I still remember getting relaxers and feeling the sting on my coily roots. All of my white classmates thought it looked prettier straight.. so I did too.
— Kristel

“Hold still and shout when you feel it burning”. Hair salons reminded me of fumes from oily fast food and black women congregating. They felt like home. When I was younger my mother would walk me into the hair salon and sit me in a chair, as the hairdresser mixed a white concoction that I would later come to know as relaxer. She would hum as my kinky curls were singed into straightness and I would sit impatiently, willing time to propel itself forward so that I could rid my scalp of the relaxer. I would then sit and listen to the howling laughter and relentless banter that would permeate the room as my hair was transformed into a mane of long, straight tresses. And for awhile this was fine, it was routine. Salon, chair, relaxer, rinse, straighten, repeat. But soon the sting of relaxer became all too familiar on my coiled roots, and this place of black woman fellowship, this place of happiness, this mecca, became a place where I could watch as my love for my hair unraveled. It became a place where I, black woman, could be a spectator to my own diminishing. But now I am older and so every morning I walk myself to my bathroom mirror and run my fingers through my tight coils as my scalp absorbs warm jojoba oil. Each kink reminds me of freedom, not because they are no longer relaxed, not because they are no longer straight, but because with each kink that grows out of this black woman scalp, I am reminded that I am creating a home for myself out my body - I am creating my very own mecca.

Words by Mumbi Kanyogo

Yemi Kolawole