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My niece McKenzie won first place at a Jack and Jill regional Oratorical Contest with good speech about being yourself–nicely done.

Living Unapologetically

I remember the 1960s. Or at I least remember being told about the 1960’s. Peace, flower power, freedom and afros. A time when black became synonymous with beautiful and the afro was a sign of pride. Black people were living unapologetically. As pride grew, so did the afros. And as pride shrank, so did the afros. And as pride died so did the afro, by way of heat and chemicals. Appearance was a person’s livelihood. So if a Jheri curl was acceptable over an afro then curl activators and shower caps were in order. Hair modification once done for employment purposes shifted to social purposes which merged with psychological sanity.

I have experienced my own connection between my hair and social acceptance in a 6th grade camping trip. “Mom please let me wear it straight so it will flow in the breeze with the rest of the girls.” She finally gave in and I was overjoyed. After the first day of camp full of breezes and flowing hair I went to sleep ready for day two. I woke up, stroked my hair only to realize my flowing mane had reverted to my naturally bushy afro. I was devastated. I no longer fit in like a puzzle piece, but I stuck out like a sore thumb.

Everything has changed now. In 2015 being different is the new goal and being basic is the new fear. I’ve grown from a time where my afro was my shame to a time where my natural hair is my pride and fame. But are all differences really accepted? What about the people who are different beyond the superficiality of outward appearance.  A young woman who decides to embrace her body despite society’s mold, and a young Christian man who reveals his pledge of abstinence. Is this the same “different” we praise? Or is this the type of “different” we reject?

Truth is, standing out is not about being different, it’s not about going against the grain, but it’s about being yourself. When God took time to create you, he made you unlike any of the 7 billion people on this earth. And he didn’t make anyone else the way he made you. You’ve already been made differently. Standing out is simply a side-effect.  Why fit in, when you were born to be uniquely yourself.

I wear my hair the way I want now, not to stand out or to fit in, but to be myself. Marcus Garvey taught me not to remove the kinks from my hair, but to remove them from my brain. Whether my hair is kink-less or kink-filled, my mind is kink-free. When I choose to be myself and live life unapologetically I don’t stick out like a sore thumb, but I stand out like a candle amidst darkness. And if any one questions my authenticity, I reply with the words of Chance the Rapper “I don’t wanna be cool. I just wanna be me.”

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