The gossip concerning Gabrielle Douglas's hair reminds me of those shameful whisperes of long ago--you know, issues that no one wants to talk about out loud. I hear the ones around Gabrielle: she know she needs to do something with that nappy hair; she got all those "pins and gels in her hair"; they spent all that money getting her trained; now why didn't somebody do something with that child's hair.
I am quieted by the complex and, sometimes, seemingly rude conversations around black female hair, i.e., beauty, i.e., identity.In the solitary quietness of my own space, I experience images of my foremothers surviving the Middle Passage. I see their coiled and straight hair (yes some black women do have straight hair) as they suffer beatings on auction blocks. I am also quieted by the images of foremothers like Fannie Lou Hammer. I see my foremother and her hair. Mrs. Hammer suffered in Mississippi so that I could have the right to vote. What is the relationship between foremothers suffering the Middle Passage, Fannie Lou Hammer, the right to vote and hair? Somewhere in the marrow of my consciousness I keep saying to myself, my foremothers didn't have the luxury to think about "gel and pins." Like Gabrielle Douglas, they were toiling hard to win!
Black women continue to struggle with the authentic beauty of their natural hair. Weave it, press it, perm it--whatever we do to our hair, at the end of the day, natural hair (curly or straight) is beautiful; it is a symbol of the black female identity. It is the foundation for every hairstyle we create. For me, natural hair--be it coiled or straight--is akin to having my bare feet on the ground.
I keep hearing the chorus of that black hair protest song by the very talented India Arie--"I am Not My Hair":
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within . . .
As I digest these protest lyrics, I keep saying, I want my sisters to know that, indeed, we are our "souls" and we are our " skin and hair," also.
Implicit in this song is the suggestion that in order to be seen as beautiful (and not be othered), black women have had to compartmentalize themselves. I keep hearing us saying (tacitly), maybe if we simply show them pieces of ourselves--our souls--, they will accept all of our beauty. Well with my feet flat on the ground, I am here to say we are our hair. We are the soulful, sensuous, sexy, serene, soft synergy of our hair, necks, breasts (firm and sagging), our thin and wide hips, legs, eyes, and souls. We are our many shades of brown. The black woman does not need to explain her nappy edges. We are beautiful as we are--yes!
As African American women blessed to live in 2012, we are the nappy edges of foremothers like Sojourner Truth who asked rhetorical questions like Ain't I a Woman" so that we could receive and own our beauty.
At the end of the day, with our bare feet touching the cement of a city street, the sand of a restful beach, black tarred streets of a suburb, or the dirt of a southern road; we are our hair, and we should be proud of it. Our hair is our crowning glory. Our stories rest in our hair. I can hear the voices of my foremothers, those who did not have time to think about weaves, gel, curling irons, grease, etc. as they suffered through the Middle Passage. I imagine the voices of women like Joann Robinson, that English professor who wrote and produce the leaflets for the Mongomery Bus Boycott of 1955: Nappy edges can take a woman a long way when she is driven to win.
The natural hair of the black female is a gift. It is a thread in our soul synergy. Let's honor it--especially the nappy edges.