By: Sarah Kabamba
I was obsessed with this ideal of “good hair,” and I thought that I, a black girl, could never attain this. Because black girls didn’t have “good” hair, they have nappy hair, kinky hair, wild hair, and the list goes on – they have bad hair. See, I believed this and because of that I never really tried to take care of you. I would hurt you, hide you, be ashamed of you – but never thought to truly put in the time and effort to listen to you.
I hated you. And I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that I that I thought you could only be pretty if you were straight. I’m sorry I stopped doing box braids because a boy said they were “dirty dreads.” I’m sorry that I was ashamed of you when that little boy in grade school called you puffy. I’m sorry that I begged Dad to take me to get you permed when I was nine, you were never quite the same.
I would lock myself in the bathroom when I had to fix you. Never let anyone see you. I would make jokes about you, and laugh. I used to tell people that the only reason I didn’t want a daughter is because I didn’t want to deal with “black girl hair.” That was wrong. I know that now. Should I have a daughter, I will teach her to love her hair, no matter what form it’s in or how she chooses to style it. I will teach her to love her skin, and appreciate the resilience and versatility of her hair.
See, I swallowed these bad memories of you and they continued to grow, bitter inside of me. I forgot the good memories I had of you, with you. So for every bad memory, here’s a good one:
Sunday mornings, Mama heating the hot comb on the stove because we broke the wire. The smell of coffee, burnt toast, and jasmine oil filling up the kitchen. Mama humming as she ran the comb through you, while I sit in the chair, eyes closed and smiling.
Threading you with string so that you sprung like sun rays from my head while Mama would tell me how all the women would do their hair back home in her village, and Dad would call me sun head.
Those ridiculous giant hair bobbles in every colour of the rainbow that Mama would use to make two cotton-candy puffs on the side of my head. The sound they made when I would dance, shaking my head so that you bounced.
Sitting crossed legged on the floor, picking what colors of beads I wanted to thread through your strands.
Sitting on the floor at Mama’s feet, while she put in box braids, told me stories from her childhood and we sang along to Swahili songs.
This is just a start. I want to make new memories with you and I hope you can understand that I’m willing to try. I’m still new at this but I’m learning. I’m learning what products you like, what shampoos and conditioners work for you, and how different products affect you. You know yourself better than I do so I’m learning to listen to you.
I’ve learned that “good hair” is whatever I want it to be, however I choose to style you. Whether it be perms, straightening, weaves, braids, wigs, afro, locs, curls, Bantu knots, cornrows, twists, or even if I decide to go bald (I won’t, at least not yet!). You come from generations of strength, locs and locs of power. You are light filled. Resilient. Versatile. Nappy with nobility. Kinky with knowledge. Wild with wisdom and the waves of ancient oceans – the list goes on.
May we continue to grow together,
P.S. To my fellow black girls, no style is “better” than the other. Wear that weave. Bounce those box braids. Love your locs. Nurture your naturalness. It doesn’t matter how you do your hair as long as you’re doing it for you. You are not any more or any less of a black woman because of your hair. And we, as sisters, should never make each other feel bad for our decisions concerning our hair. Love yourself, love one another – it’s a life-long journey, and we should support each other throughout.