Hair Days

Ok. We’ve all had them. Those days which begin in negotiations with the hair. In my experience, this bit of diplomacy is often protracted and, ultimately, futile. My hair is twisted into dreadlocs that have been growing since the late ’80s. At 38″, they are almost as long as I am tall. (I am 4’9″. I can see you doing the math!)

Locs are spelled L-O-C-S, not to be confused with hardware meant to secure one’s belongings. Instead, l-o-c-s are a statement: racial solidarity, political stance, fashion forward, or simple convenience. Their meaning in any given moment depends on the context, my intention, and quite often, on the observer’s interpretations.

My l-o-c-s are independent thinkers. They are wiry and strong, some days resisting any attempts to style or direct them. They routinely arrive in a room ten minutes before I do and hijack all conversation. Inquiries about me, either in my professional capacity or in social settings, begin with the words, “You know, that little Black woman with the braids down to her knees…” Apparently, my l-o-c-s do not suffer in the least from mistaken identity.

They acquired a secret identity on my recent trip to Japan. One student traveling with me was a dedicated anime fan. She created a pencil drawing of my superhero alter ego. Not surprisingly given their tendency to upstage me at will, this other-me champion of justice and truth wields the power of sentient l-o-c-s.

Imagine the possibilities!

It’s an ordinary day, another lecture prepared, the last meeting attended. My l-o-c-s are hanging quietly down my back, moving only when I do and according to the known laws of physics. Then, suddenly, they whipsaw above my right shoulder, Warriors for Truth moving as one.

What foul deed alerted them? What will they do to right the wrong or to protect the innocent or to mete out justice?

Here’s where the mind movie has to pause for the Narrator. My 270 sentient l-o-c-s, motivated by righteous fury, are still attached to my one head.  There’s no need to do the math! Once again, I will be dragged along in a supporting role in the epic battles to come.

 [Whipcrack] Systemic barriers disintegrate, opening possibilities for all regardless of the shade of your skin nor the description of your gender identity. “… Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman…”

[Whipcrack ] Hatreds that polarize us behind lines in the sand in the country called Oppression dissolve. Now “…black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands…”

Not every crucial moment in a life changes the fabric of the whole society. Some of the most important struggles are small and quiet. At times like these, my l-o-c-s gather into hands, to reach out with the lightest touch, like a breeze slipping past a cheek.

[wind] This child stands up to the bully posting hate-speak on her Facebook wall.

[wind ] That woman and her kids all graduate the same day, she with a high school diploma and them with their bachelor’s degrees.

[wind] The guy over there got the brakes on his car fixed for half the estimate. There’s money for groceries after all.

[wind] She leaves him for the last time. No more lies to staff in the emergency room about broken bones.

[wind] They create an affirming space to be who they are, each becoming the person they came here to be.

My l-o-c-s don’t have a super hero name but they clearly have earned one. Wonder what they would call themselves…

[cue super hero theme song]

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