When you’re a little black girl, you get put into one of two groups: those with “good” hair and those with, well, bad hair. As you grow up, the hair issue becomes more nefarious as those with “bad” hair learn to distinguish themselves as being the proud owners of Natural hair, nappy hair or dreadlocks. Some even make it seem like having anything other than Natural hair is a denial of one’s race. Others just get weaves. Occasionally, the good hair girls get castigated for trying to pass as white, while in reality many of them are of mixed heritage and have their genes, not conscious choice, to thank for their lustrous locks.
Being of mixed descent myself, I’ve watched the hair debate from the sidelines. I never needed to defend my choice of hairstyle to anyone as a teenager or young woman because there were no other black people around. And that there was the problem with my hair: There were NO black people around. Continue reading
Caption: Aunt Marianne, 2005.
I was raised by beauty queens. Living, breathing, pageanting beauty queens. I was put into modeling school in 4th grade. If you don’t believe me, I will call my aunt and have her dig up the footage and photos from the Crest Commercial I screen tested for. I sang, danced, did the 1/4 and full angel turns and learned the proper way to exit a car while wearing a skirt. I will say please and thank you, even if you are mean to me, because that is the proper thing for a lady to do.
When I moved to Florida, it was to live with my Grampa and his second wife, who I call my Grandma and who welcomed me into her side of the family like I was born into it. Grampa had seven kids (5 sons, 2 daughters), Grandma had six kids (all daughters), and besides my Mom and “real” grandmother, my entire family lived in Florida. Continue reading
Prof. John Ernest with me and Kristin at our college graduation
I went to college with a mission: I wanted to learn more about Being Black. Problem was, $10,000 of my scholarship money for New York University had fallen through on the day of my high school graduation. I wouldn’t be attending school in the diverse Mecca-lekka-hiney-bro Melting Pot known as NYC.
Nope. The University of New Hampshire would be hosting my education in Being Black. It was as unlikely a place as one could find for increasing cultural awareness. There were 78 Black students out of 13,000. If you were counting me, there were only 77.5 Black students. We do what we can with what we have, though, and what I had was a course catalogue listing a 500-level course for Introduction to African-American Literature.
Any time I’ve ever wanted to understand anything, I’ve turned to books. From cooking to interior design to tarot card reading, if there was anything I’ve wanted to understand, I just buried myself in every chapter and verse I could get my hands on. I thought if I could read about other Black people, their history, what they had been through . . . maybe I would understand a little bit more about myself. Continue reading