Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Our Hair

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Our Hair

Article excerpt

1. What We Learn from Madame CJ Walker

The curved cast iron laid on our palms like a sin.

We knew what the metal clasped jaws could do to natural hair.

Kehina, who had inherited her father's Patowami grade,

was the last in priority and so, was assigned to keep watch.

Nailah tried warming the pressing comb with faucet water.

Ndambi turned the curlers over the heater

Shashu tried both on a platted section of hair,

but I could not tell the difference. It just looked wet.

The hinge of the curling iron was cold.

I rubbed my knuckles over the metal-toothed comb.

We had to figure out a way to make them burn through our braids,

scorch our temples. For hours we speculated which

of the older girls really had good hair.

Could it have been that at night all of the sixteen-year-olds

waited at the opening of a large mouth stove,

with freshly washed broccoli puffs cotton-balling over their ears?

The smoke sizzling out their greased curls

until they could smooth and flatten the manes into ponytails. …

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