Friends that I miss

I miss my friends

The people I ate lunch with

Who I was connected to through

Homework and home rooms

Who drove me home Friday nights

And woke up next to me on Saturday mornings

Friends who I got lost with

Who I sat gazing at the stars with

Friends who held my hand and twirled my hair

Who told me I was cool

Who let me in their homes

Who called me and

Caught me when I would fall

I went natural because I was broke

If you are a POC who has decided to stop using relaxers, texturizers, and other chemicals made to straighten your curl pattern and soften your hair texture then I’m sure you’ve watched and read your fair share of natural hair journey stories. This is mine.

I went natural in Spring of 2015 of my senior year of high school. That’s right, just in time for prom!

But before I got to the point where my aunt was shaving my hair with a pair of clippers there were many things that happened in between that made me go natural.

Guess I should first start with giving a bit of background to my hair. I am a half Nigerian, half African American woman which means as a child I was considered nappy headed. It wasn’t all bad having such a thick grain of hair. My uncle was a hair dresser and I remember monthly trips to the hair cuttery where he worked to get my hair relaxed and straightened. This was a routine I followed since pre-k, but by the time I reached middle school the luxury of the salon seemed like a distant memory. My mother, for what ever reason, decided to stop paying attention to when I needed to make a trip to the salon and I was left to fend for myself against the beast that is Nigerian hair.

This is when it all went down hill for me. My midback length hair slowly broke off until I was left to work with nothing more than dry, chemically damaged, lifeless strands that barely reached my neck. A solution that I began to rely upon was long twists. If you’re not familiar with the style let me explain; long twists are done at a braid shop and typically take around 8 hours to do and cost on average $200 to get. I’d go with my sister every 3-4 months to sit through some of the worst pain and discomfort of my life. Eight hours bound to a chair while small sections of your hair are parted and twisted around with fake hair is just as horrible as it sounds.

This style worked for a very long time. It kept my hair out of sight and out of mind. It took away so much stress of having to style my hair myself which always resulted in small strains falling all over the bathroom floor with nothing more to show for all the sweat than a stiff sad small ponytail. In comparison with my real hair, the long twists were like night and day. I could pretend that I had beautiful long hair again and push the ugly truth far out of my mind.

Eventually the long twists began to fade from my hair routine. For one, the cost was becoming unmanageable for my mother who herself has alopecia and doesn’t know a thing about hair care. For two, it was an eight hour process which I grew tired of. I just couldn’t sit through it anymore. So I began to wear more weaves in my hair as I way to keep it styled and out of sight.

Even though my hair had been damaged by both chemicals and heat from flat irons, it did have its moments of growth thanks to keeping it protected under braids, twists and weaves. By the time I entered high school I remember I had enough length to make one braid going down the middle of my head that I tied into a small ponytail that was just a tuft of hair sitting at the base of my neck. Now my ponytails were still little but were looking less sad with a bit more length than before.

I’m sure you’re thinking this is where things get better for me, right? Nope! They get worst and then they get better, I promise!

My uncle had came back into the picture of my hair. He was trimming it, washing it (and relaxing it still) for me. He would wrap my hair, which is when the hair is straightened and then wrapped around the head to fall softly when taken down. This was a great time for my hair. Like I said, it was growing, looking healthy and most importantly for me at that time it was soft and easy to work with. Admittedly, I was kind of scared of my natural hair. I had never fully seen it! It was always matted under strains of lifeless mess that knotted on my head. What I did see of it made me only assume it was rough, dry and made to be hidden. All my life I was told I had thick, nappy, Nigerian hair which basically translated to “bad hair”. All my life I had my hair chemically altered, straightened with heat, or braided and concealed. That was all I ever knew and felt safe with.

So, how did I get to senior year of high school just weeks before my prom with a shaved head? Well it all began I early in that school year. See, I was still depending on my mother to make hair appointments for me and eventually she did not want to take on this task. Additionally, communication with my uncle became difficult and the promise of doing my hair was neglected so many times that I’m sure I just gave up trying to contact him after a while.

If you don’t know what happens to processed hair that isn’t maintained then I’ll tell you. It falls off! The bonds of your hair strain are weakened when altered by chemicals, that means they are super dooper prone to just snapping and especially prone to breakage when you do nothing to care for your hair like myself at the time.

So slowly but surely the health of my hair declined until one day I looked in the mirror and noticed a large patch gone from the right side of my head. When the hair that was there was touched, it began to snap off again. Yes, after coming so far, I was back to square one. I did my best to maintain what was there but I couldn’t go on like this forever and the pressure really came with the approach of prom.

So there I was, balding, with prom just around the corner. I was hiding my lack of hair skillfully with pulling back the hair in front to conceal the patch which had up and vanished. I was 18 then and working a minimum wage job that all my money from was going towards paying for my prom dress, a place to stay for senior week vacation and there was still graduation expenses that I had to worry about. Needless to say I couldn’t afford to get my hair done. Even more than that I began to realistically think what could really be done to it? It was completely busted and so I faced one option really; to shave it all off.

I wasn’t really upset about having to do this. I had no relationship with my hair. It wasn’t special or precious to me. I remember one day running my fingers along the wide patch that had broken off. I could feel the warmth of my scalp, it was sensitive likely due to the strength of the last relaxer I had put in. Above my skin I felt a bed of curls, little coils that I could push down on. They sprung my fingers back each time I gave them a press. It felt good to rub and massage my head there and feel the hair curl into little balls under my fingertips, it was possibly the first time I had felt my real hair texture in about 12 years. Those little curls that had already began to grow told me that everything would be okay.

I made an appointment with my aunt, a master barber who takes more pride in her work than anyone I know. She sat me down in a chair at her house, pulled out her equipment and went to work. In a few minutes my hair was reborn. She left a bit of hair at the top and faded the sides elegantly. My thinned spot of hair was so large that it invaded the crop of hair that remained and had to be filled in with a bit of black hair coloring. But I was just happy to be free. Free from the brittle hair that was impossible to care for. Free from the worry about getting my hair done for a long time. Free to sweat, sleep, swim, and move freely without thinking about how my hair looked at every moment.

The next day of school after the cut I was dreading everyone’s responce. Not because I thought it would be bad, I just didn’t want any attention over a decision that was made ultimately because I was too poor to get my hair done. Surprisingly though the reactions of my peers weren’t only good but also super empowing and supportive! I went to prom with a shaved head and if you’re wondering, no, my date did not mind it at all.

Now, four years after I big chopped before even knowing what a big chop was, my hair is doing amazing. As it grew, I actually learned about it and what it needed to stay healthy. I can now say that I love my 4c hair! Washing, detangling, and styling my hair has become so therapeutic for me. For so many years I feel that I cheated myself out of this very special relationship that I now have with my hair. No, I’m not attached to it to an unhealthy extant but now I actually feel that it is apart of me. I’m proud to wear my natural curls, I don’t fear touching them any more and my tightly packed kinks and coils are now taken as a sign of health and happiness from my hair (which I don’t see myself straightening anytime soon).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my journey and all its ups and downs. I’m so happy I made the decision to give myself a fresh start all those years ago. If I could do it all over the only thing I would change is that I’d definitely go natural much sooner in my life. -J.A.

Hope

How can the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened?

Death and disease and hurt that feels like it will linger forever.

Pain spread by the super villains of the earth seems to touch everything and darken it.

Eventually it may come to touch you.

Then you’ll have to decide what you will hold on to.

Pain. . .or fear. . .or hope.

Hope can seem like such a distant thing.

Floating out where the sun already illuminates.

But hope still does live in the darkness.

It lives there waiting to be fed.

And as it grows strong it repays those who have nourished it.

It returns that great strength.

So, you’ve got to find it and raise it up and raise it well.

For when the day you are weak and weary hope will lift you up.

Hop. Hope.- J.A.

Starving is the black mouth

They’ll march for women’s rights in D.C. but where was the march when our black girls didn’t come home at night?

And yeah they talk, wanna say something,
Call my brothers thugs but don’t give the schools funding.

So I’ll never let you talk,
Because your white feminism isn’t here for me.

Because little black girls get their curls cut off.

Because black women straiten their hair just to get the job.

And black men have to cross the street so you feel like you wont get robbed,

So they can feel like they won’t get shot in your “self defense”.

Because the Lord of the land who collects the rent done gated us in those ghettos,

Where a rose will bloom in the cracks but soon be spit on.

Cracked up and pissed on.

Dug up and thrown out like it was late on rent.

‘Cause they gotta make room for the white picket fence,

For the window view and the Ritz,

For the glam and the glitz.

Like bath fitters, luxury sky rises get dropped right down on top of it.

And yall only see it on excursion trips.

Peek at it from the windows of your six seat Lyft.

But could you live it?
One day poverty ridden?
Hidden,
In the shadows of the hoods that are rat and cock roach ridden?
In the alcoholic house holds ran by strong black women?

Memorial lamp posts with teddy bears tied for the streets latest victim.
They read: R.I.P., gone but not forgotten.
Rotten are the intentions of the man who gives another man a fish and only let’s him eat for a day.-J.A.

Monologue: Free

I had found myself so deeply in love that I was lost in his darkness. There I made home and danced to all the sounds of unknowing and danger. It was exciting to spend endless days and nights waiting and wondering about him. It was beautiful to be so dizzied and drunken by the drug that was him.

But, I found myself alone soon. He had left town maybe for the last time. Was I foolish to be so raw? To be so unsuspecting? To even believe that he had trusted me like I did him? He had to trust no one, not even me; the one person who tried to pour into him love and light and a sense of security that maybe he never had. 

The weeks following his disappearance I found myself living dangerously. If he could be a risk taker than so could I. I wanted to be indestructible too. Careless too. Trust no one and feel nothing too. 

I was in my own darkness then, riding fast into the night. You meet the most beautiful people on these kinds of journeys, when you’re running away from yourself, from your past. People who teach you how to love again – love yourself again. Who make you feel whole and give you pieces of your self that you didn’t know you were missing. I don’t know if I can ever say thank you enough to that beautiful stranger. Who showed me a rare sort of kindness that is almost too genuine and pure to be real. That I treasure like a falling star which in my darkness I could wish upon. That guided me out of the darkness that once consumed so much of me.

Now, I am free from that loneliness. I’m free to believe in love again. To show myself the love that I once believed no one would ever show me. And I love to be free. -J.A.

Uncensored: A new bold to the bold red lip

Okay, so obviously I had to get my hands on at least one product from Rihanna’s Fenty beauty line.

Being that I am a person of color it was doubly important that I spend my coin to support my girl Rihanna, a never ending source of black girl magic.

I figured since I will be turning 21 this month and traveling to D.C. to see my favorite singer, Lana Del Rey, that I needed something for the occasion. How could I then say no to “Uncensored”, the only shade of Fenty Stunna lip paint currently available to purchase.

At first glance it looks like your normal red lip product. I had watched some other reviews on Youtube to get a better look of the paint outside of the bottle and when applied by the masterful “Beautubers” Uncensored transforms into THE perfect red shade maybe never before seen by the eye?

But now it was my turn to test it out and boy was I jazzed!

The packaging of the product literally made my jaw drop. The sleek glass bottle looks even more dazzling and elegant in person. It was beautiful and sophisticated while still having that edgy aesthetic which we all associate with its creator.

I was mystified. First, I must note that the applicator is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen and didn’t disappoint when used.

It felt soft and natural to glide across my lips, and even though it doesn’t have a traditional shape it didn’t fail to get into all the nooks and crannies.

My reaction after the first swipe was, “DAMN this is bright.”

I’ve worn red lipstick before but this was a whole new kind of red. I was afraid that it was comming off a bit clown-like but then my sister reassured me that it would look much better after it dried down and I decided to trust her word for it.

Right off I was not loving Uncensored. The color seemed to be overpowering my entire face and though the product was easy to apply it wasn’t giving me that classic effortless look I was hoping for. I also was not wearing any face makeup which I figured was throwing off the look completely.

Some beauty products can’t just be thrown on a blank convas and I think Uncensored may be one of them. I quickly did my makeup and gave myself another glance.

Things were looking better but I still didn’t instantly love how I was looking.

The more time passed I must admit the more Uncensored did grow on me. Here are my final thoughts. . .

Uncensored is a BOLD red lip. It threw me for a loop with its vibrancy and hey, maybe I’m not cool enough to pull it off as well as I thought I could. The shade will definitely catch the attention of who ever is in the room with you, it’s really not the sort of red your eye is use to and I’m not over exaggerating.

The lip paint is more for someone who is looking to stand out and be noticed while also not giving a damn about what people think (so, Rihanna). If you’re not into being the main attraction or making an entrance this may seem like a huge jump into the deep in for you. I must warn that with this product there is no going in with a light hand. It’s a punch of red that you’ve got to be ready for.

Some cons are that it did stain my fingers as I attempted to clean up around the edges of my mouth, and not even washing my hands fully removed it.

It also never dried down yet somehow cracked the hell out of my lips. After some hours of wearing it and going back to the mirror I also found that it smudged and transfered to other parts of my face quite a bit, but that may have been me just being careless and the cracking can be remedied with use of a lip balm as a base before applying. It’s generally not the best wear for your messy girl on the go.

Lastly, the shade is far too bright and vivid to wear on a bare face (or at least on my bare face). Without a little foundation, concealor and mascara you’re likely to look like a sad circus clown and less of a sexy boss. This explains why beauty gurus made this product seem so out of this world. It really compliments a full face of glam better than that dewy fresh faced look that some of us may prefer.

A pro is that the more you wear Uncensored the more you feel it. The shade kind of forces you to channel your inner RiRi. Before you know it, you’re doing instagram baddie poses in front of the mirror and indulging in some wild thoughts (haha).

Final verdict-I don’t think I’ll be wearing Uncensored on days when I’m going for a more natural look but a Saturday girls’ night at the club is definitely the right occasion for such a powerful red.

It’s made to be seen and if you’re not going all out when wearing it then you’re really disrespecting the product.

So, for all those looking to get wild, sexy, bossed up, glammed up, and turned out Uncensored is indeed the red for you!

I wonder what colors Rihanna will bring us next in the Stunna collection. Will it be bright, neutral, a nude even? Guess we have to just wait and see. -J.A.

Threads

Maybe they were apart of the change, maybe they marched for us.

Or maybe they were the very people telling us to get up and move to the back seats.

And those very people are living and breading today.

And we hope that many of them have changed and learned to love, and taught their children to love.

But change can be a hard thing to do.

I know this from the confederate flags that blow proudly. I know this from every time someone looked at me with surprise that I could write

Or read, or speak with eloquence.

And so we like to imagine these things being so far, so beneath so many of us.

But they aren’t,

in fact the threads intersect.

Cross stitching and pulling the fabric tighter.

And look at the quilt it’s made, a beautiful flag of stripes and stars.

A picture of me and you. -J.A.

When are dead bodies profitable? 

Youtube celebrity Logan Paul has found himself in the hot seat. On his trip through what is known as the Suicide Forest in Fujikawaguchiko, Japan Paul came upon a dead body swinging from one of the trees. He made the decision to keep his vlogging camera rolling and even turned it towards the corps as it hung lifeless. In the video you see Paul step towards the man, focusing and commenting on the purple in his hands; a sign that the suicide had happened recently.

The vlogger shows shock and disbelief of what he and his friends had discovered. It doesn’t take long for him to go into a rant about mental health, the usual speech to his followers about how he is there for anyone who feels they may need help. Paul and his friends even emphasize that suicide and depression are no laughing joke. Paul then decides to let off some jokes himself about standing next to the dead guys body in the next cut of the video.

It now seems that the video has grown beyond the realm of Youtube as it is catching the attention of all of social media and even Hollywood celebrities. Many of them voicing that they are disgusted by Paul for all of his Youtube antics and his insensitivity towards the man’s death. The harsh criticism has caused Paul to apologize not once, but twice for his decision to post the vlog clip.

As more negative commentary rolls in on Paul, it’s safe to say his reputation has taken a major hit. There is a unanimous appulsion against the star as to why he would ever think it was okay to put such graphic content on the internet for his young fans to see.

But my question is, since when did we all get so sensitive about dead bodies?

In 2014 on the front page of New York Daily News the publication featured an image of police officers putting Eric Garner in the very choke-hold that would eventually lead to his death. This image has undoubtedly been viewed thousands of times and spread by the media to gain readership. Even as more recent news about the passing of his daughter is published, the image that once graced the front page continues to live on in association with their name.

In 2016 both the New York Times and CNN featured the live stream video and dash camera footage of 32-year-old Philando Castile being fatally shot in his car by Officer Jeronimo Yanez in front of the eyes of his wife and four-year-old daughter. On Youtube, these videos have reached as high as one million views with thousands of likes and comments found attached to them.

More recently, last year in April video went viral of the Cleveland murderer, Steve Stephens, shooting 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Facebook live stream. A post on DailyMail.Co.UK went so far as to include a still photo of the exact point in the stream when the elderly man was shot close range. Upon viewing this image you can see the gun pointed at Godwin’s head, his arms up bracing for the impact of the bullet.

These violent images have been captured, shared and monetized by major news sources. So what makes Paul’s vlog channel, where he receives on average close to ten million views per month, any different? The young Youtuber has found fame and success through documenting much of his life. His trip to Suicide Forest was just another moment which he felt needed to be captured by the millions waiting to tune in. Just as the millions of us searched, scrolled and clicked to watch and rewatch the actual deaths of Garner, Castil, and Godwin.

I’m not saying what Paul did was right but let’s all take a look at ourselves for a moment. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement social media and news sources were not shy to broadcast the graphic content of black people being killed. In doing so these sources profited through web page traffic, distribution of exclusive footage and views on the same monetized site which Paul uses as his main source of income.

But last time I checked, Paul never monetized his video. In fact, he included a disclaimer stating that he felt it would be wrong to do so due to the nature of the vlog. In the video Paul blurs the face of the man hanging when they discovered him. As they approached the body, Paul is heard asking the travel guide accompanying him and his friends if police were certainly called to come. In these moments Paul had shown more consideration and courtesy for that man’s life than many of us have proven we could have. Has he not? -J.A.

New Years

Vacations are mentally exhausting for me because my true inhibited thoughts tend to be obsessive and negative. They are emotional and worrisome. They are destructive and it pains me to be alone with them. I remember the days when they would win over me. The days spent shuddering under covers and grimacing at the light of the sun. I remember when they weakened me and chained me to my bed. And though I have surely defeated them more than they have me, I cannot forget their weight, their realness which protrudes into my reality. Warping it into something so frightening that I cannot stand to see. I want to write more. Maybe I’ll string enough of these words together to create something whole. Maybe I’ll leave something behind of myself that really matters. -J.A.