Today we kick off The Letters Project on St. Lucia News Online. Who are the persons involved in The Letters Project? We are young, dynamic, Caribbean authors addressing social, relational, economic, political and religious issues in a bold and transparent manner, with a tinge of humor, an embrace of Caribbean parlance and a wealth of wisdom.
Dear 21st. Century Massah: As you are well aware, my people are people who have perfected the art of storytelling, so before I address you, let me tell you a story;
I was awakened by a violent tug at my crown. There she stood, my grandmother. My grandmother? Naturally, fear gripped my body making me a corpse, “Y-you-you’re d-ead,” I whispered in a terror induced staccato. I could feel every pulse point in my frame, my heart beat resounding.
She was not alone, my eyes perused the darkness to find them, the spirit of the Continent filled my room. It was familiar and strange simultaneously. Their bodies were hosts of an unearthly, involuntary rhythm harmoniously. I feared it. I opened my mouth to rebuke them in the name of your White Man.
“Hush yuh mouth chile,” she said. Her tone was gentle but her words piercing. Her voice commanded the room and their eyes became fixed on me. I only like this kind of attention when I was on stage, I did not want it, not like this.
She came closer, her eyes were evocative. Our soul’s windows met, connected, she then elevated them, to my crown. Her face never shifted but I sensed pleasure. She was determined, driven. I sensed the premonition of a message.
Her eyes budged, moved to them and they understood. In silence, they all came closer with granny at the front. They all lifted their eyes to my crown, it was almost like they revered it.
“Ahhh,” granny uttered as she touched my follicles without reason. She was lost in them, her neck and head forming varying angles as she explored my strands in wonder. The uncertainty of their presence was replaced with bewilderment at their obsession with my crown especially as they wore the same royalty.
Moments passed and while her face remained static her mood changed, “You have to stop them!” she shrieked aggressively combing through my hair with her hands interchangeably.
“Stop what?” I questioned.
She stepped back and I am not sure what occurred but the vibrations of their cued wailing sent me.
There was a round table at the centre of the room. I stood in the corner, timid. I was mystified. My half asleep mind could not begin to conceptualize these events. It seemed as though I had travelled through time. I don’t know. I just know that I was no longer in the 21st century.
I was so engrossed in my own thoughts that I did not realize that they had entered. The meeting was about to start. Only the chair at the head of the table remained empty. The hum of busy chatter invaded the space. I looked to my left and saw my grandmother. She looked pained, for the first time I saw an expression. She grimaced. I glared at her. I wanted to demand an explanation but I could tell that it would be futile.
My gawk was interrupted by the abrupt halt of the banter.
He had arrived.
He flipped through the pages of his file, skimming through each one. The room was pregnant with expectation. When he was finished, he cleared his throat, pulled his nose and clasped his hands on the table. “They just can’t be allowed to do it,” he said, in the most resolute tone I had ever heard.
“Do what?” I begged, and in that moment it became evident that they could not hear me.
I instinctively became focused on another man in the room. He was a small, sharp nosed fellow. He was dishevelled, shabby beyond belief. There was a coffee stain in his white shirt that he probably allowed his toddler to tuck into his pants. It was the only reasonable explanation. He rocked back in his chair and his oversized suit swallowed his neck. He knocked the table with his index finger twice, put his spectacles on top his balding head, rubbed his eyes and contributed, “Yes, it is highly unacceptable. That is why we have called this meeting sir. We must set up guidelines to govern this before it gets out of control. God forbid that they be granted a chance to even entertain the thought that that…uhhh…atrocity is ok.”
They all clapped. Some nodding with such an enthused agreement that I scanned the room for a black Pastor.
“What are they talking about?”
And almost as if she heard me, a big busted woman with a twisted mouth and the most irritating nasal voice you have ever heard began, “Yeaaaa, the hair of those-” she paused, and pursed her red lips, swallowing, “ niggers is not ok.”
My ears became heated and indignation consumed me. Who gave them the right?
She gained confidence, the thrill of having a voice I suppose. Her exposed breasts at the office related the story of someone who was not accustomed to being listened to and used her sexuality to yield results. “It is just too big, too unkempt, too many coils, too much and just downright wrong.” She continued inciting enthused hallelujahs from those devils.
I was ready to fight.
There was a young guy next to the head, no older than nineteen, his face looked constipated and I don’t even know what that means or if that description makes sense, but he was so full of crap that it feels fitting. “What about the dreaded locs?” he laughed in his constipated voice.
They all laughed.
Ms. Nasal cut in, “None should be allowed, their hair is just repulsive and nasty,” she shivered in disgust.
Did this heifer just shiver?
“It is unprofessional and we must let them know this, so that even in years to come their great grandchildren would know that they ought to never step into an office like that. In fact, they must never think it’s ok to flaunt that.”
My exasperation deafened me.
I was furious. “Why did you bring me here?” I demanded with tears choking me. I was feeling and I was feeling in the depths of my soul.
Granny looked at me, pressed her lips together and placed her hands on either side of my chin. “You have to stop them,” she murmured. “You have to stop them.”
Massah let me tell you, I awoke as shook and as triggered as ever, armed with ancestry, bolstered by slave hands, I just put aside this little time to tell you, hush yuh stink mouth.
In times past you were white, but now you know no colour, you are everywhere shouting idiocy with pride. You have tried to silence our identity. You are in regulations, you try to conceal yourself in between the lines, you are in hints and supposedly well-meaning suggestions. You are in places of worship and in secular institutions. I do not know where you got the right, the license or the authorization to determine which hair texture is acceptable and which isn’t but it has been repealed, cancelled, over. You have been revoked.
I have watched you for years reject the same hairstyles that were justified when straight just because of some kinks. I have watched you tell me to do something with my hair so that it did not look like this. I have watched you segregate textures and grade them. I have watched your bias snuff opportunities as we helplessly looked on. Resultantly, for years we have been trying to make our natural more appeasing to you.
Who is even you?
I appreciate my sisters and brothers who have opted to alter their natural and I do not see them a sell outs or cowards, but as for me? I am coming for you. An army of us we are coming. In fact, we have already started.
You are going to see my big, stink, unprofessional crown everywhere. In your offices, on your stages, in your forums, operating on your sick nephew, deciding who gets what in your divorce, on book covers, in governments, you name it. You goin’ see my crown every blessed place.
And you goin’ bow.
Conspicuous and Immutable.
Léel Arlene Bain is a lawyer, writer, spoken word artist, poet, and dramatist. Feel free to follow and engage with her on Facebook