Fruit in Bloom!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

To Chop or Not to Chop...

Black Hair and Flowers by Fazlalizadeh
So, let's talk about TRANSITIONING.  Yep, I said it.  I am gonna dive head first into this one.  I ran into a gorgeous sister today who is also a dear sister in Christ.  She is ready...SO ready, to unveil her natural coils but for some reason she believes that she doesn't have enough hair yet.  She isn't sold yet on how she will look with short hair.  I continued to encourage her and told her my story, how I started with literally two snaps of hair because I went for the Big Chop less than a month after my last relaxer.  She is currenty wearing a beautifully done set of braids back off her face in an elegant ponytail, so I explained that her face will be just as prominent (and lovely) as it is now.  But the conversation took a turn when she used a word that truly bothered me.  She said she was "Afraid."
I see a lot of information on transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.  And though I appreciate that not everyone wants to simply cut off all their relaxed locks to unleash their natural glory, the REASONS behind why they choose to wait are important.  It is upsetting that society has done such a complete job of shaping our self-image and concept of our sexuality that we have forgotten (or at least pushed to the wayside) the image that God has laid out for us.  Delaying the unveiling of your true hair delays the process of accepting your true self.
Song Bird by Wendy Nikolle'
II Timothy 1:7 "For God gave us a spirit not of Fear but of Power and Love and Self-Control." ESV
There is nothing wrong with preferring to transition to natural rather than go cold turkey.  But for the sake of your soul, I encourage you not to.  Just like there is something beautiful about planting a seed and watching it grow...just like looking back on the baby pictures of a child and seeing how they developed to the person they are now...there is something amazing about watching your hair emerge and transform into it's natural crown.  There is beauty in the journey of great hair days and days when you are tempted to go back to relaxing or to hide your tresses under a wig.  It takes discipline and stamina to be dertermined to shatter the image of what you have been taught to believe your hair should look like and discover the person that has always been there.  Your beautiful, natural self. 
The Holy Spirit gives grace and strength to do all things...ALL things.  If indeed it is to glorify God by re-claiming the vessel that He designed, then He can give you patience to get to that goal.  If you must transition, don't let it become your crutch.  Wean yourself from the extras as soon as you can gather the Divine strength to do so.  It may feel awkward or over-exposed at first, but the rewards of watching yourself transform as the months go by will make it well worth the temporary sacrifice of false image.  Bloom on, my sisters.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Tall Drink of Water!

In exchange for living on an island paradise, there is a basic issue that one must accept:  You may not always be able to get what you want when you want it!
I have fallen deeply in love with aloe vera juice (AVJ as it is known in the natural hair culture)!  My need is serious, y'all.  I am firmly convinced that AVJ is 99% water and 1% pixie dust as it handles so many of my issues with one blow!  Between the instant moisture from the water content and the cuticle sealing effect from its acidic ph, AVJ is my homey, lover, doubt!  So, you can imagine the bone chilling horror that raced through my very SOUL when my dealer local pharmacy told me that they would not have any more until "probably" next week!  PROBABLY??!! Perhaps I wouldn't have fainted if it wasn't for the fact that this was the same answer I got LAST week!!  My hair week flashed in front of my eyes- How will I detangle?  Who would moisten my 'fro in the mornings....and afternoons.......heck, who am I kidding, evenings, too?  Will my scalp revolt? What will my Jojoba/Shea mix say?  What is the POINT of going on?! 
Suddenly, I realized that I hadn't fainted but had experienced a cinematic montage in my mind's eye and was standing there with my mouth slightly open and blankly glaring at the assistant.  She repeated, "Is there anything else I can help you with?"  Too ashamed to confess my addiction, I casually reached for some glycerin, epsom salt and a Burt's Bees tinted lip mouth.
Mind you, there are many ways for me to survive until next week.  It may take some doing, but it's far from impossible.  I have to laugh at myself when I realize just how uppity I have become that plain old water is now no longer good enough to satisfy the moisture my hair craves and that my fingers have better things to do than to personally address any tangles that may pop up in the next week.  It's amazing that to me how quickly I forget that there are some things that I can truly live without if I had to do so.  Having them makes things easier, but they still aren't essential to my survival.  Interestingly enough, I am back to something that is essential: least for this week.  Water is a staple of life that we really WOULD die without.  I think I may use this momentary AVJ shortage as a teachable moment for my kinky-coily soul....
LisyX byWendy Nikolle'
"As the deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God."  Psalm 42:1 ESV
My observation on myself is that there have been many times that I have neglected to feed my dry soul with the Living Water of the Word of God. Perhaps I tried to replace meetings with Him with some other activity that seemed fufilling.  Do I thirst for Him daily?  One of many rules listed in the "Naturalista's Guide to Happy Hair" is no matter what routine or products your hair may respond to, try to be consistent.  Consistent may be defined as daily, weekly or monthly depending on the treatment.  But you can definitely tell the difference if you miss a step or short cut it.  Sometimes I forget that returning to the Well of Living Water is not a luxury...its a necessity.  The Holy Spirit is constantly calling to us but it is up to us to answer the call.  And whether its a call for a deep treatment or just a refreshing spritz in the middle of the day, we should all thirst for the meeting.  It keeps us responsive to His Will and ready for His service.  My AVJ is awesome and I will sho 'nuf be in the front of the line when the shipment lands.  But until then, the water in my spray bottle will serve to remind me that there is a more vital nourishment that I truly cannot live without.  Don't try to replace it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy to be Nappy?

Recently I was in conversation with a beloved and beautiful, natural sister who made a few very disturbing statements.  She seems not to understand why any woman with a hair texture more pronounced than a 3c (I ONLY use that term to help bring visual context) would go natural anyway.  There does not seem to be any beauty in those textures to her eye (she herself being about a 3a with very fine strands).  She has developed a quote that she teasingly claims she wants to put on a t-shirt, "Natural is Beautiful.  Nappy is Not!"  I think this was meant to be a comment toward sisters whose texture is just too tight to try a little harder not to let those dry, kinky tendencies show!  Now y'all know I was totally red, right?!  But, seeing as she is my senior I sufficed to respond to her, "Well, unfortunately my DNA says, 'Nappy', so..."  I saw the slight change in her face as I think she picked up that she may have offended me a bit.  But I tried not rub it in.  And I also sensed that this would be the wrong time to school my elder on the "New School" philosophies of natural hair. To be fair, she is not the only "mature" lady to comment on my Nouveau Boheme hair expression.  A dear sister at church (also a natural, kept in a neatly trimmed fade and always gelled for maximum 3a curl definition) RELIGIOUSLY asks me, "Child! What you gonna do with that head?" EVERY TIME she sees me...audience notwithstanding!  I actually think that as my 'fro continues to expand, she is genuinely getting more and more concerned!  Even my own mother has let an off-color comment slip everynow and then!  She has made it abundantly clear that her favorite look on myself and my two daughters is dependable, predictable twists.  "Afterall, twists CAN go in a ponytail! AND you can better see how LONG your hair REALLY is!", as she self-conciously pats in her own 3b TWA.
One of the basic tenants of the Naturalista Movement is unapologetic acceptance of your natural texture, no matter what it may be.  This still seems to escape some.  The elephant in the Naturalista room is that being natural is cool, AS LONG AS you can manage to achieve some level of curl definition or silky appearance.  Otherwise, why on earth would you go natural at all, right?  It is like we mentally still bear the scars of the slave chains that used to wrap around our wrists.  The choice to freely express your ethnicity is OK, just as long as it doesn't embarrass me by fitting into a stereotype that I desperately want to leave behind!  I would go as far as saying that "Nappy" is the new "N" word.  Even those of us who accept the texture as having its own beauty can shudder if someone mentions the word "Nappy".  So what is a girl to do when the "N" word actually does apply?
Alter Ego by Wendy Nikolle'
"Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 ESV
One must remember to be gracious to those who came up in a different time or culture than what we are in now.  If someone 20+ years your senior who has gone natural but still insists on religiously straightening her hair and shuns any treatment regimens that include methods that may seem too "ethnic" criticizes your wild twist-out, rebellious fro-hawk or motherland Bantu knots, be gentle with your judgement of their mentality and intentions.  They have their reasons why they feel the way they feel.  Their beauty has also been placed on the measuring scales of society by many before you and there is no telling by what means they were conditioned to judge that beauty.  This is an awkward time for the matrons of our respective ethnic backgrounds.  Times have changed and sisters are generally embracing a more irreverent and less standardized system of beauty.  For every head shake or question mark expression I receive from the mothers, I get 25 complements from both men and women of ALL ethnicities who are generally WITHIN my generation! This perception differential can drive a wedge even further between ourselves and the women who desire to mentor us if we allow it.  And insulting their intellectual or spiritual aptitude based upon a misdirected opinion is not really fair to them. Nor is it edifying to our own souls. The healing that takes place on the journey of embracing the "you" God created should also extend to those who may not fully espouse the concept in totality.  "Angry Naturalista" is NOT the business!  Just ain't a good look, ya know?
So, we should learn to pick our battles.  Learn that not every woman of color is going to agree with you.  They may be smiling dead in your face and secretly thanking God, "At least I don't have THAT hair!"  That should be forgiven.  They may be rambling on and on about how they only need water and a dime of conditioner for their locks and just don't understand all this oil and butter that everyone is ranting about.  Let it go.  Bloom the Naturalista from the inside out.  Your crown begins to glow when the texture of your heart is seen rather than the texture of your hair.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tangle Beef!

Centric by XSUDEZ
Can I just take a minute to say...I HATE detangling my hair!  I mean, seriously.  Just typing the word makes my tongue go dry and I start to perspire slightly on my top lip!! C'mon you guys!!  I can NOT be alone in this!  Really!  Doesn't the tension in your neck begin to build from Wednesday night just thinking about the effort that Saturday is going to entail.  Now, I know some sisters have these AMAZING regimines which include finger detangling, copious amounts of some exotic oil, two strand twisting or some such styling and several hours of romantic comedies.  As much as I aspire to such dedication with my 'fro, I would be a liar of the highest degree to even remotely claim that I ascribe to the same disciplines.  For me, my extra wide tooth comb, a new botte of Burt's Bees conditioner and an uninterrupted shower (thanks to hubby running interference with the kiddos) and that is all I've got in me.  Or, in that case, time for!  I know I should then graduate to the, slightly finer, wide tooth comb and then protectively style to ensure stretching my coils and ensuring a better detangle next time.  That amongst mountains of other advice that I am sure I should be taking to make the experience less traumatic next time around....but do I do it.....nah!  Apparently, though my left brain knows what should be done, my free spirit, hippie right brain somehow still believes that the Detangle Fairy will appear on Friday night and I will arise Saturday morning with easily manuverable tresses!  Don't bet your Kinky~Curly on it!!  How is it we can know better but not do better?

Newness of Morning by Raheli's Brush
Galatians 5:1  "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."  NKJV

It is so easy to slide into old habits....and to justify them!  Even when we know that doing things the right way may be more challenging but will save us headache in the long run.  Yet, somehow we wallow in the stubborness of it all.  Really, avoiding the "tangles" of life has more to do with busying ourselves doing what we should be doing.  Then there is less room to fall into it if we are too busy doing the opposite of it.  In this verse, Paul was telling us all to basically stick to what we know works!  Once we understand the freedom we have in Christ, stand firm in it so that we don't allow the slavery of sin to take us hostage!  A steady regimine of communing with the Lord will definitely cut down on having to do major Spirtual Surgery on a regular basis!  It doesn't have to be a complex regimine, just something tailored to our Spiritual needs and sincere to the soul.  Detangling the difficult areas of our life is a daily process.  It must be done carefully and steadily.  Prepare to loose a few things and sometimes we have to cut some knots out!  But the Holy Spirit is a great conditioner and He can make the process a whole lot smoother if we allow Him!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The "Anti-Naturalista"

Afro Moments by Wendy Nikolle'
So, what is a "Naturalista" anyway?  Well, I guess since its a completely invented word, it can mean almost anything! LOL!  But, my definition is a woman who lives by the intangible.  She enjoys keeping her life and her look in an organic state.  No, I don't mean "raised with out chemicals" organic.  Although, that may apply at times!  I mean organic as is full of the life that flows from the inside.  Her home is filled with life.  Her workplace is affected by her "life energy".  Her personal style flows from her life energy, not from a desire to keep up with trends set by outward influences.  That doesn't mean she is never just means that she wouldn't pick up a trend if it did not truly reflect her inner self.  Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the "Anti-Naturalista"!
Going natural is one of the hottest trends out there right now.  When done by a Naturalista for personal and sincere reasons, it is a great expression of self-contentment and positive confidence.  When done by an "Anti-Naturalista", it becomes a mundane series of conversations about hair typing, fighting shrinkage, and streams of self pics documenting length and curl definition.  I see you're about to throw a handful of Eco Styler in my face!  Just give me a second!!! I am NOT saying that chats about products and techniques are not necessary when caring for our delicate coils.  I am saying that when I get an email from you and the first item you address after greeting me is always an offer to send me a new pic of your latest hair status or a detailed description of how bouncy your curls were after treatment thus and such.......sigh.......I think you might be an Anti-Naturalista.

Lisy2 by Wendy Nikolle'
II Timothy 3:6-7  "For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth." ESV
Now, this verse was the apostle Paul warning Timothy, a young pastor, of how to spot false teachers and false prophets.  Even in Biblical times there were those who were using Christianity as a means to emotionally manipulate people.  Wow.  Not that my hair is NEARLY as crucial as my SOUL, but I can't help but see a parallel between sisters who become emotionally crippled by depending on false doctrine that feeds their insecurities and sisters who become obsessed with commentary on their tresses because it affirms their beauty.  The women Paul was talking about were injured and damaged, therefore it was easy for these manipulators to capture their attention.  Also, they were band wagoners.  Wherever the running fad is coming from is where they want to be.  Where they NEED to be.  This gives them a sense of belonging.  Talking incessantly about our hair does not help us "belong" with each other.  It keeps us distracted FROM each other.  We become trapped in a constant cycle of narcissism; identifying with our hair rather than letting the hair become part of our identity. 
Let's try a fresh approach.  Let's talk about our hair as much as we talk about our teeth or our kneecaps.  Naturalistas set their hair free from the pretense of chemical processing NOT so they can draw attention to their waves every chance they get.  They do it because they want their hair to be as free as their spirit.  Don't entertain Anti-Naturalista's in their obsessions.  There may be some deeper emotional and spiritual needs there that manifest in their hair fetish.  Let's encourage our girlfriends to define themselves not their curl type.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rep yo' Frat!

Harlem by XSUDEZ
When you go natural after spending years relaxing your hair, you join a somewhat sacred sorority!  I didn't realize that I had even been initiated until the first time I passed a fellow "Big Chop" whom I didn't know and she gave me a knowing smile and polite head nod.  I instinctively did the same...what is that?  A secret handshake?!  It isn't something you have to talk about with EVERY natural sister you meet...its this silent understanding that behind that new strut brimming with self-assured confidence there is a vanity full of shea butter, aloe juice, miscellaneous conditioners and random oils that are being mixed and matched to DEATH searching for the magic combo to grow the fro!!  Too much!! I just want to get everyone letter jackets and learn a step routine! LOL!!  All the members of Nu Phi Lambda (Natural for Life) throw your sign in the air! ROFLMBO!!
Quintessence by Wendy Nikolle'
Psalm 133:1 "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!"

Sisters of all shades don't always get along like we should.  It's like Spike Lee's "School Daze".... but without all the cool musical numbers.  Personally, I don't want to hear anything about racism from any of us until we can treat each other with a little more respect.  Affirming our different shapes and hues creates an environment of security that allows us all to blossom in a healthy way.  We are all more beautiful when the beauty is reflected off of each other.  There is no skin too dark or too light, no hair too silky or woolly and no body too lean or thick that we cannot admire and encourage each other in our efforts to bring out our best "selves".  I think that's what the Master Artist had in mind when he pulled the colors from the sun and earth and painted his children.  After all...when the letter jacket goes on, aren't we suddenly all wearing the same colors?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting closer to me...

There were several issues I had to settle before I did "The Big Chop"! 
Issue Number One: "How do I prep myself for the cultural kickback on letting go of my long locks of relaxed hair?" 

My relaxer was installed every 4-6 weeks by my Dominican sisters (whom I still fiercely believe are the baddest chicks on the PLANET for a blow out!).  Growing my hair has never been an issue and I think that is because I never obsessed over it.  My philosophy has always been that hair just grows.  So, let it do its thing and if you don't like how its looking, get a bossy hair cut! Unfortunately, I was painfully aware that one of the features that was always casually mentioned in my physical description by others was that my hair (paired with my skin tone) make me look like a Dominican! Hmmm.  Now, I know that was supposed to be a compliment.  But that is what made me think the most.  Why would that be a compliment? Why would it never be a compliment to say how someone's hair makes them look like a Black girl?  Was the concept of just having typical (if there is such a thing) Black hair social aesthetic suicide?  Would the same people who showered me with vain glory and compliments do so if my hair was

There was something disturbing the heart of me when it came to my hair that I just couldn't pinpoint.  This coming from a chick who has rocked Jheri Curls, Leisure Curls, Wave Nouveau, and relaxers!  This coming from a chick who grew her hair down past her shoulder blades and then cut it a la Toni Braxton!  Let's not even start on hair color!!! I think that even as a child I knew something was wrong with needing a "touch up" to be myself.  Now, just to be clear, I don't have a problem with other girls rocking their you! But that is my was never me.  It was a me that was chosen for me at a young age and that I was being CONSTANTLY told by society (yes, I mean Black folks!) made me pretty!  And the worst part of it is that I did NOT naturally possess the silky, open curls that would (in the opinion of the same Black folks!) justify my letting go of processing my hair.  I felt like I was trapped in a very dysfunctional cycle and my own people were perpetuating it!  The final straw was when my 4 yr. old daughter let me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted long, beautiful hair like her FILIPINA classmate!  She then buried me with the observation that her hair was not pretty like my hair and she wanted to make her hair like mine! Checkmate.
Romans 12:2  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Now this verse is talking about the renewing of your mind by the acceptance of Jesus Christ's love and redemption!  However, it is profound that the principle applies to every aspect of your life if you are ever to be 100% Natural from the inside out.  It does not say be transformed that you will be more acceptable to man.  Or in the case of we the Sisterhood, men!  It says transforming the mind will help us to discern what is good and acceptable and perfect in God's sight.  Basically, transformation allows you to be able to blossom into the being that He, the Master Artist, had in mind when carving you in your mother's womb.  Some may say that God is not concerned with the outside appearance of us.  And to some degree that is true.  But I find it hard pressed to believe that a God who created such a vast variety of flowers, birds, butterflies and other colorful, graceful, awe striking things would not find simple pleasure in His ULTIMATE creation (yes, that would be YOU!) intelligently and intentionally expressing unashamed satisfaction with the vessel in which he planted our souls! 

Solution to Issue Number One: "Transform my mind!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Natural Process...

Here it is.  Another set of random thoughts from a random woman living what may appear to be a random life!  But, for those of us who believe in God, we know nothing is random.  We have an ingenious Lord who has handcrafted an intricate lifetime for us to experience before ultimately rejoining Him in eternity.  This is a breathtaking concept.  And sometimes in the vastness of that concept we lose track of the simplicity of our current existence!  So, this blog is dedicated to the Beauty of the Everyday. 

There is a new trend today in becoming more "Natural" in how we live.  From lifestyle to health & beauty....going natural is completely hip! At the risk of being a total wet blanket, I think it is a little TOO hip!!  This realization came to me as I began having more conversations with other women who are pursuing more natural means of living.  Especially in the beauty department.  Black women and their hair have a cosmic connection that I don't think will ever totally be unravelled.  I assumed that making the decision to stop processing one's hair stemmed from being ready to accept the brilliant design that God executed in you and work with it rather than against it.  Ummm.....that does not seem to be the case!! Apparently, the point of "going natural" is to define your coils, open your curl pattern, fight shrinkage, and lay down your edges!  At least, that is the drive of over 70% of the natural hair conversations that come my way!  I spent some time in contemplation on this and the following is the best I could come up with:
 3 John 2:1 "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." ESV
I think the key phrase is "as it goes well with your soul."  In otherwords, as your soul is growing and bearing beautiful fruit, I pray that it spills over into your tangible life.  I pray that your spiritual growth seeps through your pores and shows up in your physical being! How positive... how splendid is that?!

Are we really willing to radiate beauty on the outside not simply by buying a new product but by connecting with the beauty God is trying to cultivate in us?  It isn't easy, but it is simple.  There is a link between self-acceptance and then allowing God to do with the "self" whatever He likes.  Not tailoring the "self" to what you "think" is beautiful.  Yeah, Girlfriend.  We are gonna do some work.  Sure we will talk about all the ususal, skin, nails, kicks, threads, color....all the stuff that Black women love to pour tea over!  But the REAL tea is this: Are we working so hard to create the beauty ourselves, or are we working hard to release the beauty within?