Guest Blog Post: Proud of My Crown

By: Bee G. Porter

“Happy to be nappy, I’m black and I’m proud

That I have been chosen to wear the conscious cloud

And I’m fine under cloud 9

I could be a chameleon and wear it bone straight

But it’s so much stronger when it’s in its natural state

And I’m fine under cloud 9”- (Donnie- “Cloud 9”)

I used to think that I was most beautiful when my hair was straightened and so I relaxed my hair for many years.

Bev #1                                                                (Relaxed hair, 2007)

However, toward the end of 2009 I decided to transition to natural hair. I wish I could say that I had a profound reason for transitioning but really it was quite superficial. I had friends and members of my family who always had natural hair and were able to switch up between rocking their natural curls and doing blow outs to straighten it. These women had “perfect” springy, bouncy curls and I secretly hoped that my hair would look like theirs.

So I began my process of transitioning from using relaxers, to texturizers to no chemical products and trimming my ends periodically until I became a full-fledged natural in 2011.

Bev #2

                                                           (Transitioning, late 2009)

I found that my hair texture was not like that of my family and friends. My hair was coarse, my curls were tight and coiled and frizz prone. I also noted that there were sections of my hair that had different curl patterns. “At least it would be easier to manage if they were uniform,” I thought.

I was disappointed and yes I had hair envy. “Why couldn’t my curls be as loose as theirs?” I would mumble to myself as I set my hair in twists.

I attempted to wear my natural hair out on several occasions to see how others would react to it. I found that I had mixed reviews. Some would complement it, others would make tongue-in-cheek statements like “Oh, I see you did something different with your hair…” or straight up inappropriate I should report your ignorant behind to HR statements like “Your hairstyle would be more appropriate while on vacation don’t you think?” (this was a quote from a senior level staff member from a former job).

I already felt unconfident with my OWN hair but hearing comments like that made me feel worse. So I regretfully, took the staff member up on his (yes his) advice and straightened my hair for work and special occasions and wore my hair natural while on vacations or on weekends. I continued to do this for a couple of years, even after having left that employer to pursue my graduate degree.

In the summer of 2013 shortly after getting married, I had some time to sit, reflect and address the self-hatred that had developed over the years. I asked God to help me to learn to love and embrace myself as He has created me. To love my hair as it was, to love my skin as it was-even though I was living in a world that was constantly saying otherwise.

I determined to step out in faith and confidence without apologizing for who I am or cowering in shame and disgrace to appease people who were not comfortable with me as I had done previously.

Bev #3

     (Natural wash n’ go, 2014)

In August of that year, I began teaching at a multicultural private school with a predominantly white staff- I was one of two black teachers. I wore my hair natural most days but on one occasion, I think it was around Thanksgiving, I decided to get a blow-out.

Bev #4

            (Natural blow-out, 2014)

When I arrived to school that Monday, I received countless compliments from the staff: “Oh, your hair looks nice like that!” I said “thank you” initially but as the day continued on I felt uncomfortable, saddened and even upset.

The most trying incident of the day occurred with one of my middle school classes. This particular class was significant because it was the only middle school level class where I had four black female students at one time, two of them had relaxed hair and two wore their hair in braided extensions. One of them said, “Oh your hair looks so pretty today. I like it like that.” I replied, “Are you implying that my hair is not pretty when it’s not like this?” All four snickered. I simply said in response “I love my hair either way” and proceeded with the lesson. I was saddened by the continued perpetuation of hatred of our beauty and glorification of something that isn’t naturally ours. I decided to be an example of self-love and acceptance; I figured that perhaps that is why God placed me there for that year.

The following week, I returned with my natural hair and did not straighten it for the duration of the school year. My silent stance spoke loudly. It communicated that I am professional. Being my authentic self is acceptable. I can be beautiful, accomplished, intelligent AND wear my hair natural. I am fine just as God created me to be.

That confidence became contagious as I became a role model of sorts to the girls who wore their hair natural. They asked me for product recommendations and styling tips and shared how wearing my hair natural was inspirational to them.

Toward the end of the year, to my surprise, one of the girls who snickered at me came into class with her hair natural. I made sure to tell her it looked beautiful. She smiled and beamed with pride. It confirmed that my decision to embrace my hair and my beauty was not in vain.

I used to think I was most beautiful when my hair was straightened, I now know that I am most beautiful as God has created. I am proud of my crown.

Bev #5     Bev #5  Bev #6

  (Pre & Post Big Chop, 2015)

Bee G. Porter is a wife, mother and writer; but more than all of those, she is an unashamed (shout out to 116) redeemed child of God, saved by grace. She is imperfect in so many ways but strives to reflect Him daily. When she is not attending to her family or her writing- she enjoys reading, baking and singing karaoke. She frequents her blog 30NGROWING like a desert rain-check it out if you want. Bee is currently working on her first novel which she hopes to release next year. If you’d like to contact her for writing inquiries, please e-mail 30ngrowing@gmail.com.

 

 

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Guest Blog Post: Running From The Rain-My Hair Journey

By: Jessi Hughes

I got tired of running from the rain. At the beginning of my natural hair journey, this was one of my favorite ways to answer people who asked me why I decided to go “natural.” In my early twenties, I dated someone who would tease me every time I would run to take cover from the rain just to keep my shoulder length straight hair from getting wet. I would laugh and shrug off his jokes, but perhaps without him realizing it, my sense of normalcy was challenged. And I started to wonder – when did it ever become normal for someone to run from the rain?

Back then I would check the weather forecast religiously first thing in the morning and before I went to bed. If there was even a 40% chance of rain, I would pack my foldable umbrella into my purse to make sure that there was a 0% chance that my hair would get wet. Something inside of me was stirred up though, and I began to crave what it would feel like to let the raindrops fall on my uncovered head. So in the middle of a busy work and grad school schedule, I began using my spare time to research how to transition from permed hair to natural hair.

I won’t assume that everyone reading this knows about perms, so here’s a short lesson. I am by no means a hair expert, but like many naturalistas, I’ve acquired more hours of “hair research” than I would ever like to admit. There are basically two categories of hair perms – one that straightens hair and one that makes hair curly. Within these two categories, there are various ways that the perm can be applied in order to create certain results that produce bone straight hair or even spiral curls so perfect that they would make you look like Shirley Temple. Whether curly or straight, these hairstyles are obtained by putting chemicals on the hair that break down the natural hair’s texture. The results grow out eventually, so to maintain the permed hairstyle, the perm must be applied to the hair’s “new growth” (i.e. the roots). This means you must either learn to apply the perm yourself or make a trip to the salon every 6 to 8 weeks.

“Ahhh, yes – I miss those trips to the hair salon to get a perm,” is something that you will never hear me say! In fact, I try not to think about all the time and money that I spent at salons. I’ve also blocked out the countless times when I ended up with painful sores on my scalp (ouch!) as a result of the chemicals reacting to places where I had absentmindedly scratched before getting a perm, or from the perm being on my hair too long to guarantee that my hair was “straight enough.” I find it sad now when I think about what I put myself through in the name of “beauty.”

My “hair awakening” coincided with me wanting to view myself with natural hair as beautiful since that is how God intentionally made me. At the root of it all, I wanted to truly love myself, so in 2006, I began the transition from permed to natural hair. I began to understand that perms represented more than just a styling option for me. My self-worth had somehow become intertwined with looking like the unrealistic images of women of color that I saw on TV and as I flipped through magazines.

Unlike today, ten years ago there were not as many natural hair websites, blogs, videos, and products that empower and teach women to manage their own hair. So I made the transition with the help of a hairdresser located near my South Loop apartment in Chicago. He put rod sets in my hair to give me a spiral curled look that I loved. Each month he would cut off a little more of my permed hair as I would nervously watch the black trimmings accumulate on the white tiles of the salon floor. I was not completely sold out on having natural hair though, and I figured that if I didn’t like the texture of my hair than I could go back to getting perms. I was secretly wishing that my hair texture would be fine, defined and loose curls.  I probably would not have admitted it, but a part of me had the mentality that many people have that is rooted in self-hate and racism – the mindset that there is “good hair” and “bad hair.” I was hoping that team “good hair” had picked me.

 

JH Post #2

 

When I did the “big chop” in 2007, the decision to cut off the 8 inches of natural hair that had grown out coincided with the decision to let go of toxic relationships and things in my life that I had let rob me of my self-esteem, peace, and joy. My one-inch hair stood out in a time when short natural hair was not as fashionable as it is today. I noticed that compliments about my hair decreased, the type of men who approached me changed, and it was not uncommon for strangers to assume that I led a certain lifestyle or held certain views about politics or religion. I am amused by all of this now, but at the time, I hated the attention that I got as well as the attention that I did NOT get.

This also happened to be the time when I started to go back to church. I struggled to not roll my eyes and to not sit there with arms folded across my chest while the reverend preached. If you could have listened to the commentary in my head during those sermons, you would have known that I had grown cynical and cold to the things of God. The messages seemed to ricochet off of me like rubber bullets, and like a tennis pro, I had a mental rebuttal for every positive thing that the preacher said about God’s faithfulness even if it was simply a skeptical “Oh yeah?” My confidence was shattered, and I was extremely broken and angry with God.  To make matters worse, I was jobless after graduating from grad school, and I was facing the fact that I may need to leave Chicago to move back in with my parents in Massachusetts.

With a depleted bank account and a trail of fruitless job interviews behind me, I packed up and went back home like a prodigal child. I was in the last place that I wanted to be, but home was exactly where I needed to be. God began to work on me and restore my confidence in Him, myself, and people again. I was able to start healing and face the main reason why I had left Massachusetts. It turns out that I was running from more than just the rain.

I’ve come a long way since my TWA (teeny weeny afro) days. As a creative person and an artist, I see my hair as an outlet and a way to express myself, so I love the versatility of being able to change up my look. My hair is now past my shoulders thanks to a healthy lifestyle and from rocking protective styles like two-strand twists, micro-braids, crochet braids, and weaves. My hair has grown a lot, but most importantly, I have grown spiritually and emotionally. I still have more growing to do, but I’m learning to bloom where I am planted. On some rainy days, I walk slowly, with hands in my pockets, and a folded umbrella by my side. Finally I’ve stopped running…

 Jessi Hughes is a singer/songwriter who serves as one of the praise & worship leaders at a church in New England. Deeply influenced by her rich cultural heritage, Jessi draws from the soulful, blues of the South as well as the colorful, joyful praise and rhythms of Ghana, West Africa. She is excited about the upcoming release of her praise & worship EP. When she is not in the recording studio, you may find her practicing the guitar, enjoying the beach (when it’s summer), counting down the days until summer (when it’s winter), or spending time with family and friends. Jessi loves to travel and is passionate about healthy living, writing, and encouraging others to use their gifts for the glory of God and to spread the Gospel. To continue on the journey with Jessi, you can follow her on Instagram (@JessiHughesMusic), Facebook (@JessiHughesMusic), Twitter @JessiHughes), or by subscribing to her quarterly newsletter on her website (www.JessiHughesMusic.com).

JH Post #1