25 June 2011

Don't Hate... Appreciate: My Loc Story

Fresh Trim Locs

I am a natural hair girl. Even when over 50 years ago to go natural, ala nappy, was counter-revolutionary to the revolution of civil rights and liberation I came out of the womb happy to be nappy. While others lauded Madame CJWalker cuticle libations, lye burns and singed ear cartilage, I was pleading with Mama just to leave my hair alone. And, on top of having the most voluminous head of hair of my siblings, I was tender headed! Mercy! All I wanted to do any Saturday other than sit with my head between Mama's legs getting just washed hair untangled and scalp greased, or going to the beauty shop to have my hair fried and laid to the side, was anything other than...

I swore, under my breath of course, that when I got grown I would not put another chemical or hot comb in my hair. For the most part that became my reality as the first act of liberation came when Mama left me at Clark College in Atlanta my freshman year. Before she drove off the campus lot I cut my hair to the quick and work a quo vadis for the next four years. During my foray into local and state beauty pageantry in my early twenties I conceded that I needed some help managing my hair if I were to let it grow out. Yes, I had about five years of jeri curl. The beauty of the j-curl for me was that it was applied to virgin hair and took oh so well. I thought I was liberated to no more tenderheadedness and hair style efficiency. Because of the great condition of my natural hair, I did not have to over saturate with oily goop and didn’t suffer ruined pillow cases and seat cushion head rests.

Slamma Glamma Locs
After that phase, the j-curl was very convenient but not spiritually liberating, I returned to natural hair. I wore twists when stylists were dying to get into my hair. I word head wraps and was mistaken for Caribbean or first generation African (I am fourth generation). I did my hair in simple chignon or up-do and tied it up at night just so I could only comb it one or twice a week. Don't hate, tenderheadedness ain’t to joke!

Calling me from across the crowd, fleeting on the city bus, catching a different plane, was dreadlocked heads. If there was one to be found in my purview, I caught a glimpse of it and yearned to pursue it, ask it questions, ask if we could possibly be kin. People with dreadlocks were culturally intimidating and comparably attractive. The dichotomy of intrigue remained unsettled within until the day my then 4-year-old son came home from pre-school and declared, “Mommy I want man braids.” After a bit of discussion I learned that for him dreadlocks on his young, hip, gentle spirited male caregiver was “man braids.” And he wanted to emulate something so pure and paternal and assuring in this young man that he declared that he wanted “man braids.”

Jazzy Jayy Locs @ 19
Ever the encourager of positive self image and empowerment, I told son that he could start growing out his quo vadis and that when he was five I would get him some “man braids.' This bought me time to research the process for loc'ing, grooming and hygiene. For the next year I researched and talked to every loc'd head I saw. What a learning experience that was!

I learned the difference between dreadlocks, sisterlocks and locs. I learned why some people with locs (my preferential term for the family of naturally locked hair) smelled unclean. I learned that locs held cultural, spiritual, and practical intentions as varied and religious identity and spiritual practice. I learned that white people loc'd (still very ewwwww to me). I learned that there are hierarchies of loc culture, sometimes even hostile towards one another. I learned most of all, that I wanted to loc and that I would loc in three years when I was 40.

A year after my son told me he wanted “man braids” I experimented with techniques I had researched. About six months later, I washed, conditioned, twisted and let it rest for week before repeating, untwisting and palm rolling. What I had not considered is that my son and I had decidedly different hair textures. To get his locs to lock I had to twist and tie down a couple of times a week until they got long enough to hold on their own. To get my hair to lock, I had to do little more than say, “let there be locs” and my happy naps hugged one another like Celie and Nettie in The Color Purple!

Hella Sexii Locs
Sadly, I learned another lesson: my Mother loathed my locs and took it personal that I would offend her Southern sensibilities and loc'd my son's hair. Huh? This is from a mother who worked the Civil Rights Movement, taught me African pride intentionally and contextually, and who was quite the fashionable stone cold fox of the sixties and seventies! Somewhere along the way to our maturity we had diverged on appreciation of Black beauty and hair care. My Mother's greatest concern was that people would not invite me to preach the Gospel because I had locs. Good thing Mama raised me to be a grown woman. I heard her, but didn’t listen to her! ROTFL. I didn’t undo my locs and I make a living preaching (and doing other religious scholastic and holy work).

Over the past 15 years my locs have grown as long as three feet. I have cut 18 inches off of the front when it got too long and heavy to hold soft curls; and trimmed four inches off the back when I have sat on them one too many times while driving. Today I tend 31 inch long locs that graze my voluptuous hips like a virtuoso tickling the ebonies and ivories some days and are sculpted into an impressionable crown of glory on others. I changed my grooming technique from palm-rolling to latching (with ingenious homemade tool). I am not tenderheaded when I style my locs. I pay homage to the diversity of loc styling in a Facebook photo album. I loathe having others touch my hair uninvited. I never have a bad hair day.

Liberated Locs with 51st Birthday Tiara
On this Loc Appreciation Day, I celebrate hair liberation for myself and for others. I more fully embrace the adage, “Do you, Boo!” by doing me and saying to adversarial pundits of my choice that chose me, “don’t hate, appreciate!”

08 June 2011

Man Down, Yeah Rhianna!

Man Down, Yeah Rhianna! Good for you! You go girl!

If celebrating the execution of a man surprises some coming from a womanist preacherwoman who espouses love and no harm; and who, rather than squash a basement bug captures it with a damp paper towel and releases it back into nature, repels some, oh well.

But, if you take a second look at the video and listen intimately to her lyrics, Rhianna more than appropriately responds to her own murder of safety, soul, and sensuality when she was, we were, raped. The only difference between this simulated tragedy and its consequences, and the realistic trauma and its residual impact, is that the perpetrator gets off easy in death whereas the survivor of rape lives with a bit of death, hers, haunting her body, mind and spirit long after the perpetrator is buried and forgotten by others. We never forget.

What grieves me so and stirs the longing for me to volunteer to re-mother darling Rhianna is her self-blaming! I want to tell her that she is not the criminal. I want to tell her that his premeditation warranted a penalty suitable to his crime. I want to tell her that self-defense is a stepping stone to self-esteem. I want to tell her that the village of brothers who appreciates her beauty are populated with more friends than foes. I want to tell her he may have been some mother's son, but she too is somebody's daughter. I want to tell her to not run or be run out of town by her displaced shame and blame. I want to tell her to not be afraid of her passions – to smile, to embrace, to dance, to sweat, to resist and to murder. I want to assure her that it was not her fault.

“Not your fault,” is what I longed to hear when I was raped, twice by the time I was Rhiana's age; and continue to be sexually assaulted with diabolical psychological abuse, each described as justified efforts to “change me” and prove that I was too cute to be a lesbian. What the hell!!! I just wanted someone to say to me “It's not your fault: that you are feminine with a predilection for glossy lips, breezy dresses, and women who gladly let you lick them and who are delighted that you love them!”

Tears welled up in my eyes, and a few broke free of my dammed resolve to not shed another, as I watched Rhianna sit in the river under the water fall. I am transported back to the moment and aftermath that inspired me to pen this stanza of my poem,

It's Just Water Ya'll
by RevSisRaedorah (c)2010
on the occasion of the "Third Wave Womanist" Conference and Installation Lecture 
of The Reverend Dr. Monica Coleman at Claremont School of Theology

Take me to the water
To be baptized

I know, I know, I know -- it's just water ya'll

But that didnt stop me from
trying to baptize my shame
in the scalding hot shower
I never should have gone on that date
I never should have left the office late
I never should have worn that dress
I never should have NO! expressed
I never should have
Take me to the water
But the water wasnt hard enough or hot enough
even the fruity body wash seem to set the stains
Was there to be no exfoliating his fingerprints
from over my mouth and around my neck
Was there no balm to sooth welts where he
ripped away my delicate lady things from the seams
And all they could say was 'I never should have...'

I doubt that Rhiana's Man Down will cause a rise in rapist executions – oh darn. I do hope it catches momentum to arrest misogynistic power, posturing, and profit in the same medium she so excellently uses – hip-hop, popular music. Instead of heralding her regrets, fear and self-loathing, I write this codicil for all the women healing from this hurting – this shyt stops now! If that is too strong of a retort for some, I say watch the highly acclaimed NO: The Rape Documentary by Aishah Shahidah Simmons Cultural Worker. There is after-all, more than one way to skin a cat or kill a rapist.

As for the Bible thumpers out there... the Bible says, "But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die.26"But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27"When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her," (Deut. 22:25-28).

Praying, Lord have mercy, give us strength to say everytime, “No means NO! And, I really mean, NO!”
Praying, Lord have mercy, open their ears to hear you say again, "But you shall do nothing to the girl..."
Praying, Lord have mercy, hear our prayer, heal humanity. 

Postscript – I like the redemptive power of this video more than the superfluous power of Beyonce's Girls Who Run the World. Actually her If I Were a Boy is a better esteem-building, womanist, feminist, liberating lyre for young women. Just saying...

01 June 2011

1 June 2011 : Queer History Making

June 1, 2011. On this historical day in the lives of LGBT (aka Queer) families, I am encouraged by our collective resiliency to validate our personhood through civil privilege and freedom of speech.

Today is also the 6th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day hosted by a grassroots organization:   http://www.suntimes.com/5712829-417/gay-couples-line-up-for-licenses-as-illinois-civil-union-law-takes-effect.html

Lakeesha Harris and Jeanean Watkins, the first to get Civil Union Marriage Licenses
at the Cook County Clerk's office in the Daley Center
With the civil unions law comes cause for celebration in halls of justice where queer persons have endured being ostracized and vilified. None of that matters today. Well, at least it matters less as we yelp with glee, pump fists victoriously, and stand in line without complaint to be next to enter into public record the lives and love we have long ago celebrated, consummated and reconstructed the notion of family that appeals most to our sensibilities. It matters less as queer mothers blog about motherhood, as queer fathers blog about fatherhood, as queer co-parents blog about blending, as queer extended families praise, picket and protest by pen (aka keystrokes) an ideology of self and family that was not well-serving or deserving.

I am not at all suggesting that there is a homogeneous response to either cause of celebration on this day. Even my partner and I do not agree on the fine print and fray of civil unions, traditional marriage, marriages of queer persons, domestic partnerships, sacred blessings, or the multifarious politically charged naming of what happens when love sets roots deep and raises branches high. This isnt a piece about activism or evoking agreement. This writ is to simply say, I rejoice with those who rejoice as I have wept for myself and others denied the inalienable rights of being. Moreover, this is afterall, my blog, my thoughts, my immense delight with, about and for those who longed for this witness and who live our lives.

To the Illinois couples, I celebrate your love and life! If you want to experience the joy of a faith community heralding joy over you, The Broadway United Methodist Church [http://www.broadwaychurchchicago.org/content/] in Chicago's Boystown is hosting aCelebratory/Reception Service for Civil Unions on Wednesday, June 8th, at 6 p.m. [BTW, this is not my congregation nor denomination. However, there gathers the most authentic welcoming community of faith I have found since relocating to Chicagoland three months ago. They are highly committed to putting their ministry where the love is!] Consider yourself officially invited! If you have been thinking about coming back to church, come back to Broadway – you are welcome there.

To queer parents and our allies, we always knew we could do it – that is, parent well – because we have always done it, well! I love and adore being a natural birthed mother, play mother, God mother, church mother, other mother, and as my son affectionately calls me, mother to the world. While mothering, I am not a lesbian mother, I am a mother. While mothering, I did not wipe tears, cook macaroni and cheese, buy school clothes, serve on the PTA, go to endless school programs, or read bed-time stories with a lesbian accent, I am a mother. While mothering versus some lesbian anathema, I love my son and village children to the best of my spiritual, intellectual, financial, social and soul being. And, I absolutely enjoy being a mother.

Being my mother's daughter makes me enjoy mothering all the more. My mother is straight, I am not; but mothering after her heart instructed and inspired me to be the mother I am. As for the extra spice that being lesbian inherently adds to life, I learned from knowing myself, loving myself, and passing it on to my son and village children. My story is one. There are so many more. Again, The Broadway United Methodist Church [http://www.broadwaychurchchicago.org/content/]  is hosting a really cool celebration of queer families in their Friday Night Film Series. On June 24th at 6 p.m., they are screening the acclaimed The Kids Are All Right with Holiday Heart as a double feature! One more thing – about this lesbians make great mothers pontification – my best lover and current partner (admittedly they are one in the same) is a mother. Seems to me that her most excellent attention to raising her children into accomplished, well-adjusted adults makes her wise and kind, sensitive and strong, generous and frugal. Yeah, in a most narcissistic foray into being, I am in love with my cosmic twin. [Ooooo, I feel a different blog coming on about that line.]

As for the lines which formed at County Clerks' offices all over Illinois today, I was not in line. Perhaps I will be by the next Blue Moon. In the meantime, congratulations to the 150 queer couples who went on record today, celebration of all of us!


One of my favorite pix of Son and Me!
High School event @2010