Saturday, November 8, 2008


She took her time to tame her mass of hair.
First, she’d make a strong mug of tea and sit
at the high teak table with a plastic bag.
Her cigarette smoke would claim the air.

A long wide comb in a cup of water,
she’d pull it out, tapping off loose droplets,
before running the comb through her thin hair.
The comb would straighten out the grey black frizz.

Still holding the sections, comb back in the cup,
she’d take a pink roller out of the bag
and start at the tips of her hair, rolling
upwards and under.

Only a pink and black sausage roll
was left in her hand ready for a grip,
like a white overcoat, encased the roll.
She’d take a sip of tea and a quick drag.

Then she’d take the comb again, wet and pull
on her tangled locks until it was straight.
Rollers would be rolled up and under
and covers in place, again and again,

until her whole head was a mass of rows.
Pink and white rolls, like gums and teeth,
gradually drying, gradually curling
straight. After Sunday dinner and dishes done,

the rollers would be pulled out swiftly.
These relaxed curls were then teased out like notes
from a saxophone, until they danced around
her head like a lion’s mane tamed.

Sheree Mack (see her hairstory I've got 'good' hair posted 22nd October)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Naturally relaxed!

Introducing Colette Machedo, an online news journalist for the BBC. She is also involved in – writing and editing – a Caribbean food magazine and a magazine aimed at ethnic minority businesses. She is married and has a 3-year-old son. In her free time she enjoys networking, surfing the internet, reading magazines and anything else of interest.

“The transition from having relaxed hair to going natural was interestingly made in a very natural way (excuse the pun). For almost 15 years I relaxed my hair on average about twice a year to get that dead straight, silky, look, which of course I was not born with. Yes, after years of enduring those burning sensations at each relaxing session, it is hard to believe that the decision to go natural was so easy. Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if making decisions generally was as easy as this?

OK, let me confess. If I am to be honest I did not really make a decision to go natural, the decision was made for me, knowing that it was the right thing to do. Also, there was no plan to go natural or stay natural, again this too happened naturally and without even thinking “should I”, “shouldn’t I”, etc.

So, why and when did I decide to go au naturel? It was January 2005; the start of a New Year and half-way into the month when I found out that I was pregnant. Totally overjoyed, I wanted to do everything right; find out as much information as I could about pregnancy, the development of the baby, etc. My maternal instincts were kicking in and I felt an overwhelming desire to protect my unborn child.

Soon after, I remember thinking to myself hmmm, is relaxing my hair actually safe for the baby? After all, I am putting chemicals into my hair…so could they pass through to the baby I wondered? Some people may call me neurotic for thinking this, and why did I not think the same way about deodorants that I sprayed on my body passing through to the baby too but the strong smell of the relaxer and the ingredients in it is enough to tell you why!

Research told me that no evidence to date proved that the chemicals in relaxers were harmful to a growing baby in the womb but there was also no evidence that proved that it wasn’t! The general printed advice (across several books/magazines) leaned towards the fact that when pregnant, women should refrain from putting chemicals in their hair to be on the safe side. I too decided to go down this road – and have gladly never looked back.

I did not plan to stay natural. When my hair was next due for relaxing after giving birth to my son, as a busy mum, the trip to the hairdressers kept being put off and off, and it continued like this until I questioned whether in fact my hair really needed relaxing after all. The clear answer to this was ‘no’.

The great thing is that after having natural hair for almost four years I do not regret the decision to go or stay natural one bit. My hair is still easy to manage, style, look after, etc, and in its natural state is in fact much healthier, since I’ve stopped relaxing it, stronger and the length it was before I relaxed it.

In fact I have never looked back, and I truly hope I never will. Why would I want to tamper with my natural hair state….when there is not a thing wrong with it? As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Hair

Introducing: Leaya Collymore who is 13. From the age of 11, Leaya found that poetry let her imagination wonder and be free. One of Leaya’s interests is music. She enjoys all types but mostly prefers soca. Leaya plays various instruments and currently is learning to play the tuba.

My Hair

Why oh why is my hair so thick?
Honestly it takes the mick
Sometimes the comb breaks in my hair
So I have to give it a lot of love and care
It’s tight and curly
Really girly
When it’s wet it goes all floppy
When I run my hand through it’s so sloppy
I like it when it’s in a pom pom
I usually get it done by my mum
People tell me I should get it relaxed
But I prefer to use my old bees wax
Deep deep down I really love it
Because its mine and it makes me shine!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Me

Introducing: Anduosjahla James-Wheatle, who completed a BA Hons in Social Policy and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London. Anduosjahla’s career involves supporting young people and their families. Anduosjahla has written poetry, theatrical scripts and directed theatrical productions. Anduosjahla enjoys the arts, and is currently rekindling a relationship with writing again….

My Journey… Me


It’s a Sunday morning, my mother is greasing and combing my hair, one plait at the front, and two bunches at the back. Any distasteful noises which I made were met with extra tugging on the hair or a chop on my greased head with the comb!!! There was no scope to make demands on how I wanted my hair to be styled, it was washed, greased and styled to my mother’s specification.

My father was a Rastafarian, and I know that he had explored the idea of me also growing locks, however he came up against some resistance from my mother. Given that I was an unconventional teenager who questioned ‘why’, albeit in a polite and respectful way, I developed a strong sense of affinity with feminism. I expressed a desire to grow locks; however my mother’s response remained identical and consistent, with the response my father had received several years before. The seed is planted…


As I progressed through the experimental processes during my teenage years, I felt a great sense of relief when I finally obtained my mother’s permission, to relax my hair. I thought this would be easier to maintain, longer, flowing and socially acceptable, which was a classic expectation at that age. To some extent it was easier to maintain, but the need for length and flow in a vertical direction were realistically unobtainable.

The experiment began, the gels, the relaxers were utilised, as well as many different colours, high top weaves and extensions; no distance was too far for me to travel, in order for me to obtain ‘my’ look. This was all about me receiving acknowledgement, but always with the recognition that I was unique and different to everybody else, so my hair style had to be a direct reflection of me. I became bored, I knew the chemicals were no good for my hair, nevertheless I preserved. I longed to grow locks, and constantly expressed my need to make that decision, parallel to a sense of anxiety and sense of acceptance. Distinction…or was it?

Spiritual direction

I stood in the mirror less than one month ago at approximately 1am in the morning and chopped…. and chopped, the relaxed, tired and processed hair. There I was looking back at me, a face I hadn’t seen for over fifteen years, it was the natural me, natural beauty.

It was time, I had received a wink from God, He was guiding me through this next phase, nothing happens by coincidence, and it was far bigger than a ‘style’ or ‘look’. All the concerns and worries which I had were insignificant; this was the ‘I’ which was waiting to emerge. Now I have locks, my hair is the shortest it has ever been and I feel liberated, beautiful and a sense of freedom. I’ve started my journey………Patience

NB: ‘Dread’- Fear, Terror, Horror:- I do not have dreadlocks, I have ‘locks’ as I do not identify my locks with the description given above, neither are they intended to give that impression to others.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Growing roots

Introducing: Patsy Antoine, who is a writer, editor and literary consultant. She has had creative fiction and non-fiction published in Best magazine, Sexual Attraction Revealed and in the forthcoming Tell Tales 4 – Global Village. Her short story 'Jah Goat Finds Liberty' was longlisted in the 2005 Bridport prize.

Growing roots

I hated my roots. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did. Hated the kinky life they had of their own; the thick ‘unmanageable’ new growth; the bushy clumps that contrasted so dramatically with its straighter ends. You see straight was in. Nappy heads were out. So I’d willingly grown into despising my kink and convinced myself I was acceptable only if I mirrored the ‘dream’ – billboard images that left no room for tightly wound curls or afro textures.

I was already some way along my journey to the ‘straight side’. But maintaining it wasn’t easy. The hot comb had singed my ears. The relaxers burnt my scalp. But it was a small price to pay when my hair, pressed or chemically straightened, fell in thick waves around my face. When it settled around my shoulders and moved fluidly like long grass in the wind.

But then came the steam treatments, and six-weekly visits to stamp out those ‘unsavoury’ roots. “Don’t tong too regularly”, “Avoid too much heat”. But with a thick and luscious head of straight hair I was invincible. What could a little heat do? So, I tonged and blow dried, pressed and hot combed. Avoid heat? Fat chance. It was too much to ask of anyone, much less me whose tomboy tendencies could barely manage the extra care needed to maintain my ‘do’.

Inevitably, it wasn’t long before those gloriously straight tresses became wispy and weak, before the dream became a nightmare and my visits to the hairdresser became few and far between. So, I cut my hair short. Boy short. Cut out the relaxers, the leisure curl perm. Suddenly, roots that were unmanageable and unsightly became healthy and shiny.

Suddenly, I realised that my hair looked unhealthy, not because of my roots, but because of its chemically weakened ends. I was a ‘natural’ and as my hair grew back I embraced my ’fro, two-strand twists, single plaits and canerows. For the first time in my adult life, I enjoyed my hair. No, I lie. I loved my hair.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was already contemplating locks. It starts so deep within, you’re unaware it’s there. It simmers gently on a low heat; splattering you with blobs of comprehension until eventually it bubbles to the surface and overtakes you. I started mine with a head full of china bumps. Leaving the salon that day I have never felt so powerful.

Nine years on I understand that my hair is so much more than decorative; it is the very thing that connects me to who I am. By embracing my roots I grow another set of roots into my history, my culture. I now realise that my hair carries the energy of my ancestors, it curls with life and vibrancy and its kink reflects the spring in my contented step.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I've got 'good' hair

Introducing: Sheree Mack, who is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, after having completed an MA in Creative Writing at Northumbria University in 2003. She is an active freelance writer within the UK.

I’ve got ‘good’ hair

"You’ve got good hair!" A constant chorus fed to me by my family as I was growing up. With this exclamation would come the customary feel of my hair, just to make sure. My hair was ‘good’ because it was thick but also straight not so ‘kinky’. I was told I had the best hair in the family and should feel lucky. I really didn’t feel lucky. I always had to wear my hair in plaits or bunches, with ribbons and bobbles. I could never wear my hair out and down. Why? Because, it could never withstand the elements; rain or wind, my hair would become a tangled knotty shrunk mess.

I thought I could change this with a perm. My mum let me. I went to the hairdressers at the local shops in Newcastle, meaning I was the first black head she got her hands on. She said she’d have to straighten my hair first and then perm it, because it was so strong. This was my first time in a real hairdressers and I think the experience went to my head literally, because when she asked me if I wanted it cut, I just said yes go for it. I wanted the glamour; I wanted that long straight hair that I could only achieve when I had a large towel on my head with the folds cascading down my back.

The hairdresser straightened, permed and layered my hair. That was over twenty years ago and my hair hasn’t been the same since. Something must have gone wrong in the process because it looked ‘good’ when it was wet. This was my ‘wet look’ phrase. My hair was constantly wet; dripping wet, and gelled up to the nines. I got a fringe from that trip to the hairdressers, a fringe I treated like gold dust. I pulled and curled it with curling tongs. I had to be more careful though, after I burnt my forehead. My god that hurt! I’ve still got the scar.

I hated washing my hair, as afterwards I’d spend the whole week pulling and brushing my hair until it came out, stretched out of its tight curls into loose curls. By the time it was back to a decent length it would be time to wash it all again. There’s something wrong when you feel that your hair is ‘good’ when it’s dirty.

Then when I became a mother, entering a new phase in my life, I had all my ‘good’ hair chopped off. I became peanut head, as my husband named me. It was basically a skin head with my fringe still, which showed me that I had a small head and a beautiful profile. I enjoyed this phrase of my life as I could just wash and go. I enjoyed the freedom even though while teaching I got called ‘Sonique’ by the school kids.

Then there was the time that I got locks extensions put in, but that’s a whole other story. Now, my hair is locked naturally. I didn’t go to the hairdressers - not after my earlier experiences. Most days I wear my hair out and down. And it’s glorious because it stays put against the rain and the wind. I run my fingers through it and it feels good. That’s ‘good’ hair.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lifetime of Hair

Introducing: Christine Collymore, who is a single parent bringing up two children (son and daughter), living in a diverse town, loving writing, music and art. Christine's career is working with people and she is involved with community voluntary organisations as a volunteer. Christine wants to continue with creative writing, and finding peace and love.

Lifetime of Hair:

Part One

As a child, my hair was mine but not under my control. I have pictures of me with an inch of afro, then hair straight with big ribbons. As long as I can remember, my hair has always been short, thick, and kinky. ‘The hair hard’; ‘Why you don’t have pretty hair’; ‘Oh gosh, you break another comb’, were phrases that were trotted out every now and then.

There were no positive comments, considering it was supposed to be my crowning glory. So I always saw my hair as a problem, something that had to be ‘managed’. And managed it was, by the use of the hot comb. Then my hair became longer, less coarse and easy to put into a ponytail. I could have hairstyles like my school friends…

Part Two

…Now I have control of my hair and mind. And, yes, I went through the journey of continuing to ‘manage’ my hair with the use of chemicals, relaxers and curly perms. At the time, it didn’t matter about the damage I was doing to my scalp’; after all, ‘no beauty without pain’. The phrases of ‘nappy hair’, ‘It is a pity that you don’t have good hair’, still haunt and anger me.

I have learnt that I can undo the socialisation, which has affected my attitude and thoughts about my natural hair. I have experimented with twists, cornrow and my favourite, my afro. It is my crowning glory and I feel that I no longer have to look European to be proud of myself.

In fact, I feel like a beautiful black woman of African and Caribbean descent living in England. What I love about my hair is the ability to be creative and be individual. What is it about the desire to touch an afro, got one message for you, look but don’t touch?

I would consider locs, but I think that will be a story for part three...