A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a video from CNN.com with the hashtag, #realizediwasblack. This series CNN is loosely based on the works of WEB Du Bois literary book entitled, ” The Souls of Black Folk”. CNN asked celebrities of colour to recount their stories of the first time they realized they were black. I was captivated and this led me to think about my own “discovery” ( for lack of a better word). Here is my story:
As a young black girl, you know the struggle of “wash day”. Wash day was usually on Saturday when your mom would wash, chiney bump ( aka bantu knot) blow dry, grease and either braid or style your hair for the week. Now as a young black girl, with thick natural hair, this could be a whole day process! Nevertheless, week after week this had to be done, and week after week I would go to school and see my kinky coils and compare them to the silky ringlets of many of my peers( I mean besides me and my cousin, there were no other black girls in our school at the time) I wanted my hair to flow down my back like theirs did! I never took into consideration that my hair didn’t operate like that.
Now every so often, my mom would use the hot comb and press out my hair ( mostly to make it easier for her to manage and manipulate) and when she did that I felt like a superstar. My hair was “flat” and laying down my back like my friends.
My mom and dad worked the early shift. Which left me on my own to get ready and get myself off to school at a pretty young age ( don’t judge lol this was over 2 decades ago where it was socially acceptable and much safer for kids to be home alone and walk to school by themselves) Every morning, I would get up, get ready and meet my cousin at the corner and off to school we would walk together. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old at the time.
One particular time, my mom pressed my hair and had just left it in a simple ponytail without the usual frills and ribbons and clips. I saw this as my opportunity to “wear my hair down” . So when I got to school, I had my cousin take out my ponytail and brush out my hair and help me put on a headband. I strutted like a peacock into that classroom and was met with stares….
Immediately I began to feel funny.. Why was everyone staring at me? and then it happened …One of my peers looked at me and said, “Eww Sophia! Why does your hair look like that? It looks so weird!” I was confused! I was embarrassed. I ran out of the classroom and straight to the restroom. When I got there to my horror, my “beautiful” silky pressed hair had reverted back to its natural afro by way of humidity! I didn’t yet understand that my hairs texture was not conditioned to stay in its silky state. I had never noticed before the immense difference between my hair and the rest of the girls in my class, and the fact that my peers first reaction to my hair was “Eww” really hurt me!
I ran to my cousins class ( she was a few years older than me) and begged her to put my hair back in a ponytail. But we were kids whose moms still did our hair, so we had no idea what we were doing! Needless to say,I didn’t look like a child who’s parents even glanced at them before they walked out the door.
Finally, recess came. Outside we went…. and then something happened that really put the nail in the coffin of this awful day… and probably solidified my understanding that I was different.. and that people are going to judge me because of that. We were playing races. I was naturally fast , so I easily beat this one boy. I ran and gave my friends high fives and then the boy that I beat turns to me and says, ” You’re so ugly and your hair is ugly. You like poo!” Go back to Africa!
I stared at him and burst into tears and ran into the bathroom and hid. I stayed there for the rest of recess and pondered what he had said. Was I really ugly? Was my hair ugly too? How could I go back to Africa, when I had never been there in the first place?
Naturally, I was glum for the rest of the day. I had completely forgotten about my hair until my mom came home and saw my head and said, “What happened to your hair???!” ( she was not pleased) So I had to tell her my whole days ordeal. She looked at me and said, “Well Sophie, remember you’re black. You’re not like them and every opportunity they get , they are going to remind you of that.” So off to the bathroom we went, where she re-washed and styled my hair and I never did that again.
When I got older and got my hair relaxed, I enjoyed the easiness of “wash day” but relaxed hair was never really for me. That’s why in 2007 after being a bridesmaid in my god brothers wedding and having my hair gelled up and slicked for an updo, I washed all that gunk out of my hair.. grabbed a pair of scissors… and cut it all off! I called my girl and she hooked me up with some braids, and I never relaxed my hair again! Almost ten years no relaxer! Best decision ever. Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to hair care I AM LAZY! I hate washing it .I hate taking care of it, so weave and wigs and braids are right up my alley. But don’t get it twisted ! I love my natural hair that God blessed me with and I don’t think I would ever relax it again!
Now my mom always instilled in me that I was black and that I was to be black and proud! Never let any one of any race or culture make me feel like I was less than! She always taught me that my black is beautiful and that I am perfect just the way God made me. I wish more young black girls had strong examples in their lives, that encourage them to love the skin they’re in and embrace their melanin! 🙂 Sadly, many young girls live a world where they have been taught ( or forced) to feel less than beautiful… less than powerful.. less than important… less than valuable!
I want every black young lady ( and gentlemen) to know that YOU ARE IMPORTANT! YOU MATTER! BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE!!
Psalms 139:13-14 says: For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
God makes no mistakes! You are you for a reason, for a purpose!
You’re fearfully and wonderfully made so be black and be proud!
I think the amazing James brown said it best 🙂 ( take a listen)
Have an amazing Monday!
ps check out other stories like mine here: