Blackness and Hair Care
Growing up I struggled to find where I fit in, since my dad is Trinidadian, and my mom is Puerto Rican. I lived with my mom majority of my life and she did her best raising three black girls. She learned how to braid, style and cornrow our hair regardless of our differing hair textures. I eventually got a perm not too long after my sister was born and remember them using extra strength because of its thickness. During school, people always asked what I was mixed with before anything else. It always revolved around my hair since even though it was permed, it was really long. I desperately longed for a sense of belonging. I didn’t fully fit in with the Latino kids because I didn’t speak Spanish, so I usually bonded more with the black kids. Thankfully being raised in New York most of us are Caribbean anyway. There was still a feeling of being less than when I compared myself to other mixed kids. My hair was pretty coarse, and I felt like it should’ve been a looser curl pattern.
I didn’t understand at the time that, even though I’m half Latina we all come from the same descendants.
To this day my mother emphasizes how your hair is the crown of your head. For years I struggled to find a sense of beauty, if my hair wasn’t long and straight. While in college I decided to do the big chop, not even knowing what stye to ask for. It was definitely a struggle because I’m already petite, so I felt like I looked too masculine. I didn’t know how to style my natural hair or what products to use. I recall visiting my mom and sisters and breaking down in tears, because I didn’t know what to do to my hair before church.
Sometimes if I wore my hair in an Afro, my mom would ask "what you are about to do to your hair." It broke my heart, because in my eyes, my hair was already done. There is a cultural dissonance that occurs when your mixed and not practicing traditions. There was a lot of unlearning I had to do.
During that journey, I really started to understand myself. I learned what beauty and being black meant to me, regardless of the beauty standards others tried to impose on me. The journey of self-love begins when we accept all parts of ourselves. Now I have tons of fun with my hair because I know that it’s strong and resistant. This is where the 4A poem was born.