When Our Bodies get trumped

It’s not the first or most likely the last time the leader of the free world would attack and reduce feminity and being a woman to a shallow argument about physical looks. Dare to wonder why he thinks he gets a pass on that one. But as always, our bodies, our strong, beautiful and intricate bodies have been trumped.

Trump’s recent barrage on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and her alleged botched cosmetic surgeryTrump should alarm us for the simple reason that a president is not expected to publically make such comments.  However, more so, his degrading Twitter tantrum speaks volumes about the trials and obstacles that women constantly face in order to succeed in the corporate world as well as life in general.

Women- whether, white, black, brown- are constantly having their appearance scrutinized and rejected. The status-quo of a male-dominated society means that women always fall short, even if they attain perfection in all aspects of their lives. Yes, talk is cheap but Trump has demonstrated as he has done many times before, that women can and will continue to be reduced to physicality and sexual prowess.

 

p.c: http://bit.ly/2ts2E8w

 

From A Far Away Place

I see the dimming lights in their eyes,

the finality-

of something often,

of something close,

of something cherished,

of something forgotten.

There is futility in attempting to put these pieces together,

But I am drawn to it–

this exercise in impossibility.

I’ve dreamt of the paths untrodden,

that they might have missed to reach this  place

of unfounded dreams and unspoken hopes.

To label this failure would be too easy.

Politics of Black Hair (part 2): Social Regulation of Black Hair Texture

This piece, on the social regulation of black hair is the second part of my Politics of Black Hair series that was featured in the Earlham College student-run newspaper.

Historically, Black hair has frequently earned a reputation of being “unruly” and “unmanageable” with specific focus on it’s oftentimes kinky texture. It is such labels that aided the development and dependency of many black women upon hair chemicals (a multi-million dollar industry1 ) that promised the popular and socially accepted Eurocentric ideal of “good hair”, albeit temporarily. Perpetuation of ideas on what “good hair” must look like and how far black hair is from this idea, has worked to produce much of the social bias that many black people face within the workplace, school and in daily interactions.

Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white. In Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary, Good Hair, we are taken into the complex and oftentimes expensive world of Black hair care and the lengths at which black people must be prepared to go, in order to achieve a socially acceptable image of themselves and more specifically, of their hair. Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white.

Regulation of Black hair in the workplace is one of the most blatant forms of discrimination against people of color but also against the natural state of Black hair. In their opinion editorial entitled, “When Black Hair Is Against the Rules2 ” (2014), Ayana Byrd and Lori L.Tharps, authors of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” (2001) demonstrate how the US Army’s decision to revise its appearance and grooming policy, disproportionately affected Black women and their hair. The 2014 policy was said to “refer to hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks” while “severely limiting or banning them outright.” Specific language within the policy also referred to these styles as “matted” and “unkempt.”3 Although the policy has since been revised, such action conveys a clear message to black people: The US Army will not accept your natural as it is, alter it or prepare to face the consequences. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that social regulations on Black hair are perpetuated by Black and White people alike, who staunchly believe in the inherent inferiority of black hair. However, the best-kept secret still remains: Black hair should not need reform, rather it is the unhealthy ideals of Eurocentric beauty, unequal racial structures and power dynamics that need to be abolished.

 

Politics of Black Hair (part 1): Black Hair and Petting Zoo’s

As a young girl my mother’s decision to make me wear my hair in it’s natural state (without any chemical products) largely made me an anomaly amongst my caucasian friends but a symbol of celebration for its length and volume amongst my black friends.

I would grow up to expect the “oohing” and “aahing” of non-African’s at the sight of my hair, followed by the occasional, “can I touch it?” or “how often do you wash it?”. I will admit, some experiences were better than others but not one left me feeling necessarily good about myself or the attention that my hair provided me simply because I did not see individuals of other races being riddled with questions about the “management” of their hair. Disclaimer: In making these statements, I do not attempt to speak for the entire Black race or individuals who share hair textures that deviate from silky and straight. Although my experiences concerning my hair stem far beyond the time I have spent in the United States, I will have to admit that living in the US has opened up me to several new dimensions of the black hair discussion.

The attention that black hair garners whether in it’s natural state or in other styles such as wigs, crotchet braids or braiding extensions has often left me weary. Weary of explaining the “how’s” and the “whys”, weary of defending that black women’s decision on how they choose to wear their hair should be left to each woman as an individual and not a collective and weary of feeling like an animal at a petting zoo. The general inability for black hair to simply exist without question or analysis is frustrating, to say the least, and although there is so much discussion on the topic, so much ignorance still pervades the issue. In her internationally acclaimed novel, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrates the difficulties that the protagonist, Ifemelu faces in deciding how to wear her hair and the consequences that arise from either wearing it naturally or using chemical products. Although Adichie helped to provide a platform for the discussion of the politicization of black hair, much more needs to be done. So my advice to anyone who feels the urge to grab a braid or quiz a black woman about the texture of her hair is to Stop! you are not at the petting zoo.Black Hair Collumn

On this Separation

Mother, now that we are separated by these large waters-

And by crackling fibre lines-

that sometimes transform your humming voice into unfamiliar muffles.

But Mother,

Now that we are separated-

I feel somehow unable.

You have never asked me to carry your burden

But suddenly

I feel heavy.

The weight of the unknown-

balances unsteadily above

me.

It is only now-

that I realize

I have been navigating this world through

you.

And Mother, I am ashamed to say-

that all this while

I secretly thought it was

you-

who had needed me most.

Never truly acknowledging

Your strength,

until now-

now that my own lack of-

mocks me,

and is hastily demanded to

stand

upright

alone.

Mother, we are now separated-

by these man-made borders.

But separated still-

by so much more,

that I cannot-

define.

 

Paradox Unraveled

I know she often thinks of the beauty of death.

As she lays down her weary body

That once swayed gracefully from side to side

That once paid homage to the goddess of vitality.

But she is now weary and withdrawn-

Withdrawn from the world and withdrawn from herself

Unable to recognize the reflection of the ghost before her

She weeps quietly,

Inwardly

It is the inward pain that has devoured her

It came silently but knowingly

Knowing the destruction it would cause and the

Disarray that would be the final result

And as she lays down her weary body

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

Close to something

Living-

Because life is what she has lost

Because life is what she has used to barter

Because life is what she deserves to have.

But she is weary now

Weary of living.

The art of unliving

Of always giving of herself

Is one she has perfected

Thus, she no longer knows

What it means to live whole

And not,

as a sacrifice.

As she lays down her weary body

Her eyes grow distant and wide

Searching for her home above the heavens,

her place among the stars.

Perhaps, this is really living

She has found peace in this paradox

Of being dead to find life

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

But there is futility embroidered around this effort

She has found something-

Something much more potent than life itself

Black Gold

I am Black Gold

They try to crack the ridges

And ends of my being

but my armor is impermeable.

They try to sing my freedom songs

And buy my history.

I am Black Gold

My calloused memory

Retains the path of my ancestors

Whipped and raped

Forced to grovel

But continuing to rise.

I am Black Gold

They try to resist the flowers that bloom within me

Telling me there is no place for my beauty

Rejecting my roots

And defining my identities

While erasing my mother tongue.

I am Black Gold

They teach me to walk straight

To tilt my hat

To hide my colors

But to open my legs

And to always keep my mind shut.

I am Black Gold

Sold by my brothers

Who saw their reflections in the mirrors

But did not see the evil of their ways

Who prayed to a God of a color

That bore no resemblance to their own

I am Black Gold

I stand tall and break free

I have found my way home

In the belly of the Niger River

I found love in the blackness

And I have made peace with it all.

The mourning Women

I hear them in quiet moments.

These women with their mourning songs-

So hauntingly beautiful,

So hollow and wide

but always reaching my spirit in it’s darkest depths.

I sometimes call out to them to stop.

Knowing however, that I want nothing of the sort.

These women whose wails have created more life

and pleasure than can be comprehended.

They carry their mourning songs sewn and wrapped across their hearts.

These women with calloused hands that have cultivated and uprooted their hopes

and have faithfully watered the ego’s of pot-bellied husbands.

These mourning Women with their distant looks

and forgotten stories.

I have seen them many times before

in mirrors of the past and echos of the future

I shut my eyes and try to paint a lighter reflection-

one that demands less of my being.

She appears again, silent at first

And then her mourning song begins.

the grabbing hands

she had suddenly found herself growing weary-

weary of the men with grabbing hands.

grabbing at her uncovered flesh and often grabbing at her soul.

their kisses were like warm water on a humid summer day.

they always seemed to confuse their rush to undress her with a distant relative of “passion”

she yearned for soft hands that would caress instead of grope.

for those arms that would carry her above the burning coals.

so she let her mind dance around this new reality-

this reality of soft hands and strong arms.

because grabbing hands made her weary and she felt

it was time to live again.

Along the lines of truth

And they keep telling me: my Black is beautiful.

As though this new revelation should surprise me.

Shock me, into

appreciating my existence, and to be grateful for my borrowed space.

and time.

How do they know I do not bow to my temple of blackness daily?

and pay homage often to the struggles whitened out in history texts?

They encourage me to accept my wide heavy hips and thick thighs.

They speak in weak tones of expression of inner beauty and imitations of color blindness,

Who are these that dictate what my reflections should sing?

Those who trap my stories in a box

Those who describe me as one thing.

One beautiful Black thing.

Why should i be defined, aligned and understood?

they teach me to know myself, while

always fearing i will recognize the lies behind their borrowed truths

and hand-woven sermons

Having produced an image of me that they find palatable and comfortable,

they clip my wings and demand i soar.