I’ve always loved bold hair colors.
But in my hometown, only “a certain type of girl” wore brightly colored hair. Little Black girls with single moms growing up in proximity to the hood didn’t have room to bring attention to themselves, let alone self-expression.
So many of the conversations that I had with loved ones, experiences I had with school dress code policies, and media images that happened in my youth reinforced a painful truth: Black girls couldn’t take risks. So, I didn't.
From grade school on through college, I believed that being basic and professional would save me from bad things. But my first pregnancy experience – where I was ignored and had to fight to get the care I deserved – was a jolting reminder that no amount of professionalism would change that I was a Black woman.
The event forced me to think back on all the years I’d spent avoiding things I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. And I lost it. I was a new mother and recent college graduate with no idea who I was. It was scary to reconstruct my identity from scratch with a new baby. So much of what made me, me felt lost in time. I challenged myself to imagine a version of me that felt authentic, not just looked good on paper.
It took years – and a lot of reading – but I remembered that I’d always loved boldly colored hair. And then, I had to look back at all the things that I’d given up because they didn’t fit the image for a little girl who wanted to leave the hood. The pandemic and following quarantine meant I had lots of free time to think and do something crazy. At first, I was going to do another big chop. But when I started seeing sale ads for hair dye wax, I wasted no time buying the rainbow assortment.
I was going to get my colored hair, and my unsuspecting husband and son would too. One messy application later, my hair was pink, my husband’s was green, and my son had a purple streak. But I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I could try the green for myself.
Seeing my reflection in the mirror with green hair felt spiritual. I’d come full circle to the bold colors I longed for in childhood. But now, I had an entire family to join in the process.
I knew that my childhood self, who was carrying all sorts of hair trauma, never would have imagined that she’d be able to love herself with her 4b hair on full display, vibrant and green. It means the world to me that my son and daughter will grow up having seen their mother with green hair. It fits in perfectly with the messages of self-love and freedom of expression that we’re trying to teach them.
It has reminded me that if I want to raise healthy children, I have to have a healthy self.
For me, that looks like establishing #freeblackmotherhood – a form of mothering that consistently prioritizes self-love and authentic expression in all things and asks us to imagine a world where Black women are free to feel – as the standard.
Coloring my hair during quarantine turned out to be the latest toward many steps of being my real self. Who woulda thunk that green hair could be a gateway to freedom?!