(Original post date February 27, 2008)
Yesterday, I was leaving JC Penney and I heard a friendly and familiar voice shout from across the parking lot, "Long time no see!"
I was genuinely happy to turn around and see Sarita, my old stylist. I hadn't seen her since September. But I felt a little guilty, I guess. Like I had abandoned her, I suppose.
She watched me approach, her eyes focused unblinkingly on my head. We greeted each other with a big hug. We exchanged niceties, all the while her eyelids narrowing slowly as she tried to decipher what was going on at the roots of my hair. I told her that I had recommended her to a couple of people, relieving myself of the twinge of irrational guilt that I was feeling.
Finally, I said, "I went on and got sisterlocks, so I won't be seeing you for a long while." All semblance of a smile left her face. She actually seemed crestfallen. I was a pretty big tipper. But seriously, it runs deeper than that...
What if hoards of African women realized that our hair texture makes us unique among all of the women on the Earth? That in days of old, before the oppression of our hair, our paradigm taught us that our tightly twisting coils mirrored the spiraling hair of the gods. Our hair was compared with the swirling of galaxies, the torrential, whirling, winds of a storm. Our hair is like unto the helical meanderings of DNA - the very essence of life.
Such an awareness, such an awakening is unlikely to occur so abruptly and en masse as to cause economic hardship to befall those of our sisters who are just trying to make a living by meeting a demand created in us by the dominant (dominating) culture.
That I traded my stylist for a loctician will have no impact on Sarita's pocketbook. But, that I traded my stylist for a loctician is of immense value if, by my example, just one young sister finds the courage to face the fact that it's not "just hair." The value inherent in one young sister feeling empowered to do the hard, introspective and often painful work of critiquing her assumptions, questioning her esthetic preferences and re-examining her political philosophy is immeasurable.