MOTHER. GRANDMOTHER. SISTER. DAUGHTER. FRIEND.
You would run your fingers through my hair as I sat between your feet wincing. The curly dandruff-sprinkled extensions would fall around us, reminding us of how far we’d come but also of how far we had to go – a hundred braids down, a hundred to go. The necessary silence that would permeate the room as dry, pained roots became unveiled would give birth to your humming, so that we could claim this moment for your mother and her mother before. On days like this I would wonder how your fingers had learned this motion – the ability to spin order out of my messes; I would ask myself how your hands could turn angry tresses into calmness and three laid pigtails falling to my shoulders. You weaved peace in and out of my hair and heart, to remind me that I had always been enough – that my magic could survive storms and droughts. And on days when your heart had been broken, when your womanhood had been forced out of you to make you good enough for authority, for man, my scalp became the space on which you would reestablish the black, woman rebellion that lived on the ends of your fingers. Twist. Wrap. Twist. Wrap. You would spin sustenance and love out of welcomed silence and a shared understanding of what it is to reimagine beauty on brown, weathered scalps. It was in these moments that you taught me how to survive.
WORDS BY MUMBI KANYOGO