Stepping Into Who I Am: Nappy Headed Goddess Part Two

I watched a recent segment on the Anderson Live show where actress Viola Davis talked about showing her natural hair at the Oscar awards. She said that she was not surprised by the attention that wearing her natural hair created in the media and blogosphere because she is an African American woman. She made a comment that she chose that moment of the Oscars to take off the wigs and “step out into who I was.” I think that is a brilliant way to put it.

And while some of the attention she got from doing this was very negative, it was very inspiring to many women as well. She commented on the Anderson Cooper show,  “For me I felt like every time I put on a wig I was apologizing for who I was being a dark skinned woman with very curly hair. I felt like I was hiding it.”

This story resonated with me deeply. As some may know, because I wrote about it here, last year I made a conscious decision not to go back to the perm and to grow out my hair, transitioning into wearing it natural. It was 11 months ago that I got my last perm; I can’t believe it has been almost a year.

I have learned a lot about who I am as a person through this process, and now I understand why my mother did this, too, at about the same age. While our exact reasons might have differed, I can see the similarities in our search for ourselves.

Part of this process has been to unpack the stigmas I had about my own hair, and to also extend awareness to the fears I had about others thoughts around me. In this process I have noticed how I get more double-takes from others in the community I live in – a more middle class area, with less people like me than more. And I have also noticed a difference in the community I work within, a more urbanized area. When I came to the school site with a perm (early last year), the kids swore I had a weave. When I show up at the school site today, with big hair slightly on the afro side, the kids say close to nothing. If the kids do say something, they might mention that I got my braids out and it is “hecka curly.”  This observation has been both reaffirming and also profoundly disturbing as well.

I have found much acceptance in my own cultural community around this issue, especially from those in urban settings. Learning to identify with other images of beauty, besides the ones that are socially programmed into the minds of Black women, has been healing. The misconception that our natural beauty has to be altered to fit into the larger view of acceptable has created wounds within the collective consciousness of Black women, wounds that need collective healing. Part of that healing starts with claiming and accepting the profoundly divine nature of my own hair in its Goddess created state.

I have learned that there is a whole culture around our natural hair that I was not aware of, a community that supports one another in learning how to care for the characteristics of natural Black hair. It is challenging in ways that I did not anticipate, and yet I am so grateful to be doing this. Why? I am happy to be in a place of self-reflection that requires an examination of my ideas of being a Black woman, which also leads to an examination of my spirituality.

The Charge of the Goddess tells us “And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.” This one passage should encourage us all to dig within ourselves to identify, develop and build a relationship with the very parts of divinity that exist within us, and are us. When I connect with my image, whatever it is, as a spiritual extension of divinity, I am more apt to see it without westernized judgment. I am able to see it for what it is, a part of divine creation. What I seek is what I am.

And so, this process has propelled me into a deep position of assessing my previous ideas of professionalism, beauty, image, racism, oppression, spirituality, images of the Goddess and the divine parts of my physicality that I would often straighten away in an effort to achieve mainstream beauty. My reassessment of social and cultural conditioning has really opened my eyes to how beautiful our natural state of being has always been.

I have come to appreciate my sacredness in a different way than before, and while I am nervous about the shift in my presentation to others, I am very excited by it. I am feeling more within my own energy and more in alignment with values that I practice in other areas of my life. Acceptance and celebration of who I am has come more to the forefront with this transition. This is not to say that I did not accept or celebrate myself before, but it is to say that I have a different level of awareness of what I was missing.

I have not made any decisions on what my final hairstyle will end up being…whether dreads or curly afro. I have just continued on the journey of transitioning, or stepping back into who I am. And this energetic shift, this realignment, has resonated on a level that has brought me closer to my mother, my ancestors and my core.

I will continue to post transition updates as time goes on. And I plan to start cutting off the permed hair and hopefully doing something ritualistic with it. We shall see.

In the meantime, I will continue to step more fully into who I am.

 

 

  • http://twitter.com/artistic_skin artistic_skin

    You are beautiful, thank you for sharing this journey.

  • http://about.me/CosettePaneque Cosette Paneque

    Crystal, you are beautiful and so is your hair. I would love to see more black women embrace their natural hair.

    My hair’s texture is different from most black women’s, but it’s curly. All my life, to this day, my mother has referred to it as “bad hair”. As a child, after washing, she pulled it back into a tight bun so it would dry straight. I don’t remember how old I was the first time she took me in for a chemical relaxer. I relaxed my hair for years. I hated my hair, always wished for it to be straight, thinking mistakenly that straight was prettier. I don’t really know what changed, but one day in high school I decided I’d had enough and started wearing my hair natural. It felt liberating and I’ve made peace with my hair. I understand it now in a way that I really didn’t when I was younger.

    When I visit a hair salon for the first time, stylists always always always ask me if I want to straighten it with some new expensive straightening technology or, at least, blow-dry it straight. I always say no, which is perplexing to them because “it would look so much prettier straight”. That’s when I know that’s not the right stylist for me.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Thank you Cosette. I so dislike the “bad hair” thing that we continue to poison our culture with. It is amazing to me how we unknowingly pass on such these things to our children, from our painful past culture…. and it is not true. I don’t want to do that to my kids…. it was done to me. I hope we all can use our conscious lessons to change these messages that so many of us have passed down through the generations.

      And you are so beautiful Cosette. Hugs.

  • TNT`

    I applaud you. I have been on this journey for a few years now. I blended into the woodwork when i processed my hair..and as a natural redheaded black girl that’s not ever easy to do! But i decided to stop trying to fit in when I was obviously destined to stand out so away went the chemicals, the wigs, the weaves, the braids, and I love and embrace my dreadlocks. Blessed be!

    • Crystal Blanton

      It is strange when we don’t blend anymore, isn’t it? I don’t know that I truly ever blended either…. but more than now. LOL. Blessed Be.

  • http://www.mysticcomfort.com/ Anna Jane

    SO glad I happened onto this post!!! I am transitioning, too. Or I should say I was because after about 7 or 8 months, I cut off the rest of the hair that was not natural. You are so right about the attention I get now, and about how it has meant learning more about who I am. LOVE this post!

    • Crystal Blanton

      YAY, another transitioning sister. It is awakening, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing and for being who you are too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Melusina777 Sharon Knight

    You are beautiful.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Thank you Sharon. You are a good friend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/freda.davis.35 Freda Davis

    I’m so glad more and more Black women are wearing their hair natural. I’ve had to try to keep from slapping the daylights out of people who told me how ugly I was because I wouldn’t straighten my hair or wear a weave. Growing up I had no choice in the matter. My mom hot-combed and marcelle-curled my hair, and then told me how “beautiful” I was. But my nappy hair was “bad”, “ugly”, “looked like a baboon’s ass”. I loved the feel of my natural hair and was glad when my parents let me choose my own hairstyle at 14 years of age. I chose an afro, I’m 56 years old now and still wear my hair in an afro. I love being me and I have had to walk away from many narrow-minded men who said: “You would be kind of cute if you wore a wig.” Rock your natural sistah and don’t let nobody tell you it’s wrong.

    • Crystal Blanton

      I am loving it… and loving the way it feels. Thanks for the support and for the example of leadership.

  • lise dyckman

    This post reminds me of Marge Piercy’s poem “Hello up there”, and about how our culture pushes women to think of their bodies as separate parts (hair, face, boobs, belly, butt, thighs…) that are ugly/wrong/bad and need to be fixed (meaning, warped into something that isn’t natural). Piercy asks her hair “are you you, or me, or it?” Thank you for reaching for wholeness, allowing your hair to be a part of yourself instead of that thing up there – and oh my goddess, you’re beautiful!

    Fwiw, thank you (& the other folks commenting) for letting us witness the struggle & the pain of coping with racism, internal & external, on top of the body-image craziness all women in our culture have to deal with. Without taking anything away from that, can I bring up a related issue? Specifically, grey hair. Like perming / straightening, once you start dyeing to “cover” grey, you have to keep doing it until you decide to cut it all off. Insert the standard feminist spiel here about ageism & aging — but bringing this back around to the pagan community, it disturbs me that so many pagan women say they do this because they’re “not ready to be a crone yet”. Meaning, they don’t want to give up being regarded as sexy, in the image of goddess-desirable (as opposed to just goddess-scary). Nearly all pagan goddess imagery shows Her as a young adult, with long (flowing, not nappy) hair. What’s up with that, people? That maiden-mother-crone thing turns into a series of 3 narrow, restrictive boxes. (Robert Graves’ personal issues with women has caused a Lot of crap, imho.) I want more nappy-headed goddesses of all ages. I want powerful, wise child-goddesses like the main character in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as well as powerful wise grandmothers, and young women powerful with wisdom, not just sexiness. More sexy grey-hared goddesses (but not sexy child goddesses, that’s just creepy). More short-hair goddesses. More diversity all around, in our images of the divine. [ok, rant over].

    • Crystal Blanton

      Yes, I think there are many correlations with graying…. it is the concept of acceptance that is so hard. I am really liking how you commented that my hair is a part of me, an extension of who I am. I am really learning to understand that… on a deep, core level. Thank you for your support and for your wisdom Lise! Hugs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ruthcaldermurphy Ruth Calder Murphy

    Your hair’s beautiful – you are beautiful. I honestly don’t understand the crazy, insulting idea that straightened hair, of any type, is more beautiful than natural hair… And natural Afro hair is gorgeous. I applaud your courage but lament the fact that doing this positive and affirming thing should require courage.


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