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The Reading Revolution

While sipping tea with my buddy Evan in the Coffeehouse (Normal, IL), he and I talk about the usual: The Revolution of the Proletariat. We are concerned about the division of wealth in this country and how the poor, middle class and college educated were going to take it in a few years.

Then we talk about the possibility of a non-violent revolution. After seeing YouTube videos of what’s going on in Egypt and on the college campuses in our nation, we decide against it. Stokely Carmichael is brought up in our conversation, then Angela Davis.

“Did you see that documentary yet?” I ask him.
“Which one?” Evan has a million idling in his Netflix queue that require his attention.
“Black Power Mixtape.”
“Not yet.”
“Please see it, it’s the shit.”
“Got it.”

After awhile, Evan needs to go to the used bookstore across the street and I decide to join him. It’s cold and rainy here in Central Illinois. We are hit in the faces with wind as we hurry to the other side and are met with the warm musty emporium of knowledge.

It’s too easy to lose ourselves in all of these books, so we try to stick to goals. I’m looking for Angela Davis books and he’s looking Ralph Waldo Emerson essays. He can’t get enough of those transcendentalists. Here’s some of what I got:

I’m getting into that political theorist mood and it helps to be hang out with Evan to shoot the shit. I look forward to reading these books and taking some notes on them. If they’re working out for me, look forward to a book review in the future!


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Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes I feel like this young man
While we were waiting on our chicken gyros at Pita-Sub yesterday, I was telling Noah about my day when I felt his eyes wandering up to my hair. Without a word, he quickly grabbed a napkin and got up from the table. He plucked something from my afro and threw it in a nearby trashcan. He looked as if he had averted a minor crisis. “You don’t want to know what that was,” he said as he sat down.
I didn’t. 
I appreciate it when my husband removes stowaway insects from my hair. When I find them, it is a minor crisis. I thought about it and realized that strangers and friends alike are usually quick to extract things from my hair. It’s usually noticeable leaves, flower petals or in the case of yesterday. . . errant critters. 
When we were spending the weekend in  Atlanta, GA, Noah and I were sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe when a gentleman passed by. He took one look at my full-on-fro and said, “Let me get this for you.” He pulled a flower from my hair with the grace of a birthday party magician. “There you go.”
What could I say aside from thank you?
That’s just one of many experiences I had where people have behaved like our chimp cousins, grooming without hesitation, as if there is nothing unusual picking through a stranger’s hair to retrieve debris. I thank them all. Without them, I walk around with unintentional hair accessories. 
With hair that’s a foot away from my scalp, I never know what’s going on without looking in a mirror. I don’t have the time to examine my hair in a mirror every minute of the day, so it’s nice to have a community who’s diligent about keeping me fly.
My many thanks to you, The Pickers.
 


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Independence/Afro Day

The 4th of July is coming 
and I want you YOU to send us your 
Independence Day Afro photos!
So rock your Boss Fros or Afro Puffs!
Part it or Pick it!
Send your photos to charish84@gmail.com 
(as an attachement, with name and location in the body of email)
before July 5th and I will post these pictures the following day.
Make us proud and show the nation your independence from relaxers!


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Grow Up, Will You?

The younger natural Charish, before “womanhood.”

Sorry for being M.I.A. lately, but things have been a little hectic on this end. Have no fear, I’m back and with a smidge more attitude. I was at the last meeting of my workshop group “For Colored Girls” and today’s topic was about, you guessed it. . . hair!

One of the young ladies spoke of her experience of talking to black men about natural hair and let me say, our group got a little heated. We were upset by this particular young man’s response to: “What kind of hair do you like to see on women.” He admitted that he was into “a loose coil.”

A loose coil?

We were shocked by his use of our vernacular. I didn’t know any man could articulate different hair types like that. We were even more shocked that he also said, “I don’t like that afro stuff. No afro puffs.” Hrumph, was what I said. Now, let’s add another dimension to his tale: Did you know this man was black? I could have guessed, but shit, why a brother gotta be like that?

I’ve experienced this kind backlash from black men who don’t understand or don’t appreciate the natural state of hair. You can argue that it’s because of a long line of media depictions of black beauty or just physical preference. Either way, a natural needs support and it’s disheartening that some black men are not available. Check out this video:

Sunshine couldn’t have put it better: The black guys were TRIIIIIIIIPPPING!! One things that screamed at me was one black man told the subject of this video “natural hair was for little girls and grown women NEED to get their hair relaxed.”
WHAT?! Are you’re telling me my natural hair is prohibiting my growth as a woman? 

I know if Noah told me such mess, we wouldn’t be married. I chalk it up to these boys unable to grow up themselves. It’s an incredibly immature response to the way a woman carries herself. I got no problem with the way women wear their hair. If you want to rock a natural or a weave down to your ass, I want that to be up to YOU. I want you to make that decision without any pressure or expectations. You need to do you.  Don’t raise a crazy high bar of expectation and make me pole vault over it!

I also chalk it up to some black men seeing something in us that reminds them of their own blackness. It’s in their minds not our hair. The heritage they’re avoiding is messing with their heads. This leads to a perverse transference of insecurity unto us.

I have written in a past blog post about my hair relationship with my husband, a white man. I can tell you that the white men I’ve run into have fully supported my afro. The ones that don’t, I don’t hear anything from, so I couldn’t tell you what their deal is. A white man’s reasons for loving lush voluminous black hair are their own and sometimes those reasons can get “hairy.” (A discussion about natural hair adoration bordering on exoticism will have to be saved for another post).

But I also have to tell you that I hate to generalize on this topic and want to remind you (and myself) that not all black men share this opinion. I’ve gotten some interestingly positive feedback from black men about my afro. Some have fallen over themselves trying to “hollar” at me. Some have been utterly fascinated that leave the house like this, in a good way. Noah and I were walking around the local mall when I was sporting a freshly picked fro. When a group of black men passed us, Noah said that one of them murmured to him: “Good job, man.” I know that this particular young man was not a “natural-hater” and it made me a little prouder.

There are more young brothers like that out in the world. I’m certain of it. Sunshine also said that it could be a generational issue. Well, until all black men can get on the same page, I recommend you keep your heads up and be you. Maybe one day, they’ll grow up and get on your level.


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Packed the Fro and Took it to Bangkok


This is an old blog post from my days in Thailand.
If you want to read more a black chick’s adventures in Bangkok, go here

That’s me writing this blog. In my fro. You all have seen it, no big deal. Here in Bangkok, even with their progressive fashion sense, it is a HUGE deal.

So Monday, I stepped out on the street in a gray pencil skirt, blue blouse and cream colored pumps. There was never a hotter English teacher in all of Thailand.

And the people knew it.

The Thai teachers were amazed. The kids were enthralled. The two sisters, who own the restaurant I go to, gave me a thumbs up! Of course, there were blank stares. Those I expected immediately.

“Teacha! Teacha!” screamed a group of girls.
“Yes?”
“You are BEAUTIFUL!” They all ran around, arms circled above their head, giggling like mad. There is the occasionally pointing and staring, there are giggles, but I say it all beats having to straighten my hair obsessively for the next four months.

I couldn’t believe how big an issue hair would be before I came over here. To tell the truth I feel like I did very little to prepare for this trip, hair was probably the last thing on my mind. Friends and family did ask my what I would do about the it.

Leave it as is, I guess. I don’t know.

However, when I got here, I chickened out. I wore it in a bun, a ponytail, and then I started to straighten it. A hot press job takes a good hour to complete on a good day. On a bad day, (going from an afro to straight locks) maybe two hours.

I don’t have that kind of time! I can’t possibly wake up earlier than I already do just to fry my hair! Only for it to frizz up in this wet and humid weather anyway. For that reason, there was no way I could keep it up.

Another reason was the enthusiasm my co-worker Ploy had for my straight do as opposed to other days. “Ahh Charish, your hair look beautiful! Wear it like that all the time, yeah?” Or whenever we had a meet and greet with school officials. “Look beautiful tomorrow, yeah?”

uh. . . no.

Never been too fond of people telling how to look. I broke down and combed it out. The first afro outside of the house was to a bar. At this particular bar, women, who I believe were prostitutes, swarmed me immediately. The “madam” asked me if it was real. Sure it was, who would willingly fake this? About ten hookers began patting my hair.
“Oooh. . . aaah!”

Interesting first.

Just today, the third day of the fro, a student asked if I got it at Khaosan Rd. I was puzzled. Got what? My hair? I tugged at it and told her. This is mine. I didn’t get it anyhere. My student was amazed.
“You grow?”
I nodded.
“WOW!”

Yeah, well. The fro is not going anywhere. I think it’s going to be a staple.