spa, the oasis in the sandy plains, where visitors are tucked behind the walls of the sumptuous Arabian-inspired courtyard. The charming private enclosure allows guests to swim and soak away ailments without external intrusions—guests can’t see the outside world except for the sky. Renew and recharge in the adults-only environment in tranquility. El Morocco Inn and Spa lives up to its name with festive details like a plate of dates and dried fruit under a tagine cover, cool mint-lemonade on the ready and glimpses of ‘Rick’s Café Americain’ in its constant loop while you sip a glass sherry by the hearth.
El Morocco provides the serenity necessary to recover from the frenzy of urban living. Add one of their signature therapeutic massages to seal the deal and walk away in a state of perfection. They offer some of the best, expert massages that include olfactory, visual and physical stimulation at a delightfully modest price.
The solution to chronic aches and pains is here. ICE Recovery and Wellness, LA’s best-kept health and wellness secret is affordable and accessible. ICE Recovery and Wellness offers the latest technologies to repair muscles suffering from fatigue, spasms and repetitive-stress injuries the same way that professional athletes do—with state-of-the-art cryotherapy and adjustable pressure Normatec compression sleeves for arms and legs. Their elite, premium package is the same care that professional athletes get but with a homey feel that invites relaxation and healing. Located in Valencia, California, ICE Recovery and Wellness gives every client amazing star treatment. You’ll encounter a warm cordiality from the staff that lasts until you leave. Plus, at ICE everyone is family, which is awesome, because they remember your name, attend to your needs and welcome you in a professional manner. It’s the kind old-fashioned, attentive, personalized service I adore. ICE offers a range of packages, including a-la-carte and membership plans.
If you can’t make the trip south, get the rewards of retreat close to San Francisco. Indulge in a Rich Body Awareness class. Take a Saturday morning neuro-reprogramming feast in “Awareness Through Movement® Class” Feldenkrais classes offered at Kaiser in Daly City with Futaba Alizoti, affectionately called Taba. Rich Body Awareness sessions are a Feldenkrais buffet of information. Taba’s classes allow participants to slow down and listen to the body. Plus, benefit from Taba’s intuitive teaching style, which stems from her history in ballet and Aikido, modalities with uncompromising physical demands. “Our bodies are an expression of ourselves,” Taba explains; “It’s up to us to understand ourselves.
With one-on-one Functional Integration sessions, weekly classes and monthly workshops, clients choose the type Feldenkrais experience they want to learn from themselves. During a session, Taba may gentle guide you in the direction of least resistance, instructing your body to move as it was designed. Eyes closed, you’re invited to “Notice” and after a time of intense self-focus, to “Let that go” and that “if you’re not breathing, you’re working too hard.” This is not an exercise class, but a place to transform consciousness. The movements in Feldenkrais are small, paced to allow breath-awareness and re-connection with self. The information gained from within, ensure that “You become the authority of your own body.”
Join Taba’s Rich Body Awareness Feldenkrais ATM®Workshop for Cultivating Self-Care: “Growing Your Backbone” Sunday, June 17, 2018, 10am-1pm at 43 Parsons Street in San Francisco for $60. Space is limited. Reserve your spot.