Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sorry India, I am my hair...

Dear Young women growing up in today's society:

As I was walking through the halls of the job today, I was approached by several different students with regard to my hair.  My hair has been braided since the beginning of the schoolyear so many students don't know/forgot that I do not chemically relax my hair. The conversation went something like this...

Child:  Ms. Strong, why don't you let me perm your hair?
Me: Because I have no desire to chemically straighten my hair.
Child:  Do you know how long and pretty your hair would be if you would straighten it; why you gotta wear all those naps on the top of your head.
Me:  Because this is how God made me.
Child: If God had really wanted you to look like that, he would not have invented perm. I don't understand how you can walk around looking like that..

I am an adult, and I must admit that the conversation got to me a little bit.  I can only imagine what it is like for my children (like mine) who have made the decision to grow up chemical free,in an age where the chemcial relaxer, weave and wig are billion dollar businesses. India Irie wrote a song called, "I am not my hair," in it she talks about the different phases that she has gone through with her hair as a woman of color. I understand her trials, hell, I have been through her trials, but from there, our ideas become divergent because unlike India, I AM my hair. It is the crown upon my head and I feel obligated to treat it as such. I also feel obligated to speak out when I witness young ladies being bullied because they choose not to subscribe to the dominant paradigm of chemical relaxers, weaves, and wigs.  Everyone has a right to their opinion, but as I have always argued, you do not have a right to force those opionons on others, nor do you have the right to make anyone feel like less than a person because their beliefs are not necessarily the same as yours. Especially with regard to hair. I am as God made me, I have chosen not to drastically alter that which he has created, this is a choice by which I stand; this is a choice that I argue all African American young ladies have. Please stop taking their power away by making them feel as if they have done something wrong by choosing to be natural.  Allow them to make their own choices and when they do, don't malign or ostricize them for them.

Bullying comes in many forms, just because this not one of the most dominant forms, doesn't make it any less bullying.

Be conscious, be aware, and have those courageous conversations...


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bullying awareness month


Bullies Stink! would like to welcome you to our Bullying Awareness Month campaign. In honor of this being Bullying Awareness Month, we will launch a series of courageous conversation starters. We are hoping that you find the information both useful and enlightening. 

This week's topic is bullying and the "non-stranger." When most people think of bullying, they think of acquaintances, or people that you have causal contact with outside of a school setting. Rarely do we stop and ask ourselves..."what happens when the bully is someone we know and love? What happens if the bully is a part of our family?" As someone who experience familial bullying, I can tell you that it does happen and it can be the most hurtful; as these are the people that should love you and protect you from the taunting of outsiders.

One fairly recent casestudy on this is an episode of America's Supernanny.  Supernanny examines the Carzell family; a family with 10 children and 2 more on the way.  A family in which bullying is rampant. Courageous conversations are not something that extend just to outsiders, in order to get along in our on families, sometimes we have to have them there too! I hope that we can start to have them here as well.  Take a look at the Carzell family below...


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Continuing Courageous Conversation

To those of you that were able to attend the Black Girl Blues Webinars today, we thank you. We hope that you had the opportunity to have some questions answers, be provided with some very useful "take-aways", and be inspired to go back to your respective places of employment and spark some courageous conversations of your own. My hope is that the conversation does not end here. My hope is that you take this often marginalized topic of black female intra-racial discord and use it as a catalyst to create change for those in your life that need it. I hope that the discourse does not end here; and I hope that we are provided with more opportunities for ah-ha moments in the future. Thank you for looking backwards with us, thank you for examining the history so that together we can affect the future. Thank you for revitalizing Sankofa. To those of you were unable to attend, I look forward to positive discourse in the future. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Personalized View on the Need for Intra-Racial Bullying Education

As I sit here trying to begin my story, I am taken aback by the fact that I just don’t know where to start!  I have witnessed so many instances of intra-racial unrest that I am having a hard time determining which allegory to begin with.  Do I start with an incident from my childhood in which I was barred from playing outside in the summer sun because I was, “dark enough already?”  Or do I initiate this piece by describing the utter disgust I felt as I watched a family friend pinch the nose of her newborn granddaughter in an attempt to prevent her nose from becoming ”wide and Africanized?”  Or should I just jump right in and talk about my mother’s misuse of the baby bonnet as a means to preserve my newborn’s “pretty yellow skin?”

Our stories are narratives that must be told.

Wherever I choose to begin my story, I realize that it is a narrative that must be told.  For years, this concept of intra-racial discontent has been tearing away at the fabric of the African-American community; particularly the girls.

Intra-racial discontent affects the African American community, and girls.

Ever since there has been something called a “Negro Woman” in America, society has gone out of its way to catalog us based on skin color.  From the “house negro” and “field negro” classifications of the antebellum south to the current depictions of African-American women in popular culture, the “black” woman has consistently and constantly been pigeon-holed based on skin color, hair texture, body size and attitude.

Ok, I’m supposed to talk about my personal experiences with intra-racial discord; those experiences that necessitate these courageous conversations.  But, as I look around, I cannot help but see how far beyond me this problem is.  The simple fact is, this issue is not new. However, how we deal with it is. Admittedly, I have had negative experiences due to my dark brown skin color and kinky hair texture.  Nevertheless, I assert that because of the positive people in my village and my support network, I was able to power through the negativity and persevere.  Because of this network of women that loved me and treated me as if I was worthy of…anything, I was able to navigate this labyrinth called life.  As I look around, I weep for our girls because the village is burning and society has thrown away all of the water buckets.  When I was a child, yes, it was clear from the images on television that only light skin and straight hair was considered beautiful to popular culture.  However, I was fortunate enough to have dark skinned women with kinky hair in my life that carried themselves in such a way that no one would dare say they weren’t.  These were my teachers, my church family and sometimes the women within my biological family.  These women were the mélange of my village.

Is there Civil War among Black girls?

The aforementioned issue has manifested itself in a civil war among black girls; a place where name-calling, ridicule, deceit and physical aggression often play themselves out in our schools.  Often the behavioral response is a mimicking of the negative portrayals of black women that I see way more than I would like in popular culture.  These images often leave me with a sense of emptiness and fear for future generations of girls that look like me and leave me to wonder how do we fix it?

Start by taking the time to be a part of a young girl's villiage

While I don’t claim to have the magic cure-all to resolving the malaise of African-American girls, I do believe that I have found a healthy place to start.  The solution starts with everyone that has taken the time to read this.  The elucidation lies with all of those that are willing to take up the charge of being a part of a young girl’s village.  Making an attempt to understand this often overlooked problem and begin courageous conversations is definitely a good foundation for change.
Carolyn Strong will present a webinar entitled “Black Girl Blues: Insights/Strategies for Addressing Intra-Racial Bullying” on August 16 at 11:30 am or 2:00 pm (ET).