The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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The History of My Hair by Alicia Anabel Santos

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The history of my hair
My curls
These grays….
My canas
Are the maps of my life

Each strand confirms
I’ve lived through some things
I’ve been through some things
I’ve seen some things
My curls scream Africa
Afrolatina
Woman

Choking on messages about hair
That the world wants to force feed me
How it represents my true beauty
“Blow it out! Para que parezca gente!”
“Sécate ese pelo porque pareces una loca!”
“Use this cream it will straighten it!”
“Ven ponte aqui!”
“Come sit between my legs, I’ll do your hair!”
“Tráeme el peine, y las bolitas!
If I moved too much I was sure to get a cepillazo

At five years old I learned that pretty girls wore their hair right
Pretty girls wore their hair straight
Pretty girls got everything
Domestication
Beautification
Objectification
All words I had no idea were the very things forming me
Informing me
They were words i would become if i let them be
Wear my hair straight so i wouldn’t look ethnic
Wear my hair straight so i could pass
Wear my hair straight so to get that man
Wear my hair straight to have those right kids
Wear my hair straight to bring home those white kids
Wear my hair straight to get that job
Wear my hair straight to get that apartment
Wear my hair straight to be one of them

Because to be one of US
Was ugly
To be one of US
Was to be foreigners
To fully assimilate
We needed to change who we were
And WE were NOT wanted!

My hair
THIS crown
I never knew i was of royal blood…

And not just because France and Spain invaded my land
And had their way with my women!

Those crowns brought with them another crown
It’s where i got my hips, my lips, this beautiful hair,
To be black for me is found in my crown

The gray that resides in these curls
Hold my story
They are my legacy
They are my history
Each strand a force
Marking my stages of passage
My many hurts and disappointments
People who have come
People now gone
My grays are my ancestors blessings
The stories they tell are my lessons
Gained a new gift
Taken a new step
Collapsed to the ground
And got back up
Failed relationships
Poor choices
Tremendous successes
Greatest loves
Best lovers
A life lived
Each gray holds my history
My mother
My grandmothers
My great grandmothers
My aunts
My great aunts
My sisters
My cousins
My daughter
The woman in my life
These grays
I honor these grays
They are the essence of me
They are my story
I love my grays!

 


Alicia Anabel Santos is an Afrolatina Lesbian Storyteller, Speaker, Performance Artist, Producer, Playwright, and Activist, her stories celebrate and honor women throughout Latin America. She was born in Brooklyn and is a proud Dominican Writer. She is the Founder of the New York City Latina Writers Group. She has been a guest on NPR’s Tell Me More and her work has been seen in LATINA Magazine. In 2011 Alicia published her memoir, Finding Your Force: A Journey to Love and her one-woman show I WAS BORN was selected as part of the ONE Festival. She has worked for renowned magazines BusinessWeek, and Glamour, but it was an article published in Urban Latino Magazine, “Two Cultures Marching to One Drum,” which would change the direction of her life. In 2008, she joined Creador Pictures as Writer /Co-Producer of its first documentary, AfroLatinos: An Untaught History. She attended New York University and lives in Harlem, NYC with her daughter Courtniana. Today she can be found facilitating workshops for youth development organizations in New York.

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