Hair out. That’s how I’d have to say it, right?
Hair out, as in: not down, not “open” as one would say in German.
I wore my hair
my natural Black hair
all day long.
Which is to say I wore an Afro.
An unpicked, unshaped tussle of curly strands
crowning my head.
A supersoft bouncy castle up top
framing my brown round face.
I added big dark sunglasses
and silver hoops,
Wore all black and a serious look
and suddenly my kids could not recognize
the teacher they were expecting.
Colleagues stopped in their tracks, smiled wide
then threw their roses at my feet.
Behind my glasses I felt protected, shielded,
I kind of liked it.
My hair out
with its own righteous agenda
let me tap into
who I might be
if I chose
Not to give a damn
about packaging and expectations.
With my crinkly crown out and about
I cannot go unnoticed.
I cannot float under the radar.
I cannot not be seen.
Being able to choose visibility
and which damn to give
are privileges of the few.
But for a limited time only
I tested the waters and dabbled in a role
I could find becoming
sharp, fierce, unbothered;
proud black all-woman.
Imagine what it means,
what it meant
to wear my hair out,
my eyes covered,
my expression nonplussed,
brown skin gleaming
surrounded by a well meaning white gaze
that wonders but can
never really know
the extent of that Black abundance.
“It’s still that black abundance?”
“Yup” LaThon told me. “And they still don’t even know.” – Kiese Laymon, Heavy. 2018
8 thoughts on “What Happened When I Went To School With My Hair Out”
Wonderful. *Your hair.* *Your poem.* *You!*
Beautiful…the words & the picture! I love the notion of choosing visibility. And boldness. And, well, all of it. Beautiful.
Oh yes. This. I admit, I’d be throwing roses, too.
So beautiful and so much under the surface as I struggle with the why behind “I cannot go unnoticed.” You are an amazing person for your students to know— as the Twitter comment about the daughter who will “continue being who she is naturally.” https://twitter.com/brianrsmithsr/status/1119225942340177920?s=21
To us all, that is how it must be. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading, Sheri. I have been humbled by the positive response.
What great hair and what a great you! Oh my I hope you wear your hair however you please forevermore. It is a basic human affordance to be allowed to be comfortable with your body – and hair, and in this simple, but completely profound way, you will be teaching your students, your children, more than any book can. Hats off to you! (really, keep the hat off and let those locks OUT!)
Dear Laura, thank you so much for your thoughts. I have been thinking about what it means to wear my hair “however [I] please forever more” ever since I read it. And you’re right the affordance of being comfortable with our bodies and how we may show up is so central to human well being. I’m so glad to be in community with you.