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Of Locs and Lice

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Photo courtesy of The Quilt Performing Arts Company

 

I often think back to high school – 6th form specifically – when, in a bid to get our hair growth going at an early pace, some of us males would try to neatly grow our afros, intending to style our hair in whichever way we saw fit once we had left the institution. I can remember how the teachers cried out against such acts of rebellion, even as our lighter skinned peers of various other ethnicities had hair flowing to their shoulders with no worry of being reprimanded.

Memory takes me back to growing up with pastors for parents. My decision to grow locs was always a battle. Two-hour long bible study sessions were used to debate with me regarding why I should trim. I’d say Samson was a Nazarite. I’d be told that God had given specific instructions to his parents. I’d say there’s no record of Jesus having to trim his hair. I’d be warned that I didn’t know theology very well. I eventually began to grow my hair but was very aware of the fact that I was shaming my decent family members.

I recall sitting in a professional office, having a chat with the head boss about life and the workings of business in Jamaica. As certificates lined the wall behind the her, she took me down her own memory lane to an incident where, as a fresh-faced individual just starting out, she had risked it all and added a little colour to her hair. After clients started to ask her if she was “crazy”, she got rid of the colour and kept the same creamed-hair look that I’ve always seen her with. Of course, this was enough for her to advise me to cut my locs, or else no one would take me on. I have nothing (much) against processed hair, but if all one’s education and qualifications cannot assure them the right to wear their hair as they please, then what is the point really? It just feels like educated slavery.

As my locs took form, I would hear of methods to keep it growing nice and full. I was told not to wash my hair for three months, so the dirt would help it to grow. Funny enough, as a high schooler I myself had asked a Rastafari classmate if he was sure his hair was clean – I mean, can you actually wash those things? It’s offensive, but it goes to show how little we know about grooming our hair as black people. I have had to educate others on the right shampoos, conditioners, hair types, combing and brushing treatments, diet changes, and even the right pills to use so you can get hair faster. Like, Jon Snow, most of us know nothing.

Lastly, I remember cutting my locs, as part of a self-healing rite of passage. A person’s hair carries their essence, their history, their energy. Those who cut their hair all the time or don’t love their hair will probably have no clue what I’m saying right now. I remember the entire barber shop laughing when I sat in the chair; and I remember the hateful stares I received when I got up as a baldhead. I had to go to three barber shops before someone was willing to do the deed, and he almost didn’t take my money.

We are still on the plantation with the same outdated legislation and mindset in the year 2020. You’re bashed if you do, and bashed if you don’t. I just wonder what we as “emancipated and independent” nationals are going to do about it; so far the easier route seems to be continuing in said fashion.

 

Blessings in abundance!

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