CROWN in the House

A national CROWN Act passed the House this week, passed on Friday. Its name has changed slightly, acknowledging that discrimination against kinky hair and Black hairstyles isn’t limited to the workplace. The new CROWN is an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

I like the edit. It’s good to be clear about the fact that this discrimination doesn’t only happen at work. It was never only happening at work. All those stories about children being bullied and abused by their teachers, coaches, and schools make that clear. Bosses shouldn’t be able to discriminate against Black people’s hair, but neither should wrestling coaches, school principals, TSA agents …

And I need to correct my error from my last post about CROWN. I said the CROWN Act had passed in seven states and that a similar law had passed in an 8th state. That was mostly true. Illinois passed the Jett Hawkins Law, which banned discrimination against kinky hair in schools. But since the passing of Jett Hawkins, Illinois has gone on to pass the CROWN Act. In addition, I neglected to give the nod to four other states, states that added CROWN provisions to their existing anti-discrimination laws (or — in the case of Maryland — CROWN became law when Governor Hogan decided that any bill he hadn’t vetoed could just become law, and CROWN fell into that bucket with more than a dozen other bills). Twelve states. Twelve only. That’s better than seven or eight, but still a pretty small number. And this is exactly why we need a national law.

So CROWN has taken an important step forward. Obviously, passing the House doesn’t make a bill a law. We’ve all watched Schoolhouse Rock … and the process of our annoying af legislative branch. But it’s still great that CROWN passed the House.

It didn’t pass unanimously, which should surprise no one. Nearly 200 Representatives couldn’t see their way clear to saying that it isn’t okay to discriminate against people based on the kind of hair that grows naturally from their heads. Couldn’t see how it was a good idea to vote for a bill protecting people from being discriminated against for growing their hair naturally. One hundred eighty-nine of our elected Representatives care little enough about the rights and lives of Black people in this country that they were entirely comfortable making their disregard of Black people undeniably plain by not supporting this bill. That’s some serious comfort in their prejudice, comfort in their ability to flaunt their bias and not worry that they’ll face any consequences for it.

It’s 2022. It’s 2022, and it’s still not “just hair” when it comes to Black folks’ hair. And 189 nay votes for CROWN on Friday tells me how far we are from it ever being “just hair.”


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Finding My Form

I think I may have chosen my 2022 poetry form. I started looking early in the week but got distracted by exhaustion and illness and smashing my toes all to hell. But today, sitting in my quiet office and feeling productive because I’d checked a lot of things off my to-do list, the thought of poetry came into my head. I had just finished watering my plants — I’ve started thinking of them as my indoor container garden — and it was a little after 5pm. I should have packed up to leave, but instead I thought about poetry and sat down with The Google.

Next month is National Poetry Month, and for the last … I don’t know … surprising-to-me number of years, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day for the month. I haven’t always succeeded. There were a couple of years in there where getting through the month was enough work without adding poetry to the mix or when the poems were so heavy I couldn’t carry myself through 30 of them. But I have succeeded more than I’ve fallen down, and I’ve written a lot of poems over these many Aprils.

In addition to writing a poem a day, I decided early on that I would pick a particular form and write that form every day for the month. One year (my favorite year in some ways) I chose the tanka. Another year it was the erasure poem. Last year it was the golden shovel.

So I’ve been trying to decide what form I want to write this year. First I went back to Japanese poetry. Something about those forms with their tight syllable counts has worked well for me. The tanka was a huge open door, but I also liked the choka and tried out the bussokusekika, too. But neither they nor their compatriots were speaking to me this time around. I looked at the ae freislighe, an Irish form … And maybe it should be the magic one, but it can’t be because I cannot for the life of me understand how the form works. I read the description over and over, but none of the example poems I read made sense against the description. So … no.

Today I spent some time with the ghazal. I had thought about ghazals a couple of years ago, before settling on the pantoum, so looking at it today felt familiar. And it felt comfortable, too. I thought, very briefly, about the duplex, a form Jericho Brown invented that grew out of the ghazal and the sonnet. But I want to try a single form before taking on a complicated combined form.

There was also the surprise of reading about ghazals and learning that Brown invented the duplex form … because way back when, I invented a form, and then spent a long time not being able to believe that I could actually have invented a new form of poetry. And I’m obviously no Jericho Brown, but the idea that a person in these modern times actually could just invent a new form warmed me. The duplex is far more sophisticated than my sweet little arun, but my arun holds its own, I think.

Here’s a lovely example of a duplex by Brown. I suspect I will try this form eventually. Right now it feels almost claustrophobic to me, if that makes sense. It turns so tightly on itself, I feel trapped even as I read it. That will make for an interesting challenge, but not this year. As I said, I think I should work with the ghazal first. There is plenty of challenge in there!

There are still almost two weeks left of March. Plenty of time for me to change my mind about what form I’ll take on in April. But the ghazal feels right in my head and heart. Feels right.

And that’s all true … but it’s also true that the villanelle is sitting on the sidelines, watching me, tapping her foot and wondering when I’m going to ask her to dance. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m pretty sure that I shouldn’t do it. But she is looking fine. She always looks fine. One of these days, she and I are going to have to go for a second turn around the dance floor. I think she calls up too much fear from the soul-crushing workshop I took with Patricia Goedicke in my freshman year of college.

Oh. So yes. Realizing that that is what’s making me steer clear of the villanelle definitely means I need to choose it one year because I can’t continue to let Goedicke hold that power over me and my writing. Punto.

Yes. Because every child is born a poet. Thank you, maestro Piri Thomas, for that reminder. Thank you.


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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Back to YouTube University

I thought I should get back onto YouTube and watch some of the 87 gazillion videos about care and styling for my 4C TWA (super kinky teeny weeny afro). Since I haven’t had short hair since forever, that seemed like a good idea. It didn’t go as well as I’d have hoped.

I should have taken a few things into account.

1) I am not patient. Despite having a reputation for being the soul of patience, I am actually extraordinarily impatient in most situations. Watching all these cute youngsters fussing and fighting their way through doing their hair, all the while telling me a lot of things I don’t need to know and pausing to mug for the camera and do length checks … No.

2) I haven’t forgotten all that much … because natural hair care is natural hair care, and I’ve been taking care of my hair forever, so what do I need to learn? This was why I got annoyed with my barber when she began to tell me what I needed to do to take care of my hair. I hadn’t walked into the shop with relaxed hair that I was having cut down to the new growth. Just as she irked me, listening to these babies give sage advice — half of which they will unlearn and move on to better methods as I did over the years — wasn’t a good use of my time.

3) I am a terrible student. I love learning things, but I don’t so much love to be taught things. I like to read ahead, or read something else, or just start trying it on my own, or daydream and doodle while the instruction is happening. Yes, I am a jerk. So watching these videos got on my nerves because I already know a lot and I don’t want to sit and watch someone play with their hair when I could turn that foolishness off and play with my own hair.

If you’re rolling your eyes, join the club! And feel free to point out that this take-myself-back-to-naturalista-school has been an epic fail due to my ridiculously bad attitude.

Of course, what’s actually true is that I have any number of things to learn. First, there are new products. I’ve been pretty set in my ways as far as what I use on my hair. I’ve got the couple of brands I love, and I stick with them. I’ve tried new things in those brands, but I don’t stray off the path much. Some of these adorable kiddos are using brands I haven’t heard of, and I should be paying attention and then doing some homework.

Also, there are new tools, and some new ways to use old tools. I haven’t been a regular tutorial watcher in ages, and I have no idea who makes the best picks, and maybe, with short hair, I might actually want to use the fabled Denman brush that I hated when my hair was long.

My foray into YT hasn’t been all snarky inattention, however. You’ll have noticed that I referred to the women making the videos as children. And that’s because, with very rare exception, they are all quite young. And, in spite of my crotchetyness, I’m actually really happy to see all these young-young women making these videos.

I was first introduced to the YT natural hair tutorial world 11 years ago. Even then, I was much older than the ladies making videos. I was fascinated. There had been nothing even remotely like those tutorials when I first went natural … because there was no such thing as YouTube in the late 80s. There wasn’t even public use of the internet yet. And, too, there weren’t tons of Black women cutting off their permed hair and growing out their kinks and coils. And even fewer people were celebrating anyone who made that decision. We didn’t call it a “Big Chop” then. We were just cutting our hair, and sometimes having to fight with barbers and salon staff to get it done.

I loved watching all those early stars of the movement showing us different styles and care tips, teaching us how to make products and how to use them, showing off how comfortable they were with their natural hair and how fabulous their hair was. And I’m just as pleased to see all these young women making videos today. It’s more common for Black women to wear their hair natural today than it was 30+ years ago, but (as I mentioned in my “it’s only hair” post) Black women’s hair is still strictly policed, and it’s hard to unlearn all the negative stereotypes that have been attached to our hair over time and which persist. There are still plenty of women who need to see how versatile and fabulous their hair can be no matter how they choose to wear it. There are still plenty of girls who need to see all these natural hair role models, who need to be aware of all the choices they have.

I won’t be spending too much time down the rabbit hole of YT tutorials, at least not right now. I’ll be refamiliarizing myself with my short hair on my own. But I’m happy to see that Naturalista World is alive and thriving, that there are so many new YouTubers out there shepherding the next generation of big-choppers into the fold.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Toeing the Line

(I mean, not, but how am I supposed to resist making a title out of a phrase that fits so perfectly?)

So … no hospital for me. I slept with my icepack wrapped around my foot. I woke up okay — by which I mean that I was functioning though also in pain. I didn’t dismiss the pain, but I was decided to just work through it.

The first indication that I needed to do more than acknowledge my pain came before I left the house. Putting on hard, unwaveringly-firm shoes was a sad error. I’d quickly changed to some super-cushy Propet sneakers that have a lot of forgiving give in the toe box.

Then I left the house to walk to the train and get my sore self to work. Oh. My. Dog! I don’t live far from the subway, thank goodness. Three short blocks. But it was a LONG walk this morning. I questioned every decision I’d made: why hadn’t I called a cab, why hadn’t I brought my folding cane, why was I even going to the office at all?

But the day turned out to be much less dramatic than that inauspicious beginning suggested it would be. There was some discomfort, but no excruciating pain. I’ve got my icepack back on now. I definitely messed up my poor toes, but I’m sticking by yesterday’s assessment: I’m going to have some pain to deal with, but I think I’m going to be fine. (Please let that “fine” come along before the short trip I have planned at the end of the month!)

One thing yesterday’s mishap has made me discover is that the Keen Waimea H2 — my toe-protecting flip flop — has been discontinued! The horror! What on earth could Keen have been thinking? Did someone lose a bet? Sad times. All may not be lost, as I’ve seen Keen bring back old styles with new names (the “Hydroguide” has recently returned as the “Zerraport II,” for example). Maybe the same thing will happen with the Waimea. If it does, I’ll be filling a closet with them before they get discontinued again!

For now … sleep. Tomorrow I need to start looking for this year’s poetic form. We’re past the halfway point of March, and April is just around the corner! I can’t very well write thirty poems if I don’t know what form I’m writing! Time for some research.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Ouch!

I was home sick today. I woke up with my stomach in a very bad mood and with the kind of headache that makes it hard to keep my eyes open.

Today wasn’t the day for all that mess, however. I had two deadlines I needed to be working toward. Not that there’s ever a good day for feeling crappy, but today was really, really just not the day.

I also had an important Zoom I needed to be on … and for which I needed to be on camera. I’ve been accepted into a year-long fellowship connected to my job, and today was our orientation. I’m sure the organizers would have understood if I’d told them I was sick, but I wanted to go.

Around mid-day, I started to feel a bit like myself. My headache had begun receding, and my stomach wasn’t cursing my name nonstop. I started rushing around so I could get ready for zoom orientation.

Rushing around.

Rushing around the apartment I’ve lived in for years, and which I’ve navigated deftly.

And yet, somehow, in my rushing, I miscalculated the basic move of going from one room to the next … and slammed my left foot into a doorframe.

I’m surprised I didn’t go right to the floor. The pain was that intense.

*

I wear flip-flops whenever I can, for as long as I can. It’s clear to me that I was meant to be from a place where flip-flops are the only necessary footwear. I don’t have a count of how many pairs of flip-flops I own — from fancy to workaday.

Years ago, I started a new job in early July. I was walking with my new assistant through the workplace, getting a tour of classrooms, kitchen, storage spaces, whatever. I was wearing an excellent pair of New Balance flip-flops. They were black and fuchsia with some fancy ergonomic business and non-skid, non-squeaky soles. I loved those flip-flops. As I was leaving a classroom, I jammed my left foot into the base of a rolling cart. And broke two of my toes.

I’ve stubbed my toes horribly any number of times, but that was my first break. I didn’t stop wearing flip-flops … but I did discover Keens, which have a toe-guard built in. Those flip-flops were obviously created for klutzy souls like me. Every time I’ve crashed into something while wearing those flip-flops, I’ve thanked Keen for their thoughtfulness.

*

I don’t wear the fancy, toe-guard flip-flops at home. Clearly, I should.

When I sorted myself out after hitting the door frame, I looked at my poor, guard-less toes. I suspected that at least one was broken, possibly two. But the start of orientation was moments away.

You wouldn’t be crazy or wrong if you were thinking that I should have skipped orientation and gone to the hospital, or at least to urgent care. But, if I am anything, I am ridiculous in my pigheadedness. I wanted to be on that zoom. And I still had work deadlines that needed to be made.

Orientation was informative and helpful. I missed bits here and there because the pain in my toes was distracting, and the ice pack kept falling off.

Although it’s possible that I’ve broken a couple of toes, I don’t actually believe I have. I’d be in much more pain and a different kind of pain if either of my toes was truly broken. And I wouldn’t be able to walk around, perhaps not at all, but certainly not as well as I can. So likely not broken. But definitely quite badly smashed up.

I made one work deadline. The other is still looming over my head.

Even if my toes aren’t broken, I should have gone to the hospital. Now it’s time to sleep, and my toes are swollen and aching. And I have more deadlines tomorrow.

Ouch.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot