In this whole self examination trip that I’ve been on, it is important to question things like: “Who am I? What do I believe? How do I want to represent myself? What have I found to be true for me?” Well, I’ve got to tell you that the answers come, but the guise is not always the same. They change with the passing of time, the lyrics of a song or the rise and fall of my mood. But at its core, the foundation is pretty much constant. The changing of my level of comfort and the need to be resurrected is from where this “Natural is Tight” image came.
Several years ago, I was on one of my long drives to work and as usual, I was praying to God that the day would be a great one and that I would be able to make some positive contribution. And if possible, could I be directed to where I was supposed to be so that I could use my gifts so that not only others would be uplifted, but that I would be right there with them?
So on this drive, during one of my long winded prayers, I saw a licence that said something like “ubuib2” (now excuse me if I got this wrong, or if the lettering is not quite right, it was several years ago…but it made me sit up and pay attention). I followed the vehicle through four stop lights. It wasn’t because I was a “creeper”, as my daughter would put it. We happened to be going the same way in bumper to bumper traffic. It took me a while but this is what I got, “you be you and I’ll be myself too.” Is that what God was trying to tell me? I’ve got to be myself…Who would have ‘thunk’ it…God has a sense of humour.
That sentiment made me smile as I was very much trying to be myself but oddly, no one ever expects me when I show up. Many people seem genuinely surprised when I choose to speak that I can string a few sentences together. And others feel comfortable enough to tell me things like: “You are very articulate.” And “You are not as militant as your hair makes you look.” Or there is always, “You are so brave to wear your hair like that. Why don’t you just wear it normal?” I’ve also been compared to the civil rights activist Ms. Angela Davis, not because of what I have to say but more so because of my appearance.
I knew that I would often draw unwanted stares and uncomfortable pauses when I entered the room in meeting places. I had noticed this of course on the street for a lifetime but I knew only too well what “isms” looked, sounded, and smelled like. I hadn’t had the luxury of being obtuse to the political and social climate of the day as I was far too close to the civil rights era to not know what both overt and covert “isms” where each and every time they smacked me unceremoniously in the face. But I had learned enough to not outwardly show the effects of its sting. So, had I showed up to instruct people in my designer clothes with my hair straightened down, flat and lifeless on my head, I would have gotten a little different reception. I know this from experience. I might have been considered a bit more “professional” in their opinion, but that is where the covert “ism” would have come in. There was nothing I could have done to shed their perception of what my features, skin colour or hairstyle ultimately meant. And had I the inclination to do so, I would not have. I had learned this by the time I was 14 after years of trying to fit into an ill fitted mould not of my making.
There are so many little and big ways we all change ourselves to fit into our environment on a daily basis. I would not change something as fundamental as my hair, unless it was of my choosing to be other than who I chose to be in order to make others more comfortable in my presence.
So, in the corporate door I came equipped with my knowledge, my experience, my education, and packaged it in designer clothing (cause I like to look good) while proudly wearing my crown of curls. Thus “Natural is Tight” is my proclamation and celebration of my emancipation from mental slavery, “none but ourselves can free our mind” Bob Marley wailed as I re-imagined in visual outpourings. Although not as eloquent as Bob Marley’s Redemption song, “matter unravelled” on page 120 in “Human is the Race, Woman is an Experience” is my attempt to pay homage to my crown. Below is an excerpt.
Matter Unravelled © May 13/06 DG
The follicles that spring forth
From my head
Often thought of as
Dead and coarse
Dry and undesirable
Present the promise of
Life and beauty
With every twist and turn
Every deviation and curl
It spells out my dreams