SILENCE IS VIOLENCE

I’ve written this for some time now and have thought long and hard before posting it. If what I focus on expands then I really just want to be focusing on good health, personal development, love, financial freedom and traveling the world. However, I felt that using my voice and sharing my experience on this issue would be of greater significance to others than my silence.

Boys will be boys

Just to be clear, This is not a political post. Ironically, I am a Political Science Graduate who doesn’t follow up on the U.S. Presidential elections. I have not seen any of the Debates. To be honest, I haven’t watched television in months. The only reason I even know about Trump’s ‘grab the pussy’ incident is because there was no missing it on my Facebook Timeline.

He wants to “grab the pussy” (without consent)? Excuse me if I’m a party pooper because I didn’t find it funny. Yeah, I know he calls  it ‘normal’ locker-room talk and well, that’s just how men speak but I don’t buy it. I will not tolerate that defense. These kinds of behaviour and the mindset that leads to and encourages these kinds of behaviour can no longer be just a ‘9 Days Wonder’. The women who have to live with the repercussions of this “Boys will be boys” mindset that facilitates the pervasive culture of rape, molestation and abuse suffer for far more than 9 days. Some suffer for more than 9 years. And well, some just never recover. So I will no longer remain silent.

I’m not playing judge or jury on Trump and I’m not validating the allegations of the ladies. I have no idea if either is guilty or innocent. What I am saying, however, is that when we excuse certain behaviour, we send out the message that’s it’s ok for boys to say whatever they want to and about girls. And by the time this message has been cemented and these boys grow up to be men, well, they become the bane of some woman’s existence. And that is NOT ok. Boys can no longer just be boys. Boys MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their actions!

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Break the silence

“Why did these women wait so long to report it?”

“They’re lying! They just want fame.”

“They just want his money.”

I’ve seen this cynicism before. It’s not unusual for people to disbelieve a victim or condemn her for coming forward because, by their standards, she took too long to report it so it couldn’t possibly be true. I saw similar comments with the Cosby allegations and I kept silent; Partly because, for years, I’ve had plans on creating a campaign that addresses the issue of Rape and Molestation, partly because I had reservations about putting my personal life out there and partly because I really didn’t have the energy to respond to every idiotic comment I saw. But somehow this time, I am prodded by purpose to get out of my usual ‘moving right along” attitude and break my silence.

I’ve been waiting for the ‘perfect time’ and the ‘perfect strength’ since what seems like forever, but I read somewhere recently that the time is always right to do what is right. Though, there will never be a perfect time to want to feel vulnerable, this is not just about me.

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I’m Stacia Davidson. About 30 years ago, I was sexually molested by my neighbour Mr. Gordon when I was about 6 years old. Yes, I know if I’m to follow the thread of comments I’ve seen, in relation to the Trump and Cosby allegations, then I should also keep silent. In fact, it was 30 years ago, so by ‘logical’ social media trolls’ deduction, I must be lying or it was probably my fault. Furthermore, the time has long passed so why come forward now? “Get over it already!”

It was not my fault. I was not asking for it. I am not seeking pity. I’m not a victim. I’m not (just) a survivor. I’m a VICTOR. I have been fortunate enough to break free from the negative hold that the experience had on me for years. Unfortunately, many of my sisters have not been as fortunate. They still suffer from depression, anxiety, low-self esteem, fear, distrust and/or hatred for men and are still reliving the horror. It’s hard in itself to finally muster enough courage to actually come forward to speak out and name your molester/rapist but then to have people condemn you because somehow anyone who would wait that long to name the person who violated them must be lying.

Silence is Violence

I am coming forward now because I CHOOSE to speak about it now. I am coming forward because there is violence in silence. I’m coming forward because our silence continues to be their greatest weapon. I’m coming forward because of the thought of how many cases I may have prevented and how many other little girls’ innocence could have been protected had I not kept silent. I’m coming forward because of how many little girls’ lives were probably altered at the hands of Mr. Gordon because I kept silent. It was as if I had inflicted their pain by keeping his ‘secret’. I’m coming forward because my silence made him comfortable. I gave him no reason to stop hurting others.

I am coming forward because I refuse to protect the reputation of a man that hurts little girls. I’m coming forward because I won’t let molestation and rape continue to be ‘normal’. I’m coming forward because I will not let these men that prey on women and children win. I’m coming forward because of the children and women who continue to suffer in silence. I’m coming forward so that they know they have support. I’m coming forward so they can have the courage to speak out, to get help, and to name their predator. I’m coming forward because if I can prevent one little girl from this experience then I would have spared her life.

I am coming forward because I’m hoping to inspire change. Change in the way you think… about victims, about rapists and molesters… and about using your voice as a positive agent of change.

It’s disheartening that 1 in every 6 woman has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Additionally, 1 in every 4 girl will be sexually molested before she is 18 years old. Yet, amidst this prevalence, it’s sad and scary that both men and women alike are uninformed and have such warped opinions and expectations of how a victim/survivor is supposed to and not supposed to act or when and under what circumstances she is or isn’t supposed to reveal that it happened. Be more mindful of your words. Show some empathy.

For some of you, it’s not until the situation knocks on your door directly that you will care but believe me, it has knocked, you just haven’t heard because you’re in too deep a sleep. With statistics like those, I can almost assure you that someone you love dearly or someone you know personally has been sexually molested or raped and probably by someone you know. Let that marinate. 

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To my sisters, the process of healing is hard… and long… but possible. Always remember, the places you had to overcome your greatest challenges and pains are the places you have the most to give. When you have moved a mountain you let others know it can be moved.Your purpose will heal your pain but your voice will protect another from pain. 

To everyone who ignores, turn a blind eye and keeps silent on this issue, you have chosen the side of the rapists. Silence is violence. Break the Silence. Break the Cycle. I dare you to care share.

Victoriously yours,

Queen Stacia xoxo

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11 Lessons from a Street-Smart Entrepreneur

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As a budding entrepreneur, I’ve made many mistakes; Some of which could have possibly been avoided had I read more books and gathered more information beforehand. Thankfully, it’s almost never too late to learn, grow and achieve your entrepreneurial goals. Having started reading and loving the learning experience, I want to share 11 lessons from one of the books I read earlier this year- “The Street-Smart Entrepreneur” by Jay Goltz. 

1. Take inventory of your assets and leverage them. If you’ve got it, use it, even if it’s just a great smile.

2. A healthy business starts with a healthy body. Your health is your best long term investment. Taking care of your health is one job you can’t delegate.

3. Get rid of employees who continually challenge your company’s standards.

4. Long term relationships are easy to get into and hard to get out of. Choose your partners carefully and always have an escape clause.

5. Motivation without education leads to frustration.

6. Screw ups happen when you delegate authority but deal with them. Don’t stop delegating.

7. A Litmus test – Ask yourself how you would feel if a given employee told you today that he/she was leaving. If you wouldn’t feel sorry to lose that employee, he/she probably should be off the payroll.

8. Continually ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing for my company right now, and how can I best leverage my abilities in the service of my company?”

9. Stop being so gullible. People lie. Fullstop.

10. Take time to read – Business magazines, books, articles, audiotapes.

11. Companies that have great customer service have great customer service training. SAVE is an easy way to remember how to deal with customer complaints.

S- ympathize- let them know you care and understand

A- ct- do something to resolve the problem

V-indicate – let customers know it’s not normal to make that kind of mistake

E-at -bare some of the expense or loss to redeem situation so as to make the customer happy and save company from losing a customer.

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Thanks for reading. I hope at least one of these lessons resonated with you. Please follow and SUBSCRIBE to my blog and get updated when there’s a new post by clicking the ‘subscribe’ button on the page.

Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow the blog IG: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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Men To Mend

Why are you trying to fix it?

Usually people tell you how to get married, how to find that perfect partner, in fact, there are probably thousands of books on that subject but this is not one of those books blog posts. On the contrary, this post is about telling you how to let go, how to leave that man who has been making your life a living hell and how to stay and be happy as a single woman. Doesn’t sound enticing? Well, that’s because this post is exactly written with you in mind. Let’s get this straight, I am not advocating for #TeamSingle and am in no way suggesting that single life is the overall best alternative. I am, however, advocating for #TeamHappy and am boldly suggesting that sometimes, as women, we stay and suffer in bad relationships just so we don’t have to be single. You may want to leave the relationship but it seems as if some invisible force keeps pulling you back in. Ashanti made melody to this kind of ‘situationship’ with her hit song when she said, “…see my days are cold without you and I’m hurting while I’m with you and when my heart can’t take no more I keep on running back to you..” If you want to have any shot at a happy and fulfilling life, then making the decision to leave him and sticking to it may be the best decision you will ever make in your entire life. No regrets. No bitterness.

You may ask what gives me the authority to write about this. Why should anyone listen to me? Though I opted for a Political Science degree instead of a degree in Counselling or Psychology, my experience as a friend, as a girlfriend and also as an ex give me the authority. I have been in relationships and I’ve been out of them. I have been all stages of single: miserably single, angrily single, sadly single, depressingly single and lastly, and wholly rewarding, happily single. I’ve heard many relationship stories, listened to my friends cry, (and I have cried on their shoulders as well) and I have realized a common thread. Hence, my authority is EXPERIENCE- mine and that of others. I’m telling you what you might not want to hear but what you will need to hear to move forward. There are just some relationships that aren’t worth saving. There’s nothing worse than to be tied to someone who doesn’t understand your destiny, someone who is abusive physically and/or verbally, or someone who just doesn’t feel the same way about you (anymore). I’ve said to my girlfriends that I wholeheartedly believe that until you have experienced true happiness alone/as a single woman, you will never be happy in a relationship that doesn’t involve you having to compromise almost sacrificially. What do I mean? The mind stretched by a new experience can never return to its old dimensions. Similarly, when you have experienced real happiness, it’s hard to ever be satisfied with anything less because there will always be that constant yearning to get back to that place or previous level of happiness. What some people do though is, in order to be ‘happy’, they compromise even to the point that they lose the very essence of themselves. They have smiles on their faces but their ‘happiness’ is counterfeit. It is only a façade.

On another note, there are some ladies who have had such a long history of bad relationships that they have become immuned or so accustomed to the pain that they would seemingly not know how to function without it. Some women actually don’t know what a good relationship entails as they have no immediate point of reference. Others may believe that they don’t deserve anything good and, as such, aren’t able to accept when good things or people appear in their lives. They are so used to the bad that it is as if they are out of place and not in their element without the bad relationship as a part of their life. I’m reminded of a television show that I watched where this man had been imprisoned most of his whole life and was to be released back into society yet he suffered with feelings of anxiety. As much as he considered freedom to be a good thing which would bring with it the opportunity to live how he chose, he was still anxious as he didn’t know exactly what to expect outside of prison walls. Prison life was more familiar and, as such, it didn’t seem that bad to him. The ‘evil’ he knew was better than the ‘good’ he didn’t know.

That’s exactly what it’s like when you know you need to let go and move on but you’re afraid of the unknown living single. Queens, let us not get trapped into that kind of thinking. I know that you share good times together, I know he has some good qualities and there was possibly a time when all was going great *insert other excuses here* but things have changed. It’s not that way anymore. Face the facts. He’s showing you how he feels about you with every action and IN-ACTION. Believe him. Get out now! Let it go! Stay single. You don’t have to succumb to your fear of never being able to find a good man or another man. Men love happy and purposeful women. It’s when you are happily single, living your life, focused on pursuing your dreams and becoming the best version of yourself that you’ll have more than enough options pursuing you. Don’t lose focus on what’s important- your happiness.

Have you ever looked back at your life and your past relationships and said “WTF?” It was while taking a pee on a well needed bathroom break that I somehow had my “what the fuckdge?” moment. I remembered how I had overstayed in a relationship plagued with infidelity and disrespect. WTF? Yes, that’s right, and I could go into all the excuses and explanations about how you had to be in the situation, know the full story and the details of why and how that happened to understand, but I won’t. Because just as wrong stupid as it sounds to you now, that’s how it hit me while taking this pee. I had stayed in a dysfunctional relationship for years all in the name of ‘love’. After I write this, I may as well hide my face because even though I was the one in the relationship, sometimes it’s not until you are sharing your situation with someone and you hear it out loud that you actually realize how stupid your actions were. You begin to wonder how a smart girl queen like yourself could play the fool for someone who wasn’t even worth it… or probably just wasn’t ready. Either way, how could I have subjected myself to living miserably?

And then it dawned on me how many times I’ve looked in from the outside on other people’s relationships and said, “How does she put up with that?”, “If that were me, I’d leave” or “One girl cya suh fool” But when I was in a situation where I should have left, I battered my esteem by putting up with too much bullsh*t for way too long. Queens, this is what bothers me about us. Why do we subject ourselves to bad relationships? How can a seemingly sensible Queen invite a joker man into her life and then, allows this man to make her do things she wouldn’t normally do, accept things she wouldn’t normally accept and bring out a side in her she is embarrassed even to remember? And then I begin to feel eternally grateful for my experiences and lessons that have brought me to this point of growth and happiness. I’ve learned that YOU determine your happiness by the decisions YOU make. You need to get that joker off your throne and make room for the King that God wants you to build an empire with. It is far better to stay single than to be miserable in a relationship. Why do you ignore your intuition and gut feelings? Why do you foolishly forgive? Why are you trying to fix what you know should stay broken? Contrary to the belief that you need someone to complete you, it actually takes two whole (complete) persons to make a relationship whole. Stay Single. Take this free alone time to become whole- to heal, mend, meditate, exercise, connect with friends, read positive books, pursue your goals, travel, explore, love (yourself), and learn new things. And wouldn’t it be nice if you continued doing all those things that make you happy whether or not, or even after, you found Mr. Right? You need to know that being ‘Happily Single’ is not an oxymoron. In fact, it’s just as possible, even if not as common, as being ‘Miserably Married’ after two years is. Stop focusing so much on men and start focusing more on MENDING.

Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Thanks for reading. Please follow and SUBSCRIBE to my blog and get updated when there’s a new post by clicking the ‘subscribe’ button on the page.

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Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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Credits:

Photo 1: LM Photography

Photo 2: Dash Photography

Photo 3-4: Nickii Photography

Make up:

@mz_xeri – photos 1-2

@ms.yelad_artistry.realntrue – photos 2-4

Black Hair Matters (Part 2)

“Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.”– Excerpt from Black Hair Matters Part 1

“Having had the wrong kind of education, the Negro has become his own greatest enemy.”– Marcus Garvey

“We speak often of modernized curricula at the secondary level, and the need to pay attention not just to academic/technical areas of study, but to the sense of identity that young people develop as students. Part of this identity is of course the history of their country and region, and their place in this history. Not just in the Caribbean but wherever young, Black women live, we are told that our hair is somehow inadequate: it is ‘hard’ or ‘knotty’. It is not straight ‘enough’, although enough for whom or what one cannot be sure. And where we are kindly allowed to wear our hair naturally as it grows from our heads, there are caveats: as long as it is pulled back or braided tight or otherwise tamed.”[1]

Though no one can force someone to start seeing and appreciating black beauty, it would be beneficial for us to start questioning our beliefs about race, beauty and natural hair. If we recognized that those who created the dominant cultural ideas we’ve internalized did so for their benefit, and not ours, we would be better able to understand that the psychological conflict this internalization causes is self-destructive. Self-hatred continues the cycle of self-degradation, and it’s impossible to teach our children about their self worth, and get them to take their history seriously, if our own sense of self is distorted through a white lens. What are the lessons being taught to us as a society that teachers would think sending a child home for wearing their natural hair out is acceptable and excusable?

“Among my primary concerns is the message being sent to young women of African heritage in this country that their natural selves are of necessity untidy, unsuitable or otherwise inadequate. The argument that “students can do whatever they like once they enter the real world, but this is school” also misunderstands the role of formal education and the process of young people’s development. School is the real world. Young people are understanding themselves and their environment, and while becoming who they will be, they also are.”[2]

Lessons of self- confidence, self- worth and self- identity have to be incorporated into the collective consciousness. Therefore, children have to be socialized to believe their self worth. I’ve heard parents tell their children, “Nuh deh wid nobody blacker than u madda or fada!

Choose a man wid pretty hair suh yuh pickney can have pretty hair

Nuh bring home nuh black picky picky head man/gyal fi meet mi

I’ve heard teachers tell children,

“Yuh see how yuh black” as if being black was some sort of leprosy and something to be avoided or ashamed of.

Children spend most of their time at home and school. The only way to undo all what we have learned as it relates to self hate is to constantly drive home the message of self love. The brain is a creature of repetition; whoever gets at it the most will rule it. The brain cannot resist the temptation to believe something that is regularly presented before it or that it’s regularly fed. So that’s what makes teachers’ jobs so hard yet critical. Children only spend approximately 8 hours at school. What do they spend the other 16 hours doing, hearing, and watching? The formative years of conditioning are from birth to 12. It is counterproductive that we (parents, teachers, society) instill values consistent with self hate in those critical years and then try to change them after they have already been habituated and developed personalities and hard habits. As the Jamaican proverb appropriately states, “ben’ the tree when it young, when it old, it will bruck” What people have ever been freed by giving the best years of their children to their ‘oppressor’? The ‘oppressor’, in this instance, is the value system of white bias.[3]

We have to replace the old zero-tolerance approach with an approach built on the conviction that suspension and expulsion don’t solve problems at the root of student misbehavior. Continuing to promote zero tolerance, masking it as just a commitment to discipline and blind social conformity, we are failing future generations of black kinky hair students. When you fail to engage your school boards in the conversation around changing these outdated rules, that’s your contribution to the old guard. Yes, systems matter, and yes, there are villains and bad apples out there. But we’ve got to be way more honest and own our contribution to all of this. Our contribution can be what we do but also what we fail to do. Let’s make it personal, and admit our own fault and contributions to this value system that promotes ‘white bias’. I know that’s hard to hear. But yes, you and I, intelligent, well-intentioned warriors of discipline — we contribute to the system when we say nothing and do nothing. If we remain silent in matters of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.

I can see somebody reading and saying, “Look at her telling us not to uphold school rules and preaching about natural hair like she is more enlightened and confident than all of us. But she can say wah she waan say, she don’t have to deal with these unruly kids on a daily basis? and who are you to say we have issues of self hate just because we’re not natural?” I promise you, my intention is not to seem like I am the Malcolm X of natural hair advocacy or that I am righteous and have all the answers. It’s purely out of love for my people when I suggest that rejecting straightened hair is symbolic of a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which are deemed ‘socially acceptable’ are the only means of looking ‘presentable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘groomed’, ‘appropriate’, ‘respectable’, ‘neat’, ‘professional’ and attaining success in society. I, like the other person, am still on that journey of undoing and unlearning all the blatant and subliminal negative messages that were fed to me in my formative years.

The first step to ‘rehabilitation’ is admission and realizing a need for change. Let’s consciously correct our subconscious thoughts, our conversations, and our actions. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. In fact, I have to stop myself from saying and doing things daily that contradict this empowerment of which I speak of. If your ‘discipline’ undermines the values of self love, self worth and self acceptance, it’s time for it to be disrupted.

Others should not be able to dictate to us what is beautiful and we just sit powerlessly regurgitating those beauty standards. Racism ‘works’ by encouraging the devaluation of self-identity by the victims themselves, and that re-centering of a sense of pride is a prerequisite for resistance and reconstruction. Let us take charge of the messages we consume daily and the messages we allow our children to consume. Our hair doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’! Society’s view of beauty is what is broken. I’ve been told more often than not that I’m prejudiced towards women with natural hair. I am not. Some of my most beloved friends have processed hair. However, I choose to highlight beauties with natural hair through this medium because, as a black woman, I understand that I needed to see positive images of black natural hair beauties and, by highlighting them, I am contributing, if only minutely, to my people seeing themselves as BEAUTIFUL. I am challenging the idea that there is one standard of beauty. Good hair is not only straight hair or hair with curl patterns closer to Caucasian, Indian or Asian textures. ‘Good hair’ is HEALTHY hair whether it be kinky, curly, coily, nappy, or straight.

“Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

We are Kings and Queens whose history have been distorted because we allowed someone else to tell it. We were never slaves. We were enslaved. Two different things. I see a need to incorporate and structure our history in the school curriculum in a way that empowers us as a people and that builds self esteem. But who would teach it if there are teachers who themselves need these lessons? Black Hair Matters. Until these hair rules are applied unbiasedly to all kinds of hair then you are asking us to accept that we are ‘valorized according to the tilt of our whiteness’ and that ‘rules are rules’ and must be followed regardless. Back in the day you may have blindly followed and upheld those hair rules but now that you know better or at least should know better (even if only after reading this). Don’t you think it would be irresponsible and cowardice to go back to enforcing those kinds of ‘rules’? The mind stretched by an idea can never be returned to its original dimensions. No man can grow and remain the same. Are you going to stunt positive growth and awareness because of fear and because ‘it has always been done that way’?

Let us be brave if only for the future generation.

Let us not apologise for the texture of our hair and for being disruptive about policies and changes that affect our race.

Let us not judge our beauty based on European standards or we will forever believe we are ‘ugly’ and ‘inadequate’. We are not Europeans. We are AFRICANS… and our hair (and lives) matter.
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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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[1] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[2] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[3] Dr. Umar Johnson

*Not all images are property of the blog

Black Hair Matters.

“We have outgrown slavery, but our minds are still enslaved to the thinking of the Master race. Now take these kinks out of your mind, instead of out of your hair.”– Marcus Garvey

All hair is NOT created equal. That’s the lye lie they are still trying to force into our heads. It is a sad day when the hair that naturally grows out of a person’s head is deemed unacceptable. I remember some 20 years ago having a conversation with a childhood friend who was telling me that it was against her school rules to comb her hair in more than 3 or 4 cornrows/braids. What was the logic behind this rule? I think she had said combing it in anything more than 4 braids would be akin to looking like a ‘Rasta’. But don’t quote me on that. Nevertheless, I found this rule weird and offensive since this was a school with a predominantly black student populace. Braiding is not only a way for Black people to show off our hairstyles and creativity but it is also a means of having one less thing to worry about while getting ready for school each morning. Since cornrows can last for at least a week once proper night time ‘tie head’ protocols are followed, this hairstyle is expedient. This rule posed a problem for my friend who not only had very short naturally kinky hair but who was a Christian in the Pentecostal faith. Her faith (church rules) prevented her from processing her hair and her school rules basically made it impossible for her to wear her hair in its short naturally kinky state. Since her hair would need at least 10 cornrows to be even considered “neat” by their standards, you could see that she was in a predicament of sorts. Though having never heard of Walter Rodney and Umar Johnson or knowing very little besides the names of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X at the time, I still knew there was something ridiculously wrong with that picture.

It was a pointed display of arrogance towards most manifestations of non-European culture. A prominent Girls’ school in the capital Kingston & St. Andrew preventing a female student from wearing natural braids and cornrows- hairstyles synonymous with the African texture- is a school that had no intention of catering to the needs of its black students who by nature were blessed with short kinky hair. For me, this was institutionalized Racism and social manipulation at most; discrimination partly entrenched in the school rules under the guise of instilling discipline.

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“Who taught you to hate yourself? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin?” Malcolm X

Fast forward almost 25 years later, Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.

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Why is it, in 2016 in Jamaica, over 17O years after the ‘Abolition of Slavery’ and ‘Emancipation’ and 54 years after ‘Independence’, do we still think that the afro, bantu knots (chiney bumps), twist outs and other hairstyles commonly worn by African women are ‘unsuitable’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘unrespectable’, ‘unruly’, ‘unkempt’, ‘untidy’, and ‘ungroomed’? Why are we still sending home black boys for wearing fades and mohawks? Why is the African hair not seen as ‘good hair’? We have been devalued through our history of enslavement. Yet we have, from generations to generations, continued to teach our own, whether through blatant, subliminal and even subtle messages, that we are inadequate and that all hair is NOT created equal. Some are more equal than others.

 “This was my first really big step toward self- degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed to believe that the black people are “inferior”- and white people “superior”- that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try and look “pretty” by white standards.”- Malcolm X

Some years ago while attending High School, I was 13 at the time in 3rd form (9th grade). I usually travelled to school with my friend’s mom. Those traffic mornings led for great family conversations. I just listened. It was one of those mornings that my friend asked her mom if she would be allowed to process (cream) her hair for her Birthday. She was going to be 14 and that was the only gift she wanted. After negotiating with her mom the entire trip to school, her mom agreed that if she did well for the semester and got straight A’s, she would grant her that wish. ‘Creaming’ her hair was going to be her ‘reward’ for good grades and behaviour.

A friend of mine was in a long distance relationship and hadn’t seen her boyfriend in person for months. She had started her journey back to natural hair and had told me how she loved how her natural hair was looking and how excited she was at the sight of ‘new growth’. Her boyfriend was coming to visit and she gladly awaited the opportunity to spend time with him and show off her beautiful Bantu Knots. For those couple of days that he was going to be in the island, I knew I wasn’t going to see her. But after he left and she visited me, I was in for a surprise. She had exchanged her kinky curly natural crown with processed hair. When I asked why, she said her boyfriend didn’t like how she looked with hair natural. I was disappointed in her decision but I guess no one wants to feel “unpretty” especially to the one person who should be calling you beautiful. Her opinion of her hair didn’t matter because his opinion mattered more. Truth is, I don’t fully blame men for their opinions and preferences.  Men are very visual beings, and they unconsciously learn to define beauty by what society instills in them at a very young age.

Growing up in a Pentecostal Church, we were forced to keep our hair natural. With hopes of straightening my hair, I started questioning my mom as to the Biblical foundation of such rule. I tried to argue that there were no biblical grounds for such rule and even tried to negotiate terms but my mom was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen; At least, “not in my house!”  I kept nagging her about this stupid church rule until she called one of the Elders of the Church who I highly respected to talk to me about it thinking that it would have quelled my ‘sinful’ desire for the ’creamy crack’. As my mother handed me the house phone, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I said “Hello”. It was then that I heard a stern recognizable voice say,  “Are you telling GOD that you don’t like the way He made you and that you don’t think He made you properly or beautiful?” Pausing just enough to muster the confidence of Johnnie Cochran, I quickly backfired, “No, I’m telling Him I loved how He made me. I just want to look even more beautiful.” I don’t remember how the rest of that conversation went but, at that time, I actually felt proud of my response. I had made my case.

In retrospect, my reply only confirmed how deeply rooted the psychological legacy of slavery was and how successful Europeans have been in destroying our self worth and confidence by pushing their standards of beauty on us. Why would straight hair make me more beautiful? At least, why did I think it would? Why wasn’t my Kinky Curls enough?

I’ve had three friends with natural hair entered Miss Jamaica Beauty Pageants. They all entered in different years and they don’t know each other. They all passed the elimination round of the competition and made it to the finals wearing their natural curls. They all seemed like self confident and secure ladies who love their natural hair yet they all decided to ‘alter’ or ‘hide’ their natural curls whether through temporary straightening measures or in an up do. After questioning each of their motives,  I realized that the decision had less to do with what would complement the style of their gowns and  more to do with the thought that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out for the evening gown segment was inappropriate as they needed a hairstyle that was more ‘suitable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘appropriate’.  It’s not a coincidence that they all viewed wearing their natural hair out, for such a ‘distinguished’ and ‘special’ occasion, in the same light. Those with hair closer to Indian, Asian or Caucasian textures let their hair out for the evening gown segment all the time. There’s not even an inclination in their minds that this could be inappropriate. So why then would they think that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out wasn’t evening gown worthy? Why did they think it was inadequate and not fitting for a formal occasion?

I told all these stories not to declare how many friends I have but rather to highlight how different persons, of different ages, from different backgrounds, who don’t know each other could hold similar demeaning perceptions or convictions regarding their hair.

We had to learn it from somewhere. This internalized form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realize that it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others. Thus, for instance, my friend’s boyfriend could think his attraction to straight long hair is just a ‘matter of taste’, and I could articulate that ‘creaming’ my hair would make me ‘prettier’. It’s a matter of identity, self-worth and self-acceptance. That is why I can’t agree with the notion that rules are just rules and, as such, should be blindly followed.. Rules are NOT just rules. Rules are a reflection of society’s standards, values and fears. How we view ourselves and others are directly related to how we act. When we continue to enforce rules that either blatantly reinforce or express subtle undertones of self hatred and discrimination towards non-European traits, we are teaching our children values that promote a mindset that there is no room for the idea of naturally kinky haired black beauty.  And we continue the cycle from generations to generations if those rules aren’t changed.

  

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A Part 2 will be posted this week which will offer ‘solutions’ as I didn’t want to make this post too long 🙂

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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

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