My God sister, Macenna, is beautiful. We were both raised similarly. We learned that our kinky/curly hair was ugly. We grew up in Sand Springs, Oklahoma in the Charles Page Family Village. I can recall fond memories of Macenna's hair. I was in junior high. I knew how to braid. I would come over to Macenna's house. She would sit between my knees and I would grease her scalp, comb through her hair, and twist and braid. Macenna and I were both born to White mothers and Black fathers. Macenna's hair is kinky and coarse and mine is coarse in some spots, but mostly smooth spirals. Both of our hair textures are "ethnic." Macenna would cry and wail, "I HATE MY HAIR!" Her hair was relaxed, a style she knew from a very young age. One day, during Macenna's senior year, I showed her Around The Way Curls. "Please stop relaxing your hair, I begged!" I clicked through every blog post of Shanti and Antoinette. Look how beautiful their hair is, OUR hair is! Will you just try it, please?
Macenna agreed and I helped her purchase a starter kit from Carol's Daughters. I sent her home praying she would give it a try and break her addiction to the creamy crack.
She stuck with it and her hair grew to reveal a beautiful afro. Her natural cinnamon and chocolate toned hair is amazing. She is natural and won't go back.
Today we shopped in downtown Siloam Springs. Siloam Springs, for those who don't know, is not a place where you might be able to see a lot of Black women with natural hair styles. There is gentrification to the max and diversity isn't something we can claim. So when we landed on the topic of hair in one of the local vintage shops, Amandromeda, I was more than a little nervous. I've sat through uncomfortable conversations with well meaning white women in Siloam saying they wished they had a "ghetto booty" like me. I've fielded questions from white stylists "why do you have this nappy section around your forehead". They all, of course, claim not to be racist... but we all know these kind of ignorant statements are latent racism. I've typically not said too much. I figure people aren't looking for me to educate them. With my nose piercing, arm full of tattoos, and outspoken stances of feminism and sexuality I do well enough to not be verbally accosted without adding race to the table.
Macenna and I talked about hair wraps as Amanda Orcutt, the owner of Amandromeda, sat behind the desk. Amanda grinned and joined our conversation. "What does your hair look like without the bandana, what shape is it?" Macenna took off her bandana and happily showed off her beautiful afro. She pulled up images on Facebook. "Here is my hair after a deep condition and braids." Amanda gushed, "Oh my! It is sooooo beautiful." She paused then proceeded: "Is it okay if I can touch it?" Macenna's smile grew wider and she leaned in as Amanda walked around the counter. Amanda pawed at Macenna's hair. "I just love it" she exclaimed. I told Amanda about Macenna's hair evolution and how it was a struggle to embrace our natural hair. She scrunched her wild mix of curly and straight hair. "Me too", she said, "I used to flatiron my hair and I am trying to be okay with how it is naturally."
This is racial reconciliation.
Amanda saw the race line and she stepped over it. She fearlessly asked to experience Macenna's hair, appreciated it, and then connected herself to two Black women by letting us know that her White natural hair was hard to embrace as well. We reconcile ourselves to each other when we honor our differences AND express empathy for shared existences.
A black girl visiting Arkansas, in a town where you can barely find a product to care for her coif, encountered a beautiful act acceptance in the heart of Siloam Springs. Thanks Amanda Orcutt what you did today was brave and beautiful.