Black Hair and Femininity Part 1 (Youth Speak Out Series)

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-misha-voguel-4407900.jpg
Photo by Misha Voguel at Pexels

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.

Love the Way You Look (Youth Speak Out Series)

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.

Photo by Viajero at Pexels

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.

Rediscovering the Love of Reading (Youth Speak Out Series)

This Quarantine has been an unprecedented and unforgiving time for many of us. Most people are feeling at least a little isolated; anxiety and depression are on the rise. Everyone needs a way to deal with the feelings that this period in time has brought. Teens and young adults, like me, are presented with a unique challenge, as they deal with the already jarring transition from childhood to adulthood. Towards the beginning of the quarantine, I was feeling alone and overwhelmed by all sorts of negative emotions that I did not know what to do with. Now having to adapt to adulthood, along with the changes our world is facing, it is understandable that many of us are feeling increasingly stressed out.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels

While we cannot do much about the hand the world has dealt us, we are responsible for how we react. All of our negative emotions are augmented by the loneliness and stress that have been stacked on top of us. Many are unfortunately turning to unhealthy outlets to rid themselves of those pent up emotions. However, some of us are using this time to grow. People are overcoming their negative feelings in a myriad of ways: they are learning new languages, picking up new skills, devoting themselves to a project etc. There are no limits as to what you can do to help you manage the negative emotions that have accompanied this quarantine, different strategies work for different people. For me, the way to weather the storm of negative emotions that I faced was by rekindling my love of reading.

I was an avid reader growing up, and I always especially enjoyed stories set in fantasy worlds. I believe that reading so much as a young child helped me become a more curious and thoughtful person. However, as I got older, I began to be obligated to read things, especially at school. While I understood that it was necessary, this change in mindset completely derailed my enjoyment and turned me off to reading. Recently, looking for a way to pass the time, I started reading a couple of web novels. Almost immediately, I fell back in love with reading. As I swiped through page after page, reading about fantasy worlds filled with magic and splendor, I was provided with what so many of us need right now: an escape. Reading does not stop us from feeling, as many try to accomplish to get through these difficult times. Instead, books introduce us to, and let us feel a whole new slew of positive emotions. Good books allow us to live vicariously through their characters, they allow us to feel happy when they succeed and make us root for them when they struggle; they give us hope. 

Fantasy Book Recommendations for Teens:

  • Frith Chronicles: Written By Russian author, Shami Stovall, Frith Chronicles is a coming of age tale that is relatable to many teens. It is set in a world where Arcanists can gain powers by bonding with magical creatures. I would recommend it to fans of other series, like Harry Potter, that feature a magic school and many adventures .
  • Reborn: Apocalypse: Written by LM Kerr, Reborn Apocalypse takes place in an alternate dimension where humanity has been placed in order to compete to survive against other races. Eventually, humanity loses but the main character is able to return back in time back to when he was first pulled into the apocalyptic game with all of his knowledge about how to do better. I would recommend this book to people who might not even like to read because the game-like system which governs the alternate world makes  it very easy to get into and makes the reader feel like they are in a video game.
  • Cradle: The Cradle series, by Will Wight, has gained a very dedicated following online, and for good reason. It is a Western take on Eastern martial arts cultivation novels, in which strength dictates authority. It is incredibly well-written with great world building and compelling characters. It starts out a little bit slower than other fantasy books, but it picks up with each chapter you read. I would recommend it to those who have a little bit more time on their hands because the series is long and definitely gets you invested.

Jaydon is a senior in high school who lives in Pacifica with his family and his dog.

Why I Support Black Lives Matter (Youth Speak Out Series)

2020 has been a rough year for everyone, but change is happening. The passing of George Floyd, a black man brutally murdered by a police officer by the name of Derek Chauvin. This sparked the outburst for the protests of Black Lives Matter (BLM) with sayings of “Defund the Police” or “I can’t breathe.” Police brutality has been going on for years and has unfortunately been targeted toward the black community.  

Innocent black citizens across the world have been murdered by the people who are sworn to “protect and serve” their country. Protests have hit the streets, as of now, all 50 states have protested Black Lives Matter, and it is still happening today. For people saying “If someone breaks into your house, who are you going to call if you defund or abolish the police?” We aren’t saying defund or abolish the police to get rid of police as a whole, but to change the cement and the base of what the police force is built on. Back in the Civil War, the police force was a “slave patrol” and had every intention to find, capture, and return escaped slaves to their masters. Sometimes it went as far as killing slaves. Yes, we may call 911 for a missing person, domestic violence, etc., but we expect someone that only needs six months of training, a high school diploma and has a lethal weapon with NO de-escalation training to help us? There’s bound to be some sort of problem.  

There is also a saying, for the other side that Blue Lives Matter, but I, personally do not believe that saying. In Black Lives Matter, the black community is born with their skin color, and could/is afraid of them getting killed because of the color of their skin, instead with Blue Lives Matter, cops aren’t born with anything that could make them be afraid of anything. They are given a blue uniform, putting them in Blue Lives Matter. It’s unfair for people to turn around and say Blue Lives Matter if police can’t get killed due to the color of their skin. Yes, police could be afraid of their daily job, putting their lives in danger, but they signed up for it. They knew what they were going into. If you look down on the other races, why abuse your power and go out of your way to kill an innocent person due to the color of their skin? 

 A person I am about to talk about was killed by the color of his skin. Elijah Mcclain, say his name. Elijah was killed in August of last year but his case is just now opening back up. Elijah was 24 when he was killed by police. Elijah would stop by his local pet adoption center and would play the violin for the cats so they could fall asleep. One night, he was walking home. He was wearing a ski mask, and dancing/listening to music. A neighbor called the police, and had said they didn’t think that Elijah was doing anything suspicious, but to just check up on him. That didn’t end well, as Elijah was held down as paramedics injected an overdose of ketamine, a medication used to sedate someone. Elijah is one of the hundreds, of thousands, of black people killed by police. I feel horrible for Elijah and his family, Elijah probably had a better heart than me but was killed for the color of his skin.

So, in light of recent events, I hold my fist up high and will scream Black Lives Matter as loud as I can, so police brutality, and racism as a whole can end. There are plenty ways you can help support the movement. You can protest, sign petitions, and donate to cooperation’s that will help with the movement, and discuss the movement with friends and family. 2020 is a tough time, but we will get through this united.  

Black Lives Matter. 

About Rachel O.

Hello! I am Rachel. I am a young person who seeks to see change in the world through my writing. Although I aspire to be an actress on Broadway, I still love to write and love to inspire and create worlds of my imagination through my writing. I am very excited about this, as it is all very new and exciting for me, as it can help me grow and form into a strong independent person in the future.
Image from Taylor Madu