The Prayer To Save Your Afro Dreams

Good luck to all men going home with hair longer than an index finger (after you stretch it). I pray that my prayer is stronger than the prayers that plan your next haircut. I pray that the scissors get caught in the wrong place (like a thigh or a throat). I pray the machine breaks down, exhaling smoke and spitting sparks from the power cable.

I pray that your hair grows like flowers after the first rain after a long period without water. There aren’t enough prayers to keep your scalp safe. So here is one from me.

It’s a challenge to survive the moves of your mother. She walks up to you with I love you dripping down her face, coating her mouth and the words that come out of it, while her hands are out—sharp!—ready to reduce your dreams so that you can satisfy her.

Forgive her.

She doesn’t know that ever since you tasted the toxic California liberal freedom you would decide to meet all her decisions and demands with Why? Instead of Yes, Mom. Because at this point you only listen to intellectual reasoning. You are buried in the discourse of representation and your hair is you claiming that Blackness that she forgot to teach you to love. So, you are doing this for the both of you. You believe this is for your collective decolonization of the mind.

But you know she doesn’t care about your respectability politics or the other terms you swallowed in that one seminar about Blackness. She’s thinking about the sneer you will get from the man walking past you on the street who will wonder if your mother is incompetent or dead; the sad idea that your kinks actually existing on your head will pull that job or internship away from your hands. She is scared that you will turn into a person that she won’t understand.

Forgive her.

She’s learning too. She’s learning to live with you having more (and better) hair products than her. She’s learning to separate hair from gender expression though it comes when she’s asking if you want to turn into a woman. It will take time for her to realise that your hair does not make her a bad mother. It will take even more time for you to tell her that the courage to withstand the unsolicited You-should-cut-it advice came from her. She made you strong. I pray that you remember that.

But stay vigilant because as she grows to love you despite her disagreements, she will still be praying for your hair’s downfall.

I pray that she comes around just like when you popped out instead of the girl she wanted to name after herself. I pray that she will provide the shea butter and coconut oil. I pray that she will do the twisting when your hands get tired. I am asking for too much (I know) but it’s time for a prayer to win over all the prayers that want your ‘fro to go. I pray that your scalp stays safe. I pray that your afro dreams stay alive.

Amen.

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It’s Me or Us, the World Will Never Be the Same

Society has grown to believe that big hair is bad hair, that hair should fall down your shoulders, brush your eyes, sweep the ground. But the creation on my scalp grows towards its creator, to the heavens where my soul will one day rest. Society, specifically mom, grows daggers in her eyes when my hair tries to achieve its goal. To them—to you, my dear reader—my hair is a rebel.

The first time I was aware of the buzzing and the vibrations that shaved my head clean, I was young and afraid. I tried to shake free of the barber’s grasp. I thought that kicking and crying would set me free. But the buzzing did not stop. So the crying did not stop. The ritual kept going and going and going for years and years and years.

Society, specifically dad, told me that it was the way things were done: “boys don’t keep their hair long.” Every 15 days, I would sit under Lopes’ gaze, blank like a canvas, waiting to be beautified—waiting to be normalised. Aunty called me handsome, she told me that girls would come chasing after me. But it was not me that they would be chasing. The boy with the short hair and lines zig-zagging across his head, that was not me.

To feel like I belonged, to appease my society—mom and dad—I shed some individuality. I let go of the right to decide what I could look like. At times I fought, shed tears like my young and afraid self but these ones in solitude. So, I ran.

I ran away to boarding school: 4000 kilometres away. There I felt a queer liberation. My hair was free to grow, to settle in hairstyles that didn’t require fortnightly visits to the barber shop. But even so far away, a voice whispered that mom and dad would not be happy, aunty and girls would have no one to stare or chase. I was left in a position where I had to decide if the happiness desired was mine or ours. Me or us?

How It’s Done In Congo

To begin, I must refer to a high school experience—the most enriching in my last 2 years of school: Seminal Readings. I come from a school in love with its values: compassion, curiosity, excellence, and above all, a love for Africa. Every term we would, as a community, pause and reflect on these values: their origin, meaning and application. Reading, alone, was not enough to draw out the lessons from the sources we analysed; so, after each reading came discussion. With classmates from 40+ countries, discussion rooms were spaces of polarised opinions, cultural differences and big personalities. A space that I found difficult for conversation. Pride swallowed the opportunity for knowledge, and in a room of inflated heads, there was no space for learning.

For every discussion in my 2 years at the African Leadership Academy, there was a Congolese girl in my discussion group. I soon learned that this girl was a woman who with grace and humility demanded respect. Her face contorted in a stern expression, one usually thought of her as angry. It was with people like the Congolese woman that we learned how to create an environment for conversation. Animal Farm, the Matrix, the Alchemist, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Nawal El Saadawi. No matter what was presented to us, the Congolese woman and I managed to find some disagreement: the goodness of oppression, faith vs. religion. But we were not screaming over each other. Our voices were loud, yes, but we always had a conversation.

Learning happened when we listened and opened our hearts to other people’s words, not to reply, to understand. It also required one to speak to be understood. This doesn’t always happen—it is difficult to remain silent when someone disparages your culture, religion and identities. It is difficult to speak when you know that a thought would have 13 heads turn, 26 eyes glare because to them you might have more heads. It is difficult to speak when the expected response is aggression. Fear.

I’ve met some, who repeat their words, no matter your counter-argument, in hopes that if they say it enough times they would be understood. I’ve met others who dismiss opinions, and refuse to engage if you don’t speak the same words. However, the Congolese woman with her scary countenance nodded with passion, ‘hmm’-ed when she agreed, asked when she didn’t understand, and looked you in the eyes as she listened. With her actions she said, “hey, don’t be afraid, I’m listening.” She gave me the courage to speak my words.

It was simple how she disintegrated the barriers of fear and gave me courage. It was the sentences that echoed and responded to my words. With open ears and an attentive mind, the Congolese woman created a space for conversation, a space to listen and to be heard.

Being Fifteen

‘What was fifteen to me?’ This is a question I still ask myself. I cannot see the events of the past clearly, because I can’t muster the emotion from that time or I don’t want to. I can’t say if it was great or bad. The past few years have melded into one and I can’t tell the difference between last week or last year. It all feels the same, pointless.

These memories feel like stones, stones that are thrown into an ever-flowing expanse of water which is life. No matter how many stones you throw the river will keep flowing in the same way. You’ll gain and lose stones however they will not have any effect on the river.

AS life goes, there are always good and bad times, wins and loses. I have gone through all of them, but were they worth it? I started and finished year 9 six months after the year started. This change in the schedule of the academic year has me a little confused, but I’ll adjust soon enough. I made new friends and enemies, met new people and discarded the old.

The mighty Taylor Swift said that when you’re fifteen someone will tell you they love you and you have to believe them. From a brief skim through my year I could’ve said that no one uttered those words to me and if they did, I didn’t believe them. I always thought that these words would have to be uttered by a stranger who would win a chunk of my heart and keep it, however I was wrong. These words were uttered to me by people who were in my heart and people who I added in to my heart. It was not a given and take situation but it was of mutual benefit. Sometimes I wish that someone had stolen a chunk of my heart, but sometimes I don’t.

I guess that’s being fifteen for you. You want to win and you want to lose; you want the sun yet you want that perfect storm. Fifteen is time of identification, time to make mistakes and steps forward. Let go, catch, breathe, love, hate, dream, wonder and wander. Do all these things when you’re fifteen. When you’re fifteen, you have no idea what’s going on, it’s just a blur of happiness and sorrow, anguish and agony, and hormones (I mean a lot of hormones).

The hardest part is accepting the random responsibility either thrown at you or that you’ve picked up. All the new things you’re expected to do but you have no idea how you’re supposed to do them.

The second hardest part is letting go of fifteen. The dread and anticipation of sixteen, the anguish of no longer being considered young, being above the rest. The pain of no longer frolicking in peace of mind and freedom

I write these words to you so you do not let go fifteen with regret but with something that you’ll never forget, so you don’t forget to say the words to the people that really matter. To have your heart dwelled in by the people that you love and hate. Share your glory with the world. Be fifteen and proud no matter what and appreciate every single moment of it.

This is a little rushed because I’m writing as fast as I can. Writing before the clock strikes and my time is up. If Is top writing in the middle it is because I am no longer fifteen but because I in fact took the next st

 

– December 26, 2014

Candles in the sky

I’ve always wanted to sleep under the gaze of a thousand stars, to have them pry into my life, and have them allow me to gawk at their magnificent beauty. Today, I realised that part of my wish has always been fulfilled. I am under the gaze of the stars above. When I was born, the stars were in the sky. When I first caught sight of a pubic strand of hair, the stars saw it all. As I type these words, the stars are watching.

The stars have never moved, and have they forgotten how to shine–some are glaring at us. They’ve witnessed it all: the rise and fall of great kingdoms, from Aksum to Great Zimbabwe. They’ve seen all the genocides–those known and unknown to humans. The life and death of the Hitlers and Mandelas, to the Shakespeares and the Voltaires; the stars have seen it all. And they’ll keep on existing, up until oblivion and beyond.

When you wake up at 3 am and think you’ve had a stroke of genius so you write what came to your mind, only to realise that you are going slightly crazy.

Spoken fear: Knowledge.

I am going to tell you about something basic to us as human beings. This basic thing that I am about to tell you about is in fact underrated and undervalued by us human beings. Knowledge. Knowledge according to most people is information or knowing about someone or something. This is actually quite right. The awareness of our surroundings is knowledge, the familiarity of things is knowledge. Everyone acknowledges that knowledge is as mentioned but not of us actually make us of it or understand its true essence.

We say that we have knowledge of math or science or our history, but have you ever asked ‘Do you truly understand?’ Everyone knows that 1 + 1 = 2. But what people fail to admit is that they don’t actually know this fact, they remember it. To most people the multiplication table is not really number being added a series of times, but a series of symbols put together to give a different symbol. People do not have the knowledge of math, what they do have is the memory of it. This is the form in which ‘knowledge’ takes today. All we do is remember, we never know. We see and remember, but we never try to know. In our day and age, our reaction to stimuli is in fact a memory and not based on knowledgeable logic. It is cold outside, wear black and if it is hot, wear white. But do any of us really know why we do this? When it rains we run, but why? We do this because we remember and not because we know.

Why do we refuse to question the ‘memory’ that is given to us? We have been set-up to refuse knowledge, we have been made into containers of memory, unable to attain knowledge. This composition of ours makes us question one thing, and this is our question of our memories. We are only able to question the questions directed at our memories. This creates a barrier between us and knowledge. We are knowledge deprived because once we attain knowledge, other questions will arise, question that the entities which created our knowledge barriers are not prepared to answer.

We also have internal knowledge barriers and this is our fear. Our fear of the unknown, our fear of knowing what is in oblivion and our fear of becoming oblivion. Have you ever questions why the sky is blue? Of course you have and you probably received the same old explanation about wavelengths and refraction and a whole lot of scientific jargon which eventually jumbled up and you acquiesced and accepted that the sky is blue. Have you ever asked if what we see as a blue sky is actually blue? Have you ever asked why one plus one is in fact two? Have you ever started to question everything? Well you have, haven’t you? You started but you never finished, because the fear of the unknown that lies beyond these questions is too great for you to handle. WE want to remain with the belief that what we believe in is worth believing. WE ARE AFRAID OF QUESTION BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID OF ACCEPTING THAT WE KNOW NOTHING.

Knowledge is power and guess what? We are all afraid of power. Afraid that we can’t contain it, control it or understand. We are afraid of ourselves and our potential for greatness. Our fear is displayed as ignorance. However, big or small our ignorance may be, none of us are ever truly aware.

(This is a very raw thought which has not yet had its time to cook.)

There’s Nothing wrong with dreaming.

There was this one time when I was young, I had gone to bed, the energy I had used to run around and chug sand was begging to be refilled so I went to bed, and my eyes shut. At first nothing happened, the only difference was that all I could see was black. I rolled from one side to the other, yawned at random intervals, and then the world began to imperceptibly slip away, and without my knowing I had fallen asleep. In this state of sleep I felt my consciousness wander to places I had seen before, places that I knew as well as my reflection but it was twisted… in a good way. My house with its cream walls and brown sofas seemed normal when I first walked in or should I say, hovered in. When a sense of familiarity began to settle in me, the windows burst and the sofas were blown away as if by the breath of a giant, and where the window glass used to be there was a car, a really old beetle. The car was also familiar though I had a feeling that I had never seen it really close to me, and out of it a really tall and robust man was climbing out of it. I want to say that his face had a lot of hair, but it only seems right if I describe it as his facial hair had a little face. His head was covered in hair that went below his shoulders and his beard went below his shoulders as well. I felt like fear should have been swirling at me but I was just curious to see what other thing would this capricious realm bring up.

The man turned to me and I instantly knew who he was, “C’mon, you’ve been accepted into Hogwarts, get in the car so we can go!” It was Hagrid! This revelation of the mystery man made me realise that I was dreaming. I was seeing all the things that the real world could not offer, my own little escape from reality. I was accepted into Hogwarts and was being taken by Hagrid himself!

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, if anything it is quite healthy, but this is not the dreaming that I want to talk about. I want to talk about those times when you drive by a highly developed suburban area and promise yourself that you will work hard so that you may someday live in such a place, or when you see the school hottie and wish that their lips would interact with yours. This is the dreaming that I am referring to. Is there anything wrong with dreaming? The answer in my eyes is no. Dreaming gives me hope, dreaming gives me a goal,a bull’s eye of sorts. Dreams are my fuel, my fuel for working and eating and just moving in general. I want to rule the world, I dream of ruling the world! It may seem like an extremely unrealistic dream but it keeps me flipping the pages of the most boring textbook, it gives me the courage to walk up to a crowd of hundreds and speak, and gives me the patience to tolerate daft human. Dream big or small, as long as it keeps you moving no dream is unworthy of attention.

There was a man, who was a boy years ago, he read the first Harry Potter book and longed to go there from that time. He read the second book in the series and his desire increased and as the other books were released he never stopped dreaming about stepping into Hogwarts. Ofcourse, there were always haters who said that we was just a dreamer and that Hogwarts was just a figment of his imagination. He never gave up. Today, this man has experienced Hogwarts in many different ways. Hogwarts has been recreated in many games with incredible graphics and this man has stepped in to these worlds. The Ashford castle in Ireland is serving as our real world Hogwarts and this man has not failed to be there. His dreams came true, he went to Hogwarts.

I am sorry for using Harry Potter as an example.

NO matter how big your dreams are, don’t stop reaching for them because they are the only things that are truly yours. People will try to smother your dream like candle light because your dream does not coincide with theirs, but push through and make your dreams come true, Oh and by the way, don’t be a dream crusher. You crush a man’s dream and you crush a bit of their soul (sometimes a chunk if not the whole). Fight for your right to dream even if you are the only one left (see what I did there?). Now listen to me carefully, I need you to think about that thing that you really want in life, or just for the moment, just for a day, a week. What can you do to get it? Think about it and go do it. I want to rule the world so I must just go around brainwashing all you.

The student of Hogwarts has spoken.

I love preambles!

Salutations! I do believe that introductions are necessary but I am not very good at them, I have a propensity towards veering off topic. With this in mind, my name will be shared at a later time, however I do want to say that I am at the springtime of my youth. I am a flower which is eons away from blooming, not knowing whether it is supposed to bloom with light as its witness or darkness as its mantle. Since I called myself a flower, I will use it to disassemble myself in order for you to understand me.

As a flower I must say, I am a pretty flower though still in my bud, my beauty doesn’t fail to radiate at such a young period of growth. My words speak highly of me but my word is my bud, and my word forms my petal. Words of arrogance form my bud, my shield, but words like marshmallows dwell underneath. Sometimes I ask myself, “What makes me so special?” The answer usually never lies on my lips, only at the tip of everyone else’s tongue. Though when I look in the mirror, I have always hoped to see the grace of an anthurium in me, or the beauty of a lotus, the height of a sunflower or the liveliness of a venus flytrap. But the hard truth is that, I am like neither of the aforementioned. I have the colours of a venus flytrap in the shape of daisy petals with the height of grass. I say this not to belittle myself but to try and convey the fact that I am not simple, bland; I am quirky, peculiar and in simple terms different. We are all different and we each see our uniqueness differently. I see myself as a flower whose originality does not come from its one of a kind sweet nectar or, unforgettable fragrance, or the tropical colours splashed on it, but from its ability to take fragments of everything’s beauty and bind them in one. Someone else may see themselves as a picture who changes depending on who looks at it, or a mirror who reflects what people want to see. What do you think of yourself?

I am very naive as you can read, I say that I am still to bloom, yet I speak of myself as a flower in full bloom. I am merely a child born yesterday. So this is as far as my introduction goes. I don’t know what else to say.I guess I should say, WELCOME TO MY PERSPECTIVE! Here you might be able to see things through my eyes, though I must warn you; you might see something bright and get… blinded by yellow!

The flower has spoken.