True Power

True Power

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Mende Tribe of Sierra Leone

The Mende people was one ethnic group out of ten brought to the America's during the years of slave trade. Regional warfare throughout the 19th century led to the capture and sale of many Mende speakers. This proud and strong group of people are most famous for their fight for freedom and overthrow of the slave ship Amistad in 1939. The leader of the rebellion was a man named Sengbe Pieh, a role played by Kimora Simmon's new husband, Djimon Hounsou, a native of Benin, Africa. It would be wrong to assume that once the African left the safety of his homeland, that all cultural practices were relinquished. Even though the slave assimulated to his surroundings, some element of his culture had to be practiced in the privacy of his home. The old addage: "You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl," rings true no matter which way it is said.

Here is a look at some of the rituals and engrained philosophies of life practiced by the Mende people. Try to see if any threads of this culture is still present in the African American community today, especially in the South.

One of the greatest sins a Mende man can commit is to give away the secrets of their tribe. The Poro society is the male equivalent to the Sande society. When inducted into this society, Mende boys are initiated into manhood. Many of their rituals parallel those of the Sande society.

In the black, male, community today in America, The Masons are the secret society that captures the male's imagination. There is much regard for the man who is a Mason. Men tend to have more secret societies with secret handshakes and codes.

The Poro prepares men for leadership in the community, so they might attain wisdom, accept responsibility, and gain power. It begins with the child's grade of discovery, followed by extensive training and service. During the seven-year initiation period, the young men converse with each other using a secret language and passwords, known only to other Poro members. The member always knows and understands what is being said. This is part of the mystery of this secret society.

At the beginning, young men aged 20 are called into the society and are trained by the group above them, along with a few elders. There is much work to be done during the initiation process. Dancing the masks is part of this work, but not the most important part. Only through work does the dance of the mask become meaningful.

Can you imagine the sense of loss the new male slave must have felt in the new world unable to go through the rituals and teachings of manhood? Never being able to be pronounced a man by peers had to have been heartwrenching.

All Mende women when they reach puberty begin the initiation process into the Sande society. The goals of this secret society are to teach young Mende women the responsibilities of adulthood. The girls are taught to be hard working and modest in their behavior, especially towards their elders. Sande influences every aspect of a Mende woman's life; it is present before birth and still present after.

Sande is the guardian of women; their protector and guide through life. It is Sande that grants a woman with an identity and a personality. The Sande society is concerned with defining what it is to be human and of discovering the ways of promoting love, justice, and harmony. It is a moral philosophy that focuses on the perpetual refinement of the individual. Sande leaders serve as models to women in the community. They exemplify the highest of Mende ideals, and they have the duty of enforcing positive social relationships and of removing any harm that might come to women in their community. "This is Sande; women together in their womanhood, in a free exchange of words and actions among sisters. Where ever two or three women are gathered together, there is the spirit of Sande."

Sande groups conduct masked performances that embody the Sande guardian spirit, who is associated with water and rivers. Descriptions of the society and its masquerade events have been made by visitors since the seventeenth century.

A woman's hair is a sign of femininity. Both thickness and length are elements that are admired by the Mende. Thickness means the woman has more individual strands of hair and the length is proof of strength. It takes time, care and patience to grow a beautiful, full head of hair. Ideas about hair root women to nature, the way hair grows is compared to the way forests grow. The vegetation on earth is the "hair" on the head of Mother Nature in the same way the hair on the head of a woman is her "foliage." (Boone) A woman with long, thick hair illustrates a life force, she may be blessed with a green thumb giving her the ability to have a promising farm and many healthy children.

Hairstyles are very important in Mende society. A Mende woman's hair must be well groomed, clean, and oiled. Hair must be tied down under strict control and shaped into intricate, elegant styles for the sake of beauty and sex appeal. Dirty, disheveled hair is a sign of insanity. A woman who does not groom and maintain her hair has neglected the community's standards of behavior. Only a woman in mourning can let her hair loose. The Mende finds unarranged "wild" hair immoral and connects it to wild behavior.

No one knows why the black woman puts so much stock into their hair adding to the billion dollar a year industry. When the discussion turns to hair, their is laughter and a sense of sisterhood. And we all know how a woman feels about other women who "let their hair go." I find it curious that we always believed that the slave woman tying her head in a rag while she worked was just something she did to keep the sweat out of her eyes or to keep the scorching sun off of her scalp. Maybe it was something she had done in her home land of Africa.

***In an upcoming section I will go into more detail about how the American slave woman viewed her hair.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Pregnancy Pact

In my family, it is not unusual for the entire family to sit down and watch t.v. or a movie together and do what we call "heckling."

When we pick a movie or show to 'heckle' we go all out with sarcasm, jokes, and our full on opinion. We know by the title of the show if it is good 'heckling' material or not. When trailors for the t.v. show "The Pregnacy Pact" came on, our mouths watered with anticipation.

If you are not familiar with the show's premise, I'll explain. In a small town, several teenage girls made a pact to get pregnant. The press got wind of the pact after over 16 girls were pregnant in school within a year and swarmed the little town to get the scoop. The t.v. show was based on a true story which I remembered when CNN reported it.

I have always discussed sex with my children. When they learned how to walk, talk and recognize objects, knowing their body make-up and functions was just a part of their education. Year after year information was added as needed. Every question my children asked me was answered. They have always come to me as their first or most honest source for information, this included math, science, history, sex, and other inquiries they have had.
I disclosed to them that I may not have all the answers but I would help them find the answer, because if I did not know it and they were asking, I needed to learn the answer too. So together at times we learned alot.

They knew some questions they asked made me UNCOMFORTABLE, but regardless how I felt, if they wanted to know something, they had the right to ASK and expect an answer from me. This has worked for us. At times we watched shows that would lead to questions and discussions and that was fine. I've almost fainted at some questions, took a breath after the kid would laugh at me and delved in and discussed it and even explained why it made me uncomfortable. In this process my kids learned courage, integrety, and to know having questions are fine and if one person does not have the answer there are tons of resources to turn to. Ignorance is not a norm about anything.

Back to the show, girls purposefully getting pregnant. I hope parents know this happens for real. Two of my daughters have each had a friend wanting and trying to get pregnant by the time they were in 10th grade. Why? Because no one taught them to dream a dream for themselves. While they were growing up, no one said "What do you want to be or do when you grow up" and nurture them in their dream that probably would change before finishing high school.

Why have a baby? There was nothing occupying their time. I heard one waoman in front of a store talking to an older gentleman, "Her son would not have time to get into trouble if he had a job. People are too soft on their kids. If he worked he would stay out of trouble." My thought: a babysitter(job) will not keep him out of trouble. He will just have more money to get into trouble with. Parenting keeps kids out of trouble. If the boy was at home indoors spending quality time with his family, when would he get into trouble? When your teen is out of your home for hours, what do you think they are doing except terrorizing others? No, staying at home is not being under lock and key. My family does several activities together as well as separately and I never run into other families spending time with their children. If your child HATES spending time with you, there is a PROBLEM. And contrary to belief, it is not part of being a teenager to hate wanting to be with your parents. I could never understand that. There needs to be parenting classes teaching parents how to correctly give autonomy to children while teaching them they have a responsibility to be an asset to society their entire life. Experimentation while growing up should not go hand in hand with causing harm to others. The only kind of experimenting that is; is learning how to become a professional criminal.

Anyway, the show ended with the main woman who was against giving out birth control at school because it sends the message that it is fine for kids to have sex, own daughter becoming pregnant. The mother cries and tells the daughter "But, I talked to you about sex and to wait until you were married!" The daughter said, "But I was not as strong as you and dad and I did not want you to think I was a freak or nasty for having all of these feelings!" Mother said, "Dad and I didn't wait for marriage. We slipped from time to time."

People let your children know you are human when you ask superhuman things from them! I taught my girls to cook; telling them that I burned myself several times while I was learning and continue to burn myself from time to time. I did this so they would be more cautious and know that they did not necessarily did something wrong if they got burned, it happens from time to time, it comes with the territory.

Heres a story:

A young couple got married. They were both virgins when they married at age 25. After 2 months the husband went to a therapist, "My wife cries everytime we have sex. She won't even let me see her body. Her parents told her not to have sex over and over while she was growing up and that it was bad and only bad girls have sex, and now she feels dirty and that she's doing something bad. She said she can't go from saying 'no' for over 15 years to now saying 'yes'." The couple eventually divorced.

I tell my girls God intended for them to enjoy sex in a marriage to protect their body and heart from pain. It is the ideal expression of love and the biggest gift you can give anyone; your heart, mind, and body, BUT that's the ideal and many of us do not choose the ideal. The biggest POWER you have is the power of "yes" and "no" and if you do have sex it should be your choice, your decision and not in back allies and under bleachers like an animal. If you are old enough to make that decision you are old enough to respect and care for yourself and we discussed things on being a respectful woman that began from their early years. Sex was just another chapter in a book on how to be the best you can be.

I was able to tell my girls this because I don't think any parent jumps for joy when their daughter loses their virginity. If they are 40, I won't be throwing a party. So, I knew that this part of their life was something they were completely in charge of. I would give them the tools to make the best choice for themselves as I do in every other aspect of their lives like preparing them for college, which they actually have to attend and complete on their own.

Choices have consequences and we discuss good consequences and bad consequences. CHILDREN RESPOND WELL TO HONESTY. Sex is normal, it is good (physically) whether you are married or not. You can form intimate relationships that may not lead to pain (doubtful) without being married (not impossible). It's difficult to wait and adults in the same situation would struggle too. Many Christian children leave the church in their late teens and early twenties and return with a spouse and family later. Think sex experimentation has anything to do with this phenomenon? Many Christians are late in life Christians and did not enter their marriages as virgins.

Children do know you are human and they know you are hiding something and they begin to hide it too which some parents are thankful for. It amazes me how many kids get cars at 16 and are let loose out of the house. I know their parents know they are not spending enough of time with their kids in this crucial time of development. Who is teaching and influencing your child during these crucial years? Then the parents say "they fell in with the wrong bunch of kids." You ARE his first influential group. Where did you go? If there are 40 hours in a week, no person will have more of those 40 hours with my kids than me or then they ARE the biggest influence in my kids life.

I have 18 years and then they are on their way, Within that time I have to furnish them with what it takes to make it in this world. They will continue to grow and learn but I supplied the foundation. It is a challenging, serious, rewarding job, but it is my job and I would not hand it over to anyone else, not a church, pastor, teacher, neighbor, or friend. And if I have led you in the worng direction, I have made many mistakes, apologized for the error, and got back on the horse and continued on. Sometimes we must admit to ourselves and other "Boy, I messed that up. Thank goodness I know better, now so I can do better." I can TRUST someone like that.

Christians should understand that thei child belonged to God first, he knew them first, loved them first and entrusted you with their care until they return to Him. God gave each of us free will and we should respect, honor, and nurture that. Help them to have a loving relationship with God, you and others. God is all about relationships, man is all about laws and rules. Remember, people usually only obey laws when others are looking.

Teenage pregnancy is not a school problem or a problem of society it is home problem; several homes. Girls usually get pregnant by men, more so than boys of their own age. With homophobia running rampant among men, boys are encourage to demonstrate manliness as soon as possible which involve chasing the ladies. REDEFINE manhood and half the battle is gone. Give your daughters a DREAM (and prepared for motherhood is a dream) and another portion of the battle is conquered. Parents, STOP lying and avoiding your responsibility and now our children have a chance.

The Bible belt has the highest numbers in teenage pregnancy. Churches need to teach the beauty of sexual relationships and empower kids to say "Yes" to the ideal relationship instead of "No" to reality. The church does not express what there is to look forward to in a intimate loving relationship so the cheap quick thrill that secular society offers sounds appealing compared to a knowledge of nothing.

While watching the t.v. show I hope you know we did not 'heckle' the 15 year old kids but the 40 plus year old adults acting like babies denying what was before their eyes. Kids have a right to act like kids and expect grown people to behave as grown people. PARENTS grow up!

***Sorry if I seemed hard of parents. It's a hard job. But once we become parents, it is all about the kids. They are helpless and defenseless even though they don't always look like it. Brains not developed, yet minds and bodies racing. Someone has to help them navigate. 18 years of helping them to be able to live a lifetime on their own. Daunting isn't it? But a happy healthy adult who loves God whether you tell them to or not is worth the effort.

Monday, January 25, 2010

First Impressions are often Lasting Impressions

On any given day, do the clothes you choose to wear insight fear in others? If you knew for sure- the way you walked, the way you talked, or the way you wore your hair intimidated others- would you choose to make it a part of your lifestyle?

Throughout history, youths have taken seemingly innocent, mundane items and used them as symbols of rebellion, aggression, and outright intimidation, i.e. leather jackets, slicked back jelled hair, white T-shirts with a pack of smokes rolled up in one of the sleeves over a bicept. The guys wearing these styles were tough street kids ready to rumble with rival gangs or ready to drag race at a moments notice to settle a score back in the late 1950's and the best known rebel without a cause, James Dean.
Today we have another group marking their territory with a hairstyle, particular dress code and the desire to settle a score with anyone they believe has crossed them. History repeats itself with deadly accuracy and pinpoint precision. It is never enjoyed. Voices rise up against it. But the rebellious youth will always find something to rebel about and to have street fights about. There will always be a rebel without a cause.

Enjoy the article below on today's youth and the dreadlock hairstyle.

"Naughty Dreads: Some Inner-City Youngstas Get It Twisted"
Pacific News Service, Commentary, Charles Jones, Posted: Sep 25, 2003
Editor's Note: Once a hairstyle associated with consciousness and spirituality, dreadlocks have become the style of choice for youngsters more concerned with hustling than healing.

OAKLAND, Calif.--When I moved back to Oakland nearly three months ago, I was taken aback by a trend that had swept through the streets of "tha town" since I'd left in 2000: Dreadlocks.

No matter where you are in Oakland these days you'll see them. Long, short, natural, flowing locks. It should be a beautiful thing. It should be, but it's not. It's not even cute. Because under the visual beauty of so many black men being dreadlocked is the ugly reality that these are the same cats out sellin' dope, robbin', and driving up the body count in Oakland.

These young men who wear their locks with such pride and ignorance have no idea about the historical or spiritual significance of dreadlocks. No, to them it just makes them look "harder." Like gold teeth or puff coats, locks are now worn as an accessory to make you look more menacing.

Before I go on, let me put this out there for those who don't know: For centuries people have worn dreadlocks as symbols of a natural lifestyle, spiritual identity, or covenant with GOD (read: Samson and Delilah). Don't get it twisted, young Oakland: DREADLOCKS ARE NOT JUST SOME "HIP-HOP" HAIRSTYLE!

I realized it was a problem when, here at Youth Outlook magazine, we received an essay from a teenaged girl explaining how she saw dreadlocks as a warning sign. When she saw dreads on a black man's head, she said she knew that he had sold or used drugs, or was a gun-toting gangsta.

Now, when I first saw this I was pissed! Assuming the writer was white, my initial reaction was, "Stupid yuppie." But it turns out she was a young black girl from Oakland.

I felt sick.

How could any black person not know that dreads have historically been a part of our peoples' connection with the divine? How could anyone black equate dreadlocks with drug-selling, gun-toting thugs? Walking home from the subway, though, I saw the example she was working with. I was forced to swallow my delusions about dreadlocks.

Revolutionaries like the Kenyan liberation fighters, the Mau Mau, wore dreads. Conscious, intelligent rappers wore dreads. Bob Marley, the crown prince of reggae music and a devout Rasta, wore dreads. In the Bay -- back in the day -- brothers with dreads were considered corny by the ghetto. Not anymore. Youngstas sport the style, but they're ignorant of the history and culture associated with it.

The other day, as I was walking to my North Oakland home from the local store, a young man with dreadlocks asked me for a cigarette. While rummaging through my shirt pockets I noticed him staring at my shirt, which sports a bold print in the image of his imperial majesty, Hallie Selassie (a former Ethiopian king who is recognized in the Rastafari religion, the folks that popularized the dread look, as the second coming of Christ), so I asked him if he knew who it was.

"Is it Jesus?" he offered.

I handed him his cancer and retired to my home in silence. I woke up the next morning thinking, "Jesus?!"

Look, here's a list of books and other dreadlock-related Web sites for any youth who got locks and don't know what they mean. While some of these resources focus strictly on the grooming and maintenance of dreadlocks, others delve deeper into their spiritual and social meanings.

Web sites:



-- "Dreads," by Francesco Mastalia and Alfonse Pagano
--- "The Rastafarians: The Dreadlocks of Jamaica," by Leonard Barrett
--"Dreadlock," by Lew Anthony
-- "Hairlocking: Everything You Need to Know About Hairlocking, Dread, African and Nubian Locks," by Nekhena Evans

Read up, but be warned: Studying the historical significance and spiritual properties of dreadlocks may change your life. It should change your life. If not, at the very least it should change your choice of hairstyle.

PNS contributor Charles Jones is a senior writer for YO! Youth Outlook (, a magazine by and for San Francisco Bay Area youth, and a PNS project.

I have contacted Mr. Jones in hopes of interviewing him. I wanted to give him and opportunity to reflect upon what he noticed in 2003, the time of his initial article, and now in 2010 when the number of dreadlock wearers have increased exponentially.

Being a dread wearer myself, I did not like the young men associating a hairstyle with any type of deviant behavior. I feel absolutely protective of dreadlocks and do not want anyone paraded in front of a camera on television, head dropped down, dreads swinging freely, in handcuffs being carted off to jail for robbery or being caught selling drugs. I did not feel this way about cornrows when I wore them nor my permed hair and I do not know why I feel this way about dreadlocks, but I do. I value the article by Mr. Jones and hope I will have the opportunity of incorporating it in my project.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stephen Walrond Interview Part 2

Image: Lenny Kravitz
1.When and why did you decide to wear dreadlocks?
I really didn't enjoy the experience of going to the barbers, they often left me with razor burn and because they spoke in thick Jamaican accents or sometimes in patois, I often couldn't understand them. I lived outside of London (England's capital) in a small town called Stevenage, which at the time didn't have any barbers who could cut afro-Caribbean hair competently, so there was the added factor of expense and time when I wanted to go to the barbers.

These factors coupled with the fact that my friend had dreads and could dread my hair for free lead me to decide to wear dreadlocks.

I have carried on wearing them because I like the way they look on me and I like that they are easy to maintain.

2.What was the initial response to your hair style from friends, family, and peers?
They liked it. As I have stated I wasn't the first friend to have Dreads, and I was not the first person in my family to have dreads either. The most adverse attention about my dreads I get is from people I do not know well.

3.What do you like or dislike about your hair?
I like the way it looks, my dreads are quite thin, not perfectly thin but quite thin. When they hang down they look very good and the look great pulled back too. I can tie my hair behind my head with my hair, which is convenient.

I don't like the fact that they are so hard to dry. In the summer time I can wash my hair far more often than in the winter because I know they will dry that much quicker. They also make my head massive, to the point where I have had trouble fitting into crash helmets on occasions I've needed to use them.

4.Have you noticed a boost in confidence or any other personality changes?
I have had my dreads since I was 18; I don't think that as an 18 year old your personality or confidence is fully developed anyway. I'm now 28 and feel more confident than my 18 year old self in some respects and not so much in others, but this isn't due to my hair, it's just life.

5.What is the response to your hair now?
Now that I live in London people really don't talk about my hair, nor do they ask me about it that often. I find that the people who do want to talk about my hair are foreigners who have never had contact with people with dreadlocks before, they are often surprised that it is all my real hair and want to know how I maintain it.

There is still the common misconception that it is impossible to wash dreadlocks, that they turn back into an afro if they become wet and that the process is easy to reverse. These misconceptions are easy to correct and are not often presented as insults but as genuine questions.

6.What country are you from?
I'm was born in and now reside in The United Kingdom, England. I previously lived in Japan for two years in a small city called Saito in Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu.

Stephen Walrond Dread Lock Interview Part 1

I ran across this great blog and wanted to share it with you. The author of the post was gracious enough to allow me to include it in my project and also gave me an interview about his decision to wear dreads and his experience as a dread wearer. His interview will be posted as a Part 2 to this section. Enjoy his dreadlock rant.

Just the other day at a bus stop outside my school and right by a hair dressers I was attacked by an excitable young hair dresser who thought that my leaning away from her and saying "No" was a playful game of 'tag' or 'piggy in the middle'. I actually shrunk away from her because I don't like strange people simply inviting themselves into my hair.

I don't know if this T-shirt is actually needed in English, I've never had an English speaking person just reach up and grab my locks without invitation, in fact most people don't even ask for it. However Japanese people will grab at it before even asking my name, sometimes they simply grab it and then don't even speak to me afterwards.

And that's not even starting on the stupid questions I get asked about them, most of which are plain offensive. Actually Japanese people aren't the only culprit here:

I feel like naming names, so I will; Shiv, a former JET and an otherwise OK guy, likes to make "it's because you're black..." jokes, and "is this a black thing..." jokes, in a very 'I can joke about it because I'm liberal and we're both of colour so we're brothers' sort of way. This is tolerable, it's not as amusing as Shiv thinks it is and betrays how very un-liberal he is more than anything. Well, the other day he casually joked about me not washing my hair for 3 years in front of Alex and Patrick, to which my response was "who wouldn't wash their hair for three years? That would be gross"... the question was met with awkward, knowing silence and the subject was changed.

Now let me ask a question, it's a simple one and I think you may be able to answer it: When my hair gets dirty what else would I do but wash it?

I've told people that I wash my hair with sand before now and they've wholeheartedly believed me... honestly, how ignorant/stupid can you be to believe that hair can be washed with sand!? And where would one get sand in the Midlands, so named because it's no where near the coast.

People see dreadlocks and they lose their heads, Japanese people suddenly think it's OK to treat people without consideration and the rest of the world suddenly believe that sand is a solvent and a detergent.

If we're still not on the same page then let me break it down for you.

YES- I was my hair.

WITH water and shampoo.

NO- My dreads don't suddenly become an afro if I wash them

BECAUSE- They're not held together by dirt

I would like to give people the benefit of doubt, and think that they could come to these conclusions by themselves, it's not cool to just grab at strangers and the only way to keep something clean is to clean it, but apparently it's that much easier to look down your nose at someone, make assumptions (probably based upon prejudices from less enlightened times), snigger, laugh and mock.

Category: dreadlocks, hair, Rant

Posted by Stephen Walrond

at Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Will You Do When The Phone Rings?

4:30 a.m.
Brrringggg! Brrringgg!
"Come take us to the hospital. Pa is sick."
"What do you mean; sick?"
"He's having chest pains."
"Is that him I hear in the background?"
"O.K. We're on our way."

I stood by the phone stunned at the conversation I had just had. I don't know what I expected to hear at four thirty in the morning. But the words 'chest pains' were not exactly what I had in mind.

We all know that sooner or later we will have the call of one of our parents are sick. We think we are prepared for that 'call' but, you never are.

My children have taken it upon themselves in the last couple of months to be my health police. They tell me I need to exercise and watch my weight. When I have a super rich desert they say "When you are taking insulin for diabetes, don't look at us." Or when I order a four inch hamburger with fries they say "How mean can one be to their heart." I almost hate going out to eat with them. I know they want me to be healthy and live a long life, but they are taking all of the fun out of life. I know how much they love me and would do anything to have me around forever. Jokingly I asked them if they could keep me around as a vampire or zombie would they? The answer was a resounding 'Yes.' There response led me to write a humorous book "Death: Life's Annoying Friend" (I have not approached anyone yet about this manuscript).

The manuscript looks at the inevitability of death and how no matter how hard we try to stave it off, we all must die. Most people if given the choice will die peacefully after a long fulfilled life in their sleep or as they say in the old west "with their boots on." But we all are not that lucky. In the book I begin with "I just want to die a good death and stay dead." Then I look at what exactly is a good death?

It is no secret that Elvis Presley died in his bathroom and Michael Jackson died trying to get a good night sleep. One man died choking on his partners edible underwear. So much for dying a good death. The list of how people die accidentally is amazing. I don't think there is a such a thing as dying a good death.

So then, what are we left with? Living a good life. Even while living we realize that death lives next door waving at us when we pull into our driveway, peeping at us through closed curtains, borrowing our possessions never returning them such as our eye sight, flexibility, hearing, and other body functions we take for granted. Death is that annoying neighbor we try to avoid and ignore, but is still there and never planning on moving.

So the telephone rang and I answered. I wasn't prepared then and probably won't be prepared when it rings again. The chest pains were just that and not a heart attack. Hours of worry and prayer and death still waving without shame, the only difference is Pa is waving back each day as he goes about his life-living.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Cry For Change Continues

In the book Judgment Days the author writes about the 1960’s, a time of social and political turbulence. CHANGE was being demanded from those faced with the indignities of being denied the right to vote, toe eat in restaurants, to use public restrooms, to hold a job, and to choose a dwelling place and not be judged on the color of their skin, origin of ancestry, or gender.

The cry for CHANGE demanded a leader able to organize and represent the people. A Baptist preacher trained in philosophy and theology would be the one to answer the people’s cry. Martin Luther King Jr. would come to symbolize a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love. His wise choice of true pacifism was met with resistance, but when scenes were shown on national television of black protestors kneeling, praying, and singing while whites yelled, spat, and threw objects or beat them, the civil rights movement gained sympathy and support from fair-minded citizens across the country.

King knew the movement of the masses was about more than one man-one person. It was a protest of the people who were tired of their rights being trampled. He knew injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.

An August 28th march, organized by King, of 200,000 Americans in Washington, D.C. was the backdrop for King’s famous I have A Dream speech. This is the same march that would inspire the legendary composer and singer Sam Cook to write A Change Is Coming. This song would be played for over a week following the election of America’s first African American President elect, Barack Obama.

King pressed forward when opposition leaders said “You are moving too fast” or when relatively moderate local white clergy called his protests “unwise” and “untimely.” His reply: “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say ‘Wait.’” This is the same sentiment argued when then Senator Barack Obama decided to run for president. King addressed a question posed to the movement, “When will you be satisfied?” in his I Have A Dream speech he answered: “…not until America is a nation where all citizens could come together in a society of equal opportunity in which differences of race, religion, national origin and region were no longer barriers to brotherhood and peace.”

King lived to see the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed. He believed both Acts would establish a solid basis of legal equality for Black Americans, but more needed to be done. His civil rights goals evolved into class and economic issues. He was trying to put together a populist coalition in which poor blacks, whites, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans could seek to transform the economy. This populist coalition would address the problems of unemployment, inadequate education, job training, housing, and health care; problems reminiscent of today and challenges facing President Obama. Martin Luther King did not live to see such an America.

It is clear the Civil Rights Movement led by King, demanded by the masses, directly influenced and inspired future protests against the Vietnam War, equal rights for women and older workers, rights for the handicapped, and the struggle overseas for human rights. Before his death King prophetically claimed he had been to the mountain top- he had seen the promised land.

His service and sacrifice of life must continue to inspire the masses to work toward the dream of ‘Justice for all’ whether they are able to live to see it come to pass or not. The people’s cry for CHANGE, echoes on, always waiting for a symbolic leader to answer. The attack is on ignorance, discrimination, poverty, and disease; not on a particular people.

Flags of the United Nations

Today I say thank you to all the courageous Indians, Mexicans, Caucasians, Blacks and every other ethnic group who joined the cry for change through the years. Today in the 21st century, there is a different cry. "Let them Die. It's Capitalism at its best" is the new cry from the masses.

As King knew, when the scenes of suffering plays out on national television, love will win. When people rant, spit curse, and insight violence in the name of conservatism or religion, however it is dressed, love will prevail. As people say health care will kill grandmother denying her a hip replacement which cannot happen, but the poor should not enter into the hospital doors is just desserts for those unable to afford health care, plays out before cameras, love will prevail.

Justice cannot be stopped by political leaders, psuedo-Christian leaders, or any other opposer. Injustice will always fail. Dignity of humanity will prevail. Label things that we hate as Socialism, Communism or any other 'ism' people will not allow their rights to be trampled without a cry for CHANGE and there will always be someone to answer the call.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Origins of Dreads Part 3

To love dreads is to understand dreads. Discovering the origins of the hairstyle is complex. Just as the once new religion of Christianity spread by small groups holding on to the belief in Jesus, holding this faith close to their hearts even when under threat, slaves held on to their tie to their unique culture through their grooming practices.

No matter where they were taken, in what was a new and scary world to them, daily grooming practices were implemented once they reached their final destination of servitude. They were not given classes in European etiquette. Base tools were used to make what was once considered standards of beauty: large noses, dark shiny skin, maticulously and often times elaborate hair, acceptable to the new society in which they now lived.

Slave owners had no interest in the African being attractive; only productive. Being viewed as beasts of burdens caused alot of African hair grooming skills to be lost. Bare fundamentals of braiding and twisting hair remained, but fell far short from being a source of the pride in which they were once veiwed and cared for.

So where in the world could the African techniques of grooming the kinky coarse hair be seen? There are numerous countries where the African brought with him his skills in the maintainance and care of his hair.

There were eight principal areas used by Europeans to buy and ship slaves to the Western Hemisphere. The number of slaves sold to the new world varied throughout the slave trade. As for the distribution of slaves from regions of activity, certain areas produced far more slaves than others. Between 1650 and 1900, 10.24 million African slaves arrived in the Americas from the following regions in the following proportions:
Senegambia (Senegal and The Gambia): 4.8%
Upper Guinea (Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone): 4.1%
Windward Coast (Liberia and Cote d' Ivoire): 1.8%
Gold Coast (Ghana): 10.4%
Bight of Benin (Togo, Benin and Nigeria west of the Niger Delta): 20.2%
Bight of Biafra (Nigeria east of the Niger Delta, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon): 14.6%
West Central Africa (Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola): 39.4%
Southeastern Africa (Mozambique and Madagascar): 4.7%

Below are 29 nation states by country that actively or passively participated in the Atlantic Slave Trade: There have been a number of African Empires of varying size and influence throughout recorded history. ...
Senegal: Denanke Kingdom, Kingdom of Fouta Tooro, Jolof Empire, Kingdom of Khasso and Kingdom of Saalum
Guinea-Bissau: Kaabu Empire
Guinea: Kingdom of Fouta Djallon
Sierra Leone: Koya Temne
Cote d'Ivoire: Kong Empire and Gyaaman Kingdom
Ghana: Asante Confederacy and Mankessim Kingdom
Benin: Kingdom of Dahomey
Nigeria: Oyo Empire, Benin Empire and Aro Confederacy
Cameroon: Bamun and Mandara Kingdom
Gabon: Kingdom of Orungu
Republic of Congo: Kingdom of Loango and Kingdom of Tio
Angola: Kingdom of Kongo, Kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba

The different ethnic groups brought to the Americas closely corresponds to the regions of heaviest activity in the slave trade. Over 45 distinct ethnic groups were taken to the Americas during the trade. Of the 45, the ten most prominent according to slave documentation of the era are listed below.
1. The Gbe speakers of Togo, Ghana and Benin (Adja, Mina, Ewe, Fon)
2. The Akan of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire
3. The Mbundu of Angola (includes Ovimbundu)
4. The BaKongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola
5. The Igbo of Nigeria
6. The Yoruba of Nigeria
7. The Mandé speakers of Upper Guinea
8. The Wolof of Senegal
9. The Chamba of Cameroon
10. The Makua of Mozambique

Destination Percentage
Brazil 35.4%
Spanish Empire 22.1%
British West Indies 17.7%
French West Indies 14.1%
British North America and future United States 4.4%
Dutch West Indies 4.4%
Danish West Indies 0.2%( 01/17/2010.

Slave traders had to cut off the hair of the African so that their scalps would not become infected from the unsanitary conditions aboard the slave ship. The slave's head would become matted and caked with vomit, urine and feces creating sores and a breeding ground for lice and other pests.

Slavery lasted from the 16th -19th century with slaves shipped from West Africa and Central Africa. The first slaves brought to Portugal came in 1444 from Northern Mauritania. Countries involved with slave trade and receipiants of slaves were Scotland, Holland, France, Spain, England, Denmark, Brazil, Haiti (1502), Cuba 1513), Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Guatemala (1526), South Carolina (1526), El Savador, Costa Rica, Florida (1541, 1563, 1581), and Belize (1655).

Brazil has the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa. The African American populatuion in the United States is only second to Brazil.
Deise Nunes, first black Miss Brazil 1986
Prized slaves came from the Gold Coast (Modern Ghana) and Whydah (modern Oidah in Benin). Most of the African who were captured and enslaved came from the West African coastal region that stretches from modern Senegal in the North to Angola in the south:Wolof, Sierra Leone, Assante Dahomey, Elmina, Oyo, Benin and Luanda (Slavery in America, Dorothy Schneider & Carl J. Schneider, 2001,p. 8).

It is clear to see that dreads traveled far and wide throughout the world as the African slave was sold to various countries. The hairstyle's original significance to the wearer lost at sea and in fields of labor.

Vanessa Williams, Miss USA, 1984
In the next installment on the origins of dreads we will meet some of the tribes and look at their hair styles to truely uncover the origins of dreads.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Origins of Dreads Part 2

Africans and people of African descent are known to wear this (dreads)hairstyle. Members of various African ethnicities wear locks and the styles may change from one group to another. The warriors of the Maasai nation of Kenya are famous for their long, thin, red dreadlocks. Many people dye their hair red with root extracts or red ochre. In various cultures what are known as Fetish priests, sangomas, or shamans, spiritual men or women who serve and speak to spirits or deities, often wear locks. In Benin the Yoruba priests of Olokun, the Orisha of the deep ocean, wear locks. The Hemba people in the southeast of Congo-Kinshasa also dye their locks red, but their style is thicker than that of the Maasai. Other groups include the Fang people of Gabon, the Mende of Sierra Leone, and the Turkana people of Kenya.

Africans brought the hairstyle with them to the Americas during the African diaspora. As a result of this the style can still be seen on people of African descent in North America, South America and the Caribbean. Well-known Black artists who wear or have worn locks include musicians Bob Marley, George Clinton, Rosalind Cash, Bobby McFerrin, Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Eddy Grant, Lil Wayne and members of the band Living Colour; authors Alice Walker and Toni Morrison; and actors Whoopi Goldberg, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Keith Hamilton Cobb.

Because hairstyles of Africans were so significant: showing status, religion, tribal association, and culture, one of the first thing slave traders did to captured Africans was to shave their heads. This served to erase the slave's culture and alter the relationship between the African and his or her hair which gave them identity because hair was a social, aesthetic, and spiritual identity for the African. Given the importance of the hair to an African, having the head shaved was an unspeakable crime. Frank Herreman, director of exhibitions at New York's Museum for African Art and specialist in African hairstyles states, "a shaved head can be interpreted as taking away someone's identity" ("Hair Story" Byrd & Tharps, p. 10).

Once a person is stripped of his own sense of self and ties to others, it then becomes easier to mold them into what you would have them to be. This is also seen in spousal abuse cases. The person is stripped of self, who they are, and who they can be. Isolation from family ties is also a piece of the puzzle. In a state of nothingness-no connection to any other person other than the abuser, the abuser is able to manipulate, control, and mold the abused person into the person of their choosing. No one has been able to understand why an abused spouse does not break free or rebel. No one understands why once the abused person if freed, they often return and sometimes protect the abuser. Remember, sense of self has been dessimated, family and community ties have been severed, the abuser is now family, social tie, and connection with life. In most cases freedom is destruction of that one tie in the form of murder and the abused person is left traumatized for severing their last tie to family. In the attempts of the African slave to seek freedom, there was violence. The freed slave was then faced with no identity and no tie to community.

The African community has never been able to repair what was lost in the "shaving" of their heads. A new sense of self and community never fully came to fruition. An identity was substituted for the slaves along with a new way of life, culture and what was considered a correct, acceptable hair style. A positive identity with hair has been a struggle for African Americans once they were freed. Who am I now? I am neither African or European. How am I suppose to look? Do I look like a race I have never seen with my own eyes or the caucasian people whose hair is nothing like mines? This question continues to be debated. African American is the category designated for blacks to check on official forms. But what do the American Black know about Africa? What does the American black know about America? And finally, what does our hair have to do with it?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dreads in the NFL

With the Super Bowl soon to be played out on the big screen, there is one thing that is for sure; THERE WILL BE DREADS ON THE FIELD.

It is amazing to see the dangling tendrels dashing across the fields. People almost watch to see if someone will grab the locks to bring a runner to the ground. Can you imagine the pain of having your hair yanked in an attempt to bring you down? I would go down in an instant. Yet, with this painful threat, men of the NFL continue to let their locks hang.

I don't exactly keep up with the pro football teams. I notice them on the t.v. as my family watches and I always stop to ohhh and ahhh at how long the dreads are. You can tell they are full and healthy from camera distance.

Dreads have added to the mystic of raw and confident; a force to be reaconed with. I wonder why these atheletes chose this hair style. Do they feel pwerful with their manes flapping in the wind? Are they channeling their ancestors, like the Ashanti Warrior who was known to be strong and proud and headed the resistance on the Amisted causing their captors to give them a trial and later set free to return to their homeland of Africa from America? Or is it just as simple of liking the hair style?

No matter the reason, they are a true force on the playing field.

Some of the atheletes include:
Mike McKenzie New Orleans Saints #34
Laurence Maroney New England Patriots #39
Marshawn Lynch Buffalo Bills #23
Langston Moore Detroit Lions #60
Devin Hester Chicago Bears #23
Josh Cribbs Cleaveland Browns #16
Bob Sanders Indianapolis Colts #21
Al Harris Green Bay Packers #31
Chris Brown Tennessee Titans #29
Larry Fitzgerald Arizona Cardinals #11
Since I do not have a clue as to who is who, I decided you would have to figure it out too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

No one can imagine the suffering of those going through this natural disaster. The death toll will be astounding, but will it be reported?

When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, America was gripped by its severity, but an accurate death toll has not been reported yet. While attending Seminary, I was dumbfounded to hear a fellow student say that when the abortionist doctor was shot down, he had been murdered just like he had murdered others and she felt his death was just. DEATH at the hands of another is never just (baby or man). We should be thankful God does not justly kill us for our deeds. On any given day when we 'slip' he would be justified in killing us immediately, before we had the option of repentance. Sometimes in our godliness we forget we are far from perfect and sin free. We may not be murderers, or homosexuals, or adulterers, or theives, or drug dealers for the world to view and judge, but as Jesus said, it is what is in our hearts, what others do not see, that will be our undoing.

I said all of this to say: during Katrina, many people incarcerated in the jails drowned. Here is a first hand testimony. From Prisoners abandoned and drowned in New Orleans: “Where Have All the Prisoners Gone? More Than 500 From New Orleans Jail Still Unaccounted For.”
“We were strictly abandoned. They just left us. When we realized what was going on, it was too late. It was total chaos. The water was up to our chest. You had guys laying in the water trying to climb to the top of their bunks. You had older guys who didn't have any medicine who we were trying to help. And the way we got out was we had to kick the cell door for maybe like an hour or two. And the cell doors, they sits on this hinge. You have to kick it off the hinge. And when you kicked it off the hinge you have to slide out the door. And Templeman III is -- I'm trying to explain it as best I could. It's two levels. You had an upper level and bottom level. The guys on the bottom level was totally stuck in this water. Lights was out. So we had to get out on the top level and come down and help those guys. And the police, they had left.”

These lives were lost and there are many that would say "so what." In the same vein, today, the news is reporting that a prison collapsed in Haiti but those prisoners escaped and are running free. HOW CAN PEOPLE IN LOCKED JAIL CELLS ESCAPE A COLLAPSED BUILDING? All of the other people in houses and office buildings who were free to move to a doorway for safety are injured and are going to be dug free from rubble; more dead than alive (sorry to say), but prisoners escaped and are running free? Come on!

How long will the masses be fed news instead of using news as a beginning to question the world around them? We are spoon fed information and believe it more than the gospels. When did we decide to become mindless parrots repeating everything said to us?

America is on a decline and the sin is ignorance. I hear Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck being repeated more than God, Jesus, and Paul and I wonder WHY do we give our selves over more to Alpha male figures than God? I have my own political leanings and I can not describe myself as fully Republican or fully Democrat but I am fully Christian and will never follow any man blindly. I will give no human more loyalty than God. So that's why I am not fully behind one political party. No one walking on earth deserves that much loyalty. My family understands, no matter how hard it may be, I will not lose my soul for them, my life yes, my soul, NO.

I am not angry at the media, they must make a buck. But, we as a people must not lose our humanity. To be human is to use the one thing that separates us from all other creatures, our ability to think and to act rationally on those thoughts.

I hope today we mourn the loss of all life including those incarcerated. Believe it or not, God loved those lives or he would not have created them. The wrong they have done will be judged no differently than the wrong we have done. We will all answer to God for our lives. We plead for mercy and forgiveness and believed it should be given on demand. Me, as a flawed human, could never begrudge a person a chance to live, to have a chance to hopefully have time to come to the realization that they need forgiveness. If this chance had been denied me when I was in my early twenties, I'm sure there would have been those saying if I was murdered, I had been dealt equal judgment as in the abortion doctor's case. I have never killed anyone physically, but definitely with words. Now I am a light for God, just as he intended for me to be with my creation. My name actually means "Gift of God" It meant that even when I wasn't a gift of God. I now try to live up to my name.

The Bible says the angels in heaven rejoice every time one soul is saved. If one of those prisoners would have found salvation, there would have been rejoicing in heaven. On earth we do not rejoice over one saved soul. We seem to find joy in pointing at the unsaved (in our own knowledge of who is or who is not saved).

The righteous have enough of people who care about them, almost their own fan club. What about the unsaved, who cares about them?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Ohhhhh Weeeeeee! It's cold!

In a state of painfully high summer temperatures and tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth drought, we are frozen to muteness by this arctic blast. My day wear as well as night wear for the past four days----long johns (PC: thermal underwear). Even though they are lilac purple with lovely yellow, orange and peach flower buds on them, they are still long johns.
There has only been threats of snow and a tease of sleet, but the cold is brutal. Our schools closed Thursday and Friday. I was forced to cook chili, my special recipe; ground beef and shredded chicken soup and other hearty meals. I must say it was nice snuggling up to warm bowls of comfort food watching Alabama win the playoff; an activity I would not have participated in if there had not been an artic freeze. My husband and daughters watch football and basketball. I watch the Antique
Roadshow and Turner Classic Movies.
The cold is retreating gradually. Today was sunny and warm, 45 degrees. I caught a break in the freezing temps and planted some hyacinth bulbs, blue and red. I started some seeds indoors: dianthus and blanket flowers. The dianthus have sprouted and now must survive to seedling stage indoors until the first week of April when I can transplant them. GOOD LUCK! (Hyacinth)
I also had the opportunity to read the book "Judgement Days, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King JR., And The Laws That Changed America" by Pulitzer Prize winner, Nick Kotz. Look for a book review later.

The book I can't wait to get a hold of to review is the controversial "Game Change" in which Senator Reid is apologizing for. To know Hillary could not control Bill Clinton is funny but not shocking ( look at older posts for my picture with her). I must agree the comparison of Senator Reid and Trent Lott are apples and oranges.

To all others enduring more frigid temps, hang in there, stay warm safely, and eat some comforting foods.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Origins of Dreads part 1

Mullet hair style
Emo hairstyle
If you were to ask the everyday person about the origins of dreads or what they know about dreads; they would begin with Jamaica and the Rastafarians. Dreads are mostly associated with Jamaica and their political struggle. But, after careful investigation, the origins of Dreads can clearly be traced back to Africa. There are several other countries that have an association with dreads such as India and Egypt, but the hair style was an intregal part of the African culture.

Early in Egyptian history plaits were a part of life. Lycinus (an Olympian)is being described as a young Egyptian and his preferred hair style: "This boy is not merely black; he has thick lips and his legs are too thin...his hair is worn in a plait behind shows that he is not a freeman." Another man in history, Timolaus, is quoted in a rebutal about the description of Licinus not being a freeman and the way men wear their hair as saying: "But that is a sign of really distinguished birth in Egypt, Lycinus, all freeborn children plait their hair until they reach manhood. It is the exact opposite of the custom of our ancestors who thought it seemly for old men to secure their hair with a gold brooch to keep it in place." (Lucian, Navigations, paras 2-3).

A recently discovered papyrus from Egypt informs us that Myron the Greek scultor of the middle 5th century B.C. made statues of the athlete Timanthes, victorous in Olympia in 456 B.C.and Lycinus, victorious in 448 and 444 B.C.

There is no other continent in which you can see a diversity of beauty than in Africa. It is from this physical and genetic diversity that all the worlds differing ethinic groups spring from. Africa boasts a full speectrum of skin tones, hair textures ranging from the deep kinky hair of the Mandigos of Sierra Leone to the loosely curled flowing locks of the Ashanti people. The Qua-qua people wear their long locks of hair plaited and twisted which they daub with palm oil and red earth. Many of the people of Africa hair styles are rich in religious and cultural practices.

African hairstyles could also signify status within each tribe. Masai warriors tied the front of their hair into sections of tiny braids while the back hair was allowed to grow to waist legnth. Africans brought their hairstyles with them to the Americas and other countries as they were captured and sold into slavery. As a result of this, the hair styles can still be seen on people of African descent in North America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Hairstyle can be an indicator of group membership: Metalheads can often feature long hair for headbanging, although long hair is commonplace for many men and women outside of heavy metal (ex: Indian sadhus, the hippie subculture, etc). Mohawk haircuts are often associated with punk rock and the punk subculture along with Skinhead haircuts, where the head is often shaved completely bald, or "buzzed." The Mullet hairstyles, has stereotypically been portrayed as pertaining to rednecks. Deathhawk a larger, fuller, back combed version of a mohawk - is popular in the gothic sub-culture, and heavily featured in deathrock and gothic rock bands in the 1980s. The undercut, where the sides and back of the head are shaved short or bald, and the top hair is allowed to grow long is common among so-called "cybergoths" and followers of Industrial and heavy electronic music scenes. This is especially true of women in these subcultures, although the undercut is accepted as a unisex hair style. The Fascinator, is a hair style where the hair is short at the back and long at the front and the front forms itself into a point, similar to a mullet in reverse (also known as a frullet) or a devil lock. Hair that is usually short with a long side fringe [American: bangs] is a cut often associated with emo music and its fan basis. It is often dyed black or vibrant and contrasting colors such as pink or blue. It is considered a unisex haircut and often appears similar to the mop-top (source wikipedia).

Even though hair style choice is individual and as of the 21st century viewed as a personal statement not necessarily tied to any spiritual, political, or group association, the origins of the hair style is not negated. There will always be an acknowledgement of its origins whether they are adhered to or not by its wearer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Layla Dudley--Hair Stylist and Dread Wearer

1. How long have you been a hair stylist?
I've been licensed for about a year and a half, but had been working with synthetic hair, including dreads, braiding, hair falls and extensions since 2005.

2. What hairstyle do you have and for how long?
I'm currently growing my first set of natural locs that I started by braiding in dreadlock extensions in early October , and then had the sections backcombed in early December, so they're still brand new. They're teaching me so much!

3. What is the number one problem in maintaining dreads?
This is speaking mostly from experience with Caucasian hair, as I have had far more clients with moderately curly to wavy, Caucasian hair types than more coarse, curly ethnic or African hair types. For this hair type in newer dreads, loose hairs. When hair is not naturally extremely curly, new dreads will try to separate and take on a loose or flat appearance without fairly regular self touch ups and lots of rolling. Depending on the maturity of the overall dread, this can be controlled by a fairly aggressive campaign of self maintinence, including rolling, reshaping and forming dreads when hair is damp after showers and swims, as well as utilizing wax, tightening gels and so called accelerator sprays that are mainly salt water and minerals. The best accelerator that I recently experienced was a healthy dose of the Pacific Ocean this winter in Sayulita, Mexico.

5. How often should they be washed and conditioned?
Initially, a lot less, about once a week to really cleanse the scalp, but in the formation stage, this is when the shape of dreads can be most disrupted, as well as most easily reformed. Once dreads have reached a healthy stage of maturity, which varies greatly but can be up to a year, dreads can be washed as you would your unlocked hair, every 2-3 days depending on your activity level (sweating) and length (drying time). I would definitely recommend using a residue free soap on dreads (I use Dr. Bronners) and conditioner only on the mature parts of dreads when necessary, and if dreads are long or dense, help the drying process along with a hair dryer to avoid problems with mildew.

6. Do you see natural hair styles as a fad or a hairstyle that will be around for a while?
I think dreads in my community here in Eugene, OR for all types of people have always been a part of our style and community identity, and I see them as becoming more and more an acceptable look for any race as long as they are done with style. My dread clients have varied greatly in age, background, and motivation for getting dreads, but all were eager to explore this hairstyle as a chance to transform some part of their image and thus part of their ego, and I think that curiousity and desire for change will continue to drive people of all raves to explore the possibilities of their hair.

7. What is the average number of your clients with dreads? Natural hair?
I currently have about 15 clients on whom I have either installed (initially backcombed), maintained or colored existing natural dreads, and at least 3 on whom I have removed their locks by either cutting or combing out as much hair as possible. I have seen some only once for the initial appointment, but some I've seen many times along the journey. One particular friend I have been working on her dreads that started fairly naturally (not sectioned or backcombed at all) with waist length wavy Caucasian hair for almost 2 years helping her create more neatly formed sections and weaving hairs back into larger dreads. Basically some major restructuring work that I sometimes see more as a combination of weaving and architecture more than doing hair at times. I estimate I've spent at least 20 -25 hours total on her hair and there's always more to be done. From this experience, I've learned that starting with shorter hair can actually be a lot less work in the long run.

8. Are more women or men going natural and choosing dreads?
Out of my current clients, its roughly half and half. Men tend to mistakenly assume this will be a relatively low maintainece hairstyle, women tend to come in having done at least some of the research, but of course this is just generalization. It is my experience though that women are a bit more invested in the outcome of the dreading process "looking good" than men.

9. What state are you from? I grew up in the Northwest and currently reside in Eugene, OR

This is for myself:

1. When and why did you decide to wear dreadlocks?
It was part of a long term plan hatched about this time last year when I decided to go from a level 3 brown back to blonde. Its was a nasty process chemically and mostly trashed my hair. I had to lose a lot of length, but I was ready to let it go. I think it was them I decided if I could live with a shorter cut, I could try out dreads. Over the next few months, I started going blonder and blonder and soon I was off the chart white platinum. My hair was getting chemically coarse and was alreadly a moderately curly texture, so that by the time I was ready to commit to this journey, my hair was more than ready to act like velcro just as I had planned. The first step to create my dreads was braiding in my last set of extensions that I'll be wearing for awhile to start some sections with little seed dreads in my hair. This worked great and I ended up wearing them for almost 2 months before we removed them in early December '09 and backcombed the loose hair in to each of the "seeds." We then tied a string around each section to keep them from creeping together, and now about a month later I'm starting to pull them out and replace them with fresh rubber bands.

So there's the when and how, the why... well I've always been fascinated by locs as long as I can remember. The idea that hair can vary in thickness and texture, and bind together like ropes has always contained an otherworldly beauty for me. The images of famous dread wearers like Bob Marley and Whoppi Goldberg have of course stood out to me as some of the earliest in my memory, but these days there are so many amazing locs that you see on all types of hair - inspiration is literally everywhere!

2. What was the initial response to your hair style from friends, family, and peers?
All good. In fact, I was racking my brain to think of anyone who was surprised in the least or made any negative comment (at least to my face). I think mostly because everyone in my life was used to me changing my hairstyles so rapidly in the last couple years, and the fact that I like to use my own hair to experiment with various styles that I would do on others. I count at least 12 different styles including braids, dreadlock extensions, short and fun haircuts and various colors in the last two years, roughly one every two months. In that way, locks are going to be a change for me as I plan to wear them for at least a year or longer depending on how I think they are going at that time. I do have a vision of myself with long natural locs and I'd like to see them with a bit of length, si I know I'm committed to the process. I'll of course be having plenty of fun with hair dye along the way, but for now the white platinum will stay and later become a great canvas to create any number of different color schemes.

3. What do you like or dislike about your hair?
I like the size of the locs I've started I like the feeling of the little locs as they start to become more and more solid. I like the way I look in dreads and I like the response I get to them. They make me pretty darn happy. I dislike washing them at the time being, but if feels great to scrub my scalp. I dislike how much I have to form them at their early stages, but its helping me realize just how cruital the early stages of formation are to a nicely formed lock. Overall the likes outweigh the dislikes and it keeps getting better as the process goes along.

4. Have you noticed a boost in confidence or any other personality changes?
Not distinctly from many other of the styles I've had over the years, simply because my natural locs looks a lot more "normal" compared to some of the other styles I've had over the years. I'm used to getting a lot stranger looks than I get now. I do like the concept that I'm going to be dedicated to this style for a long time, so it will give me a sense of stability that I haven't had for some time.

5. What is the response to your hair now?
Again, great! But it hasn't been that long in the big scheme of things.

6. What state are you from? Eugene, OR

Thursday, January 7, 2010

William DeShay, A Family Affair

DeShay and Sons

1)When and why did you decide to wear dreadlocks?
I believe the first time I made the decision to lock my hair was around 1986-87. I was a Process Server for a company in Cali. (Robert A. Cook & Staff) and we would deliver subpoena’s for lawyers to different entities. One day I had to go to the Santa Monica Superior Court building for some business and while there I had to see a judge in a courtroom. When I entered the court, my eyes perused the room and I noticed an African American man (a lawyer) sitting with his defendant (who was Caucasian..). The gentleman was well dressed in a gray pin-striped double-breasted suit. That wasn’t, however, what caught my eye. He was tall and well built (as though he might work out often) and had shoulder length white locked hair! I had never seen such a thing in court before but I was truly impressed by him. He may have been in his 60”s or so as far as age goes. I waited a long time outside the court room to get a chance to speak with him about his hair, but I never got the chance. Still, I was so impressed that I went home and told my wife about it and my other family (mother, father, and brother). They appeared interested in my story, but not as impressed as I was. It was then that I decided that I could be “who I was” and be proud and confident. However, I didn’t actually do it until 1997. Although, I had seen some people with their hair locked, I had not met anyone to give me a lead (someone who would lock my hair…). Most of the persons I saw with locked hair in LA were indigent, homeless, etc. Their hair had probably locked due to mismanagement and was dirty and matted. It was in 1997 that I was mentioning to my mother-in-law about getting my hair locked (for hers was locked and beautiful….had been so for 3-or so years..), that she gave me a woman’s name who did locked hair. I was seeing a few people ( in television, and sports, etc. ) wearing their hair natural and it appealed to me, and I went and got mine done.

2)What was the initial response to your hair style from friends, family, and peers?
When I went to get my hair “twisted” it was a little more that an inch long. My “lock-smith” (I jokingly called her…) informed me that my hair would have to be re-twisted on a few occasions before it would actually lock, and as such, scheduled me for additional visits [charging me heftily for each one..]. Each additional visit was about $80.00 with the initial having been $300. (that’s right 300.00). Needless to say that there was only one additional visit (and that was so I could figure out what the girl was doing so that I could do it myself!!), and then I ditched my “lock-smith” for a long journey of “self-care.” My family was not pleased with my decision. My mother went on and on about how I “would not get any decent jobs…” and that “it was tough enough being a Black man in LA without also having hair that would stereotype…” me . My father, however, said very little. He was always a quiet man. He was the one, when in the early sixties young boys were growing the Naturals and then Afro’s, who consented to allow my brother and I to grow our hair : with the understanding that we were to comb it and care for it properly…or it would be cut. He listened to my mother and I exchange views, and then asked me if I had really considered the challenges that I could face. My colleagues at work were mixed in their reaction. There were those who really loved the idea and then there were those who felt that I was just trying to get attention, or convey a militant stance (those were the other African Americans…). The other races would sneak looks at me (when they thought I couldn’t see them…) , or just outright stare in awe or disgust.

3)What do you like or dislike about your hair?
Honestly, I didn’t like that way I had been introduced to the initial locking of my hair. I was later informed (by others who had their hair locked) that I should’ve “shopped around” for more affordable rates. The problem was that I was a neophyte and just did what I could at that time. When she (hair stylist) did my hair she had them in small twists. As my hair grew and eventually locked, I researched how to “wed” locks for a thicker head of locks and did it myself. I like my hair locked. It is just the way I pictured it. It was cut when my father died (in 2001), and relocked by a sister from Jamaica (a friend of mine) in 2006. I went through the whole arguments about the stigma of having locked hair with my family (again!!) then also. I told them that the hair was not the problem, that it is the American culture! I am a dark-skinned person. I cannot change that (…and don’t want to). I have been discriminated against because of it by some (even of mine own race!). However, I like who I am, and this choice of hair completes the picture of “who I am.”

4)Have you noticed a boost in confidence or any other personality changes?
I have not really noticed any changes in personality as a result of my choice of hair-style. Maybe it is because I grew up in that whole era of “liking one’s self” and “being proud” of who you are. I did return to a more introspective stance. Before I had locked hair, I would study GQ, Esquire, and other magazines and to find out how to be more appealing [for jobs, women, image, etc…]. When I locked my hair I realized that what I had been studying in those magazines were persons who had found their niche; who knew who they were, and were sharing the benefits of that “knowing.” Now, I have found mine….and am comfortable with that “knowing.”

5)What is the response to your hair now?
I don’t know if I have just changed the way I view things or what, but I get more looks of approval than objection now. I’ve noticed that there are less objectionable responses to my hair. Random statements come to me such as, “I really like your hair!”, or “How do you clean it?”, or “Did it take long to grow?”, from different cultures and races of people. My mother loves my hair, and speaks of how beautiful it is. She still admits that she had the challenges with possible stigma(s), but she is proud of my choice to wear the hair anyway. My brother admires my hair, but he works in the business world and is very successful and could not wear it and continue in his field. My daughter loves my hair and has even “threatened” to lock hers… hasn’t happened yet. My oldest son likes my hair but has not said much more than that he likes it.

6)What state are you from? I was born in Akron, OH

7). Did your son approach you about getting dreads or did you suggest to him that he should get dreads?
I am like my father. I allow my children to make decisions as they show that they are able to handle the freedom that goes with the decision. My son came to me one day and stated that he wanted to get his hair locked. His mother was objecting. However, I suggested that he be allowed to get his hair locked as long as he can prove that he can take care of his hair. If and/or when he stopped caring for his hair, then we would have to re-visit whether deciding to have locks was a “good thing” or no. I think my sons (and daughter) watch me very carefully to see what I do- which makes everything I do of importance. I am pleased that my youngest son was impressed with my locks to the extent that he decided to do the same thing. I am no less pleased with my oldest son for the decision he has made not to wear locks. It shows that each has learned that they can be individuals and still be confident and comfortable with who they are.

8). Do you think dreads add to the masculinity of the black male?
More and more locks are being seen in the public circuit: Football, Basketball, and other sports players are wearing them….Yes, it adds something to the masculinity of the Black male to be able to express one’s self “freely.”

9)Do you see wearing dreads as a larger tie to black culture?
In some ways yes. I have studied/read that as far back as the Hebrews (who were dark skinned people) having locks [as is shown on the sculpted walls of Babylon..]. I think the connecting force is in the fact that one Black or African American individual sees another who is comfortable or confident or proud of his culture – to the extent that he/she expresses it openly (in this case through the hair…) and in some ways it is “inspiring.”

10)Did it concern you how other ethnic groups would view your sons choice in hair style?
A little. I say little, because it is not as “defining” an issue with children as it is with adults. With adults, we see everything we do as defining us, when in actuality those intricacies “describe” us….these actions are not “who we are,” but rather “what we do.” Somehow, as children and youth we know this, but we lose site of it as we grow into this social culture we call “American culture.” That is why locks have become interesting to young persons of other cultures (i.e. Caucasian, etc. ) and they wear them also.

11)I know when I visited New York in 2008, I felt a sort of kinsmanship with strangers wearing dreads. Do you believe that a father and son sharing this hair style may create a different more intimate bond between you and him?
Yes, I believe that the bond between me and my youngest son has become stronger. However, it is not something that can be compared to the bonding between me and my other children (I have three). Each bond is strong in its own right, and as such is different from the other two. So, though the locks have brought us (my son and I) closer, it is “closer than we were to each other before,” not “closer than I am to the other siblings.”

12)Some one commented to me that dreads are just hair, get over it. Do you think dreads are just another hairstyle with no particular significance?

To the other cultures, yes, locks is just another hair-style. Also, to those who aren’t interested in culture, to wear a Mohawk, or a Page-boy, or some other style hair is “just another hair-style.” To me it is becoming more than just another style. It is a connection that I can have (as long as I have hair…smile) with a former culture that dates back to the earliest civilizations. Yet, it expresses an individuality that is all my own.

Kanna Vincent, Canada Speaks

I was lucky enough to come across Kanna Vincent on a blog cite. I was struck by how different and creative her dreads were and could not resist requesting an interview. I hope everyone else can appreciate the diversity of dread wearers and the way in which dreads are worn. Dreads are not a walk on the wild side, they are more of a profile in courage.

1. When and why did you decide to wear dreadlocks?

When I was 15 years old, I loved braiding synthetic dreadlocks in to my hair. My favorite ones were these black and blue ones that went about waist length. When I took them out, it seemed like the dreadlocks had become such a part of me I had to do something about it. So, my friend who had real dreadlocks at the time helped me dread up my hair shortly after I turned 16. They became a symbol of my disconnect to vanity, and an expression of my ever so creative personality.

2. What was the initial response to your hair style from friends, family, and peers?

At first, people were a little bit shocked because of the stereotype that dreadlocks are exclusive to Africans. Some were accepting, others believed I would have to shave my head or stop washing my hair completely. I had done tons of research on dreadlocks beforehand and managed to change some perspectives on the dreadlocking process. In time everyone accepted it and learned to like it.

3. What do you like or dislike about your hair?

The thing I love about my hair, is that I don't have to spend time in front of the mirror trying to make myself look good. My dreads always change and form in such different ways that I believe it reflects my ever changing spirituality on the inside. One thing I do dislike is the fact that it draws a lot of negative attention from ignorant people that don't know anything about the hairstyle.

4. Have you noticed a boost in confidence or any other personality changes?

I definitely had experienced a boost in confidence for a time, until I had moved to a small city almost bordering the province of Saskatchewan. It's a farming community that lacks cultural diversity, and most of them have only seen dreadlocks on T.V and most commonly on africans. I started to feel like a target of discrimination for a time.

5. What is the response to your hair now?

Because of the place that I live now, I get a lot of negative responses from the younger generations. It's always wonderful when older people walk up to me and say, "Your hair is just the neatest thing I have ever seen!" But I have also had people tell me that I look like I haven't showered in weeks and that I'm dirty. Even when I say I shower four times a week one particular reaction was, "There are seven days in a week you dirty woman, go take a shower!" But these are children younger than myself who need to hurt others mentally in order to feel better about their own confidence issues.

6. What state are you from?

I am from Alberta, Canada.

7. People tend to stereotype others in an attempt to understand them. Usually when a white person wears dreads they are considered artsy. How do you feel about this stereotype?

Well, in some cases I believe that Dreadlocks are more of an expression of spirituality rather than creativity, but since I am an artist and a musician I don't feel too bad about the stereotype. It's definitely one of the more positive ones, since there is so much discrimination and stereotypes that revolve around dreadlocks. Every person I've ever met with dreadlocks have been extremely gifted people, whether it be in the form of art, music, dance, healing and other spiritual means. They are beautiful people, inside and out and I love when I meet someone with dreadlocks because their dreads can really almost give you a visual of what kind of person they are on the inside.

8. If there was one thing you would want people know about dreads, what would that be?

I would love if people could open their minds more to the entire hairstyle. I would want people to know that dreadlocks are clean, do not attract lice, can be creatively and spiritually expressive, and are not exclusive to a person of one race or culture. It should be embraced and not despised. I've tried to raise awareness in my own community and have continually been shut down. This is why I have such deep lining respect for any person who tries to raise awareness.

9. Since most of my experience has been with black hair, can you let me know exactly how difficult was it to get your hair to dread?

I remember when we tried to dread my hair for the first time. It took longer than I thought it would, and I had to maintain it more than the average person. I have fine, straight native american hair that was stubborn and did not want to dread. When it finally did, it only wanted to lock up near the roots and there was an ever continuing battle with my ends and stray hairs everywhere. Even with my mature locks, I find myself making smaller dreads at the top because my hair finds ways to grow out and be free. Even now though my dreads are mature and I still find myself fighting off the loose hairs. But I wouldn't trade my hairstyle for anything in the world. No one else has the exact same hair as me and it expresses me in every aspect.

This Could Be Me At Your Next Event

This Could Be Me At Your Next Event
Author And Public Speaker


Do you have an upcoming gardening, church, or women's event planned and need a speaker? Contact me. I can speak on various topics such as:

1. Detangling Ancient Mythology From Christianity
2. The Female Presence In The History Of Christianity
3. Superstitions and Gardening In The 21st Century
4. The Politics Of Prayer: The Bible Speaks
5. African American Geneaology: Pride From The Grave

Contact me at for booking arrangements

Book Reviews

I review for BookSneeze