Hair Story: The Reason I Cannot Swim

It took me a while to adjust to being natural. Like many people, I thought the natural look was unkept. I was so anti-natural for many reasons but the main one was combing through the naps. I have always been tender-headed so being natural was not on the to do list at all. I can remember my mother hitting my forehead with the knuckle of her middle every time I moved. Shit was painful bruh. I would try my hardest to stay perfectly still, out of the pure fear that a sudden move would leave an everlasting dent in the middle of my forehead, that ain’t cute (lol). Having relaxed hair was easy, it was easy to comb and maintenance was not a challenge. All you have to do was avoid water like the plague and not get your hair wet under any circumstances!

Having a relaxer is the number one reason I cannot swim to this day. I should have and could have learned in NYSP (National Youth Sports Program). What is NYSP you ask? Only the best free sports camp a poor black kid in the hood had the privilege of attending. Moving on, my relaxer forced me to stay in the shallow end and pretend like I am paying attention to the life guards instructions. “Okay kids lay on your belly and splash.”  I would be the kid making little to no effect at all. Secretly, I was too focused on how to not get my hair wet. That little swim cap that made your head look like weird did nothing to protect my ever so straight hair. Every day of camp I was forced to make a decision, learn how to dance in water or suffer the consequences or a bad hair day. I never budged, I would pretend to swim make sure that none of my badass peers splashed me. It was a nightmare.

Fast-forward to college. I had a few “aha” moments in the Rose Butler Brown class taught at URI (by one of my favorite people #TeamCamba #TeamCambaKelsay). When I realized that my dollar was my vote, I voted against relaxed for the damaging effects it has on black hair. It became clear to me that I may not be able to change the way people see black beauty but I am unwilling to continue to alter the way I am naturally. If my natural hair is not up to your standards, I do not know what to tell you! I am unapologetically Black. I am unapologetically beautiful.  I am unapologetically me.

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