Two weeks ago I posted a blog and video about my thoughts on black women and our love affair with fake hair. I had a few people tell me they agreed with a few of my thoughts. Some disagreed and still, others had their own story to share. I asked a few of these women if they would be willing to guest blog some of their own stories. So for the next little while, I will be sharing their stories. Here is the first story by Jem Jackson
My relationship with my hair has changed so much over the years. When I was a child it was strongly tied to insecurities surrounding my blackness. I hated my hair – short brittle, dry almost as much as I hated my nose.. and that was telling, trust me.
As a child and maybe even early teen, I longed for hair that blew in the wind..long black shiny hair. I’m not sure when this started but I felt like this for as long as I could remember. So, at age 12 I was determined to get that relaxer that would make all my hair dreams come true..but there was one obstacle. My mother did not agree for me to get a relaxer, so I did what any reasonable twelve-year-old would. I got a job, actually two – one babysitting my 3 cousins, and the other selling chocolate.
Soon enough, I was able to go the random hairdresser down the road to relax my hair…I was ecstatic! After the tedious process, my expectations were through the roof. I looked in the mirror and saw my strands flat on my head..not at all what I expected.
Fast forward a few years of relaxing, chemical burns, broken hair, and scabs on my scalp- I decided to stop relaxing my hair and ‘big chopped’ in my final year of high school, way before I ever heard that term. My knowledge of how to care for my hair was so poor, that I went through a slew of random experimentation. Until I finally decided to grow my first set of locs.
My first set of locs brought me through an amazing journey. I learned to love my hair and the way I looked in my most natural state. This set of locs were with me for 10 years, until I decided to cut them due to periodic alopecia. I decided to grow locs again, as when I wore locs I felt like my most authentic self- I had this second set of locs for approximately 2 years until I experienced a horrible case of post-partum shedding causing more than a few locs to fall out. Without too much hesitance, I decided to cut my hair one final time, and now I rock it in either a picked out twa or a curly wash and go. It’s funny because people ask what happened to my ‘long’ hair and why I would cut it-something as a little Black girl I probably would have killed for, was so easy for me to let go…and I’m completely ok with that.
Nana: How were you able to learn to love your hair?
Jem: It was a long process. First I started wearing my hair naturally but I still loathed a lot of my appearance (mostly the very prominent features). Eventually, with the advice of a mentor, I would look in the mirror for long periods of time focusing on what I liked instead of what I didn’t. Eventually, I stopped focusing on what I didn’t like and now I love those features I use to hate. I feel like I re-programmed myself.
Jem is passionate about inspiring hope, faith, change and transformation in the lives of everyday people. She does so through her work as a Registered Social Worker and as the curator and host of the #imstillstanding documentary-series.