#BlaPoWriMo: Hair Crisis

Fluff up the frizz,
pull down the coils—
I’m torn.
The song tells me
I am not my hair,
but my reflection glares
back, demanding an
Why do I think this…
lion’s mane…
is appropriate for
the corporate office?
For walking on sidewalks
behind White women
clutching expensive purses?
For PTA meetings about
strict dress codes, bans
against colors red and blue,
bandannas in back pockets,
tank tops whose namesake
promotes domestic violence,
“distracting” hairstyles?
My afro enters the room
before I do. Everyone
turns, stares, mouths agape.
The atmosphere freezes.
I float in limbo while
they decide what to call
my hair.
It’s like a hat,
like a firework,
an overgrown bush.
Chop it down with shears,
with weed whackers.
It’s unkempt, nappy.
It is defiant toward gravity,
stiff under patting hands
molding it into a shape
more tolerable. It is
the fear of militant Negros
fist-fighting the Klansmen
buried in their backyards.
It is the severed limbs
of my enslaved ancestors
rising from my scalp,
reaching up, out, catching
freedom in the wind, in
low hanging branches, in
lost Bobby pins that
cannot tame my

©  2016-2023 Nortina Simmons

Originally published April 8, 2016.

Welcome to Days 23 & 24 of Black Poetry Writing Month (aka BlaPoWriMo)! BlaPoWriMo is a month-long challenge to write a poem every day during the month of February (Black History Month) related to Black history, Black people, or the Black experience.

I write a lot of poems about my hair. Black hair has historically been characterized as unprofessional, unkempt, untamed, nappy, not pretty. But the opposite is true. Just like Black people, Black hair is incredibly diverse and versatile. So today and tomorrow I’m sharing a couple throwback natural hair poems.

Today’s (and tomorrow’s) optional prompt is: Write a poem about something that does not conform to Eurocentric beauty standards.

Our natural hair is so versatile, we literally become different people when we change it. 😀


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