MASKS

She is capable of movements the average human being cannot even conceive.  With a sweet face, cheerful and loving disposition and compact, athletic body, she captured our hearts (mine at least) and made us proud at the 2012 Olympics.  Did her community embrace her and stand behind her unequivocally as she made history?  About 75% of us did.  The others criticized her HAIR! publicly, acting as if she disgraced us somehow.  The others made such a stink about her hair, Hollywood stylist, Ted So-n-So (whose work on What Not to Wear I usually admire) rushed to her “aid”.  His solution I just saw again on Wendy Williams today.  Now that he has applied about 3 miles of weave to this young woman’s head, the others have breathed a collective sigh of relief.  “Gabby Douglas is not an embarrassment to the black race anymore.”  I try to tone down my really strong language when I’m posting but……even looking at that in print really starts to piss me off again.  Are you freakin’ kidding me?!?  Winning multiple gold medals wasn’t enough?  Being only 16- when many of our 16-year-olds are mothers already-  wasn’t enough?  NOW we can be proud of her and speak only words of praise?  I’m going to say it and I don’t care who doesn’t like it:  that child was absolutely gorgeous-inside and out- the way she was.  When will black woman stop making our daughters (especially) pay the price for our insecurities concerning the way we look?  Our sons pay, too- but just in a different way.  For their entire lives they watch us, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and female cousins- scramble to STRAIGHTEN THAT NAPPY HAIR , which sends the message (because actions ALWAYS speak louder than words) that “straight hair is absolutely essential”.  Then they are called “sell-outs” when they gravitate toward women who don’t have to struggle quite so much to achieve straight hair.    It is time to let our children fly.  They are picking up the emotional tab for our fear and self-loathing.  This one wasn’t a pretty post, but please receive it with love.  Be eternally blessed.  K.B.

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Connotations

As my daughters and I walked home tonight from our evening workout session, my almost-11-year-old began a discussion concerning why people of African descent have so many reservations when it comes to “locing” our hair.   As I pondered right along with her, I had a revelation.  It’s all about connotations.  Some people hear the word “loc” and think “trapped”, “confined”, “limited”.  People who have experienced the freedom that comes with letting your hair do what it gravitates toward naturally hear the word “loc” and think “secure”, “complete” and “protected”.  Clearly there is a very real dichotomy taking place in points of view.   This was just a small thought, but it ties to a blog I’ve been meaning to write for a while, concerning the way Hollywood has made a fortune by subtly yet boldly ridiculing black hair.   How many millions of dollars did “The Little Rascals” make again, in big part, because of a little brown boy named Buckwheat who only said one word throughout each show…”O- TAY”?   What is the thing people remember the most about the savage beast in the movie “Predator”?  His DREADLOCKS.  One of the funniest and most famous lines in the blockbuster hit “Independence Day” is when Will Smith tells the alien he captures that he is sick of the alien and his “dreadlocks”, which are dragging the ground.  Who wants to be linked to a child who can barely speak, or a savage, emotionless monster?  Who wants to be an alien- foreign, and not like “everybody else”?  Nobody.  Who wants his or her children to be perceived in this manner?   No one.  I sure don’t.   What we have to remember, though, is that it’s essential to nurture a positive self-image and not wait on Hollywood or anyone else to define for us who we are and what we can be.  If the God I adore created me and this coarse hair in 6 days, looked at and called it “Good”, no one else’s opinion matters.  That’s how we find and keep our self-esteem high in a country that doesn’t always celebrate the way we look.   Be Your Beautiful Self!!!

 

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Evolving Again

It’s happening fast.   In droves, young black men are joining the exploration and celebration of their “hairitage”.   Yes, that’s my term.  I own the copyright.   It’s a spiritual awakening.  And when I say spiritual,  I’m not talking about sitting in church 4 out of 7 days, while living a hypocritical life.  You know what I mean:  “Don’t do this, this or this…..unless it’s dark and there’s no chance of anybody ever knowing.”   No, this goes deeper.  It’s an awareness of one’s own worth.  Beyond money.  Beyond job title.  This new awareness centers around…(yes, I’m back on this)…hair.  Our young men are exchanging their bald fades for  HAIR!  Gone are the days when black men accepted that in order to be successful, they had to keep their heads shorn.  Shaved down to the scalp, so that little or no texture was visible.  Hair is a very real indicator of ethnicity, bloodlines, etc.  People can say anything about “who I am and where I’m from”, but that hair will often tell if (even though your skin is very light), your grandmother was a black woman.  For a society to expect an individual to keep their head almost bald- is a very subtle- but effective- way of leaving that person anonymous and essentially…lost.  Unaware of their past, present or future.    Some theories even suggest that this desire for anonymity was the way the process of hair straightening originally entered the mainstream of black society.  NOW JUST STAY WITH ME FOR A MINUTE!!  There was a time when biracial people were not always “black and proud”.  They found themselves caught between two worlds and “passing” was a real option.  Passing was the process of pretending to not be anything but white with a tan, often for one’s entire life.  The person passing would sever ties with all black relatives, relocate and live, speak and function as a white person.  Marry white (hopefully) and encourage their children to do the same.  Three generations later, no one could even tell that “Becky”  had a great-great grandmother named “Beaula-Mae who was raped by her master, repeatedly.  Except for that stubborn space between Becky’s front teeth that $5000.00 worth of braces got rid of, thank God.  But I digress.  Oftentimes, the person passing could do so just fine.  With thin, caucasianesque  {Hey, I just created a new word- add it to your dictionary!!} features and very fair skin, the only telltale was.. that damned hair- that was just a tad bit coarser than a white woman’s (or man’s) should be.   Straightening or removing the hair became essential to keep the charade going.   Theories suggest that once mainstream blacks got wind of this process for hair straightening we became intrigued with the concept and began to emulate and “perfect” the process.  Enter Madame C.J. Walker, who was a millionairess before the world knew there would even be an Oprah.  Flash forward 100 years and you have a culture of people who have adopted the process of camouflaging  hair texture, but unsure why it feels  ‘necessary’.   Now, am I saying that the bald fade is the devil and everybody needs an afro to make it in the pearly gates? Well…actually.. o.k., never mind.  But really-  what I’m suggesting is that we need to know why we do what we do and…evolve.  Man is always learning, perfecting himself.  And by man, I mean mankind.  We must embrace our history- even the parts that are not pretty or are a little embarrassing.  Black men are well on their way.  What about us, women- do we intend to get left  behind?  I’m just saying….???  Be blessed.  K.B.

Be your Beautiful Self!!

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“…Thou Shalt Not Covet…”…..Hair???

Julia Roberts.  Eva Longoria.  Jennifer Aniston.  Angelina Jolie.  Eva Mendes.  Meryl Streep.  Goldie Hawn.  With these last 2, I’m really telling my age, right?  You say “where are you going with this, Kristina?”   All of these women are  beautiful, physically.  They also have reputations for being wonderful friends, wives, sisters, etc.  Really decent human beings, who happen to also live their lives in the public eye.  I would consider it quite an honor for any one of these ladies to call me up one day and say “Hey there, Buchanan, let’s have  lunch!”  I’d talk about that lunch date for months and months to come, to whomever would be polite enough to listen.  That being said:  I don’t know a woman yet- black, white, purple, green or grey- whom I admire so much, I’d wait for her to cut off her unwanted, extra hair and sell it to me to wear because her hair is considered superior to mine.  This process is spiritually and psychologically unhealthy.  I would love to be a fly on the wall in say, 40 years, when cultural historians try to explain our race’s dependency on other peoples’ hair to other cultures or even our own descendents.   It’s just something to think about….

Be Your Beautiful Self!!!

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Hypocrisy

Yes- I’m a big girl- but this isn’t about that.  Every time I turn on my television or radio, I hear weight-loss ads.  Now I get that everybody wants to be smaller and have their clothes fit well.  I won’t be a scrooge and point out that buying them the right size in the first place would help with that.  Moving on….  Here’s what gets on my last good nerve:  90% of these ads are written by men and directed at women.  You say “What’s wrong with that, Kristina?”  I’ll tell you.  Why are the men in this society, in any society allowed to set the standard for how women should look?  A man can put on 40 extra pounds, buy a beautifully cut suit jacket, get his hair tailored and people (women) will gush over how “successful” and “well-fed”  he looks.  Bull.  He’s fat, too.  A woman can gain 20 pounds, put on a dress that emphasizes all of her new curves, step out of the house feeling like a million dollars and some asshole (sometimes another  woman)  will comment that she’s “letting herself go”.  Bull.  This sista looks great.  All her curves are in the right places.  Not gushing over her belt like volcano lava.  WTF?  Enough of this double standard!   Here’s why this mentality is ridiculous:  Men do not- ever– ovulate, menstruate or give birth.  A woman’s body is designed to progressively retain weight as she nears child-bearing age and motherhood.  Some women can still wear the size they wore in high school.  Cool.  But women who can’t and aren’t willing to sit around hungry to obtain that standard should be at peace.  They look good, too.  When a man- any man- can squeeze a small cantaloupe out of a hole on his body that started out the size of a quarter- O.K., a fifty- cent piece-  (tee, hee)- then and only then will I let him dictate what I should look like.  Ladies, be blessed.  K.B.

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A little history

This is going to seem like it’s coming out of left feild, but just stay with me.  Have you ever considered the word “mulatto”?  I hadn’t.  Not really.  It has always sounded a little exotic to me.  Mysterious.  After accidently stumbling upon its true origin and meaning, I will never use it again- and at the risk of sounding bossy and heavy-handed- you shouldn’t either.  Consider this:  The root of “mulatto” is the word “mule”.  The only way you can get a mule is to breed a donkey and a horse.  Do you see the parallel?  Not knowing a better way to “catagorize” biracial people, this word was…convenient.  Here’s the problem:  while this word might have been fine for describing animals, the assumption that it was alright to categorize human beings in the same way was and is preposterous.  That word’s gotta go!  Today!

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Karamel: Images of Natural Beauty

It’s a question I don’t have an answer to.  Why do women of color, more specifically- women of African decent, put ourselves through the torture (and it is torture!) of harsh, damaging, toxic, growth-stunting hair straightening?  This process is outdated and so archaic that it’s one of those “in plain sight” secrets.  We do it in the open, so nobody can say we’re ashamed of this process, but we NEVER discuss why or what would happen if we stopped.  

This process transcends socio-economic boundaries.  The brightest and best women of our culture (C. Rice, M. Obama, O. Winfrey) would never be seen in public without straightened hair.   People who are not familiar with the process hair straightening say “So what?” 

So what if the only way to acheive the hair style we want is to put sodium hydorxide (DRAINO is also made of this exact chemical) in a cream base and smear it on the hair.  So what if there’s not an African-American woman alive who hasn’t experienced hair loss due to this process.  So what if we, as women, are so emotionally attached to this process, we subject our daughters, often as young as 18 months old, to this same chaos.  So what?

People of other races say “I get my roots done regularly.  What’s the difference?”  The difference is sodium hydroxide is the strongest, most toxic chemical in the hair industry, period.  It makes 40 volume peroxide and the strongest bleaching agents (used to lift the hair to the highest levels of blond and even white) look like hair and scalp conditioner.  There is no comparison, whatsoever.  It’s that serious.  There haven’t even been studies done to show the possible links between hair “relaxers” given to pregnant women and birth defects.  Try to get an African- American woman to go 9 months without straightening her hair, however.  Good luck.

Karamel:  Images of Natural Beauty is a mini-magazine I started as a way to encourage my natural hair wearing customers.  We are a minority within our own race.  A growing minority, though.  When you see someone wearing locs or a small, well-groomed natural-  don’t assume the worst.  None of my customers are career criminals or even mean people.  Most of them work in an office setting and have just begun to tire of the same old hair drama and self- loathing our race seems to sometimes engage in, in relation to our hair.  We have decided not to pass this madness on to our daughters (and sons) any longer.  So strike up a dialog and find out a person’s “hair story” before you judge, O.K.?  Be blessed.  KB

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