I celebrated my six month “Naturalversary” in mid-June, in the midst of a career transition and two weeks into my abbreviated summer break. On this past Saturday, I visited my Sisterlocks consultant to do a “length assessment” and to make a deposit on my near future install. I’ll admit; I was a bit excited just to take those baby steps, and I had an opportunity, while there, to chat with a “newbie” about her three month Sisterlocks journey. She was getting “bundled and banded” for a shampoo, and I was intrigued by the process. She seemed open to sharing with a stranger and after realizing that I could ask her any questions I may have, I asked her whether she had any reservations about her decision to move forth with the installation. She told me that it “was the best decision” she had ever made about her hair care and that she had “no regrets.” I couldn’t help but notice that her hair was considerably longer than mine and our textures were quite different. That reality is the reason I began this blog in early-May as I was in the infancy stages of my decision-making process. It has been difficult for me to find a black woman, who looks like me and who dons a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro), as she begins her Sisterlock journey. Someone out there, like me, wants to see the before pictures, the complete install, the early baby loc phases, and the growth progression of Sisterlocks in a very methodical way. As a matter of fact, my self-awareness and personal transparency lends itself to sharing as a way of helping others to reflect on their rationale and reasoning as they grapple with choices. Creating a blog and sharing periodic streams of consciousness was a mere extension of that natural communication process for me. I was so comforted to know that Vivian’s client began her journey completely natural as well, and that her hair was evolving in its natural state.
Waiting for my hair to lengthen has been a test of will and sheer patience for me. I’m quite accustomed to making a decision, any decision, and acting on it immediately, so when Vivian told me in early May to come back later, well…let’s just say that I was not at all happy. This recent visit was different; my hair has definitely gotten longer (and healthier), and I believe it has thickened (particularly at the roots) where it is curliest and closest to my scalp. Vivian inspected my hair, scalp, and length and proclaimed, “You’re ready!”
For about five seconds though, I paused, “Am I?”
Since my first visit to the consultant in May, some realities about my career as an educator have surfaced, and once again, my hair has become an obsession, along with my professional image. For a black woman in academia, image and perception are real identity concerns. While the success ladder is a steep one, I pause because there are not many sisters in school leadership who choose to wear their hair natural. However, I happen to be surrounded by many role models of natural beauty who have made their mark in our local public education system, those who stand tall, run in stilettos, and jog in Tiek’s through the hallways of schools everyday; those who walk the walk, talk the talk, and lead by creating leaders. I’m comforted to know that all of my natural mentors, my Natural “Board of Directors” (to coin a phrase used by my APP Director, LaWanda) are just an email, text message, FaceBook post, or phone call away…some I see in my building, others I see in my community, in the business of sorority meeting, at the local Kroger’s. Recently, I asked one of them, Tara, “So, I am wondering how those baby locs will look…and how to integrate my new look with my new leadership journey. My director talks to us all the time about image, perception, and maintaining a professional “look.” I know many successful black women with locks, but have you encountered any bias related to your hair?” Brief in her response, but the affirmation I needed, Tara replied, “Not one bit. Your locs won’t look much different than your fro.” From her reply, I gained that extra bit of certainty that my transitional journey will be a familiar one for me, not like the Big Chop which rocked my world for a few pivotal weeks last December. Due to the length of my natural hair, my install should be very reminiscent of my current look. In fact, some people may not realize even that those microlocs will represent, for me, individual seeds of highly anticipated hair freedom.
I do not anticipate that the shift, from my ‘fro to Sisterlocks, will be a dramatic one for me, but the freedom I have enjoyed wearing my hair in its natural state has been life-affirming and intentional along my personal hair journey. When people say to me, “See, you can wear your hair like that. Everyone can’t pull that off,” it makes me wonder from where, exactly, does this disdain with our natural hair originate. Unfortunately, it is one of the reasons I can’t just enter school leadership equipped with a lifetime of knowledge AND remain unconcerned about my image because my hair is a primary player in the perception game.
Below is my one and only attempt to wear a headband with my TWA. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Karen Lynn, quickly warned me about the dangers of headbands and edge destruction. Her exact words on my FB post were, “Come thru! Come thru! Looks very healthy. Gotta be careful with the bands as they may damage the edges.” I can appreciate a sister who IS a true sister…Lord knows, I need my edges with this broad (big) forehead.
Below is the condition of my hair during yesterday’s deep conditioning ritual, post-length assessment for my install.
One of my favorite pastimes after rinsing out the conditioner is combing through my hair with a wide-tooth comb and inspecting my hair before I put one drop of oil, cream, or gel in it. This is the hair I was born to love, and the transitional phases of Sisterlocks will enable me to celebrate my hair, chemical-free and minimal product-free, for years to come.
The delight and reality of gray hair in my late 40’s…. I’m still on the fence about coloring my future Sisterlocks. I really want to enjoy and celebrate my natural hair, my natural color, my naturalness.
Stay tuned as I chronicle my Sisterlocks installation process. I’m excited about the endless possibilities, the evolution of natural beauty, the transition of professional image, the role-modeling potentialities for black girls, and how I standardize my personal image for myself and others. 😘😍