Catholocism and Islam: A Sunday Afternoon in the African Hair Shop

Random right? 

Well as I was sitting in the African Hair Braiding shop today with my butt cheeks aching (it takes several hours to complete a braided style, my style took about 7) I caught a glimpse of Sunday Mass that was being televised live from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 

As a Muslimah ( definitely not the poster girl for Islam image wise, but maybe spiritually so) I couldn't help but to notice the extreme similarities in the services of the two religions which are deemed by many to be starkly variant. Catholicism with is Latin, Islam with its Arabic. Western ideals versus those of the East. There are many differences presented in aspects of the religion, but the similarities are quite noteworthy.  Here are some pics to describe my little theory:


       Islamic World

            Catholicism- Righteous Woman

       Islam- Righteous Women

Catholicism- Rosary/ Prayer Beads

Islam- Prayer beads (Tasbih)

Catholicism- Prayer

Islam- Prayer

Just some interesting thoughts and observations that further led me to believe in the overall unity and relatedness of humanity. Often we are hateful and divisive for little more reason than or our internal nationalist and superiority issues. Next time you encounter someone with a different background try to hold off on your judgments for a bit, and look for qualities that you may share. Never know what magic can happen when your cross the self made boundaries of your mind.

Peace, Power, and Love

Well, Its Just a Little Kinky...

Today in my African American Rhetoric class we had a long discussion about the issues, both emotional and societal, that find themselves at the root of the black woman's hair debate. This discussion came at a perfect time because over the weekend I began feeling very India Arie-ish and started thinking of doing something drastic to my hair. Instead of giving myself the "big chop" as we ladies dreaming of natural hair dos unaffectionatly call it, I opted to wear a headwrap Badu style for a couple of days until my thoughts and internal hair issues subsided.

Here is a little something Jazzy I wrote about the importance of hair in our community, and its connection to liberation and spirituality:

Hair in the African American community in the United States of America is perceived to be more than just a growth of dead cells from a follicle embedded within the scalp. Hair is an archetype, a symbol that represents liberation, uniqueness, and spirituality to some while it is deemed to be an unruly and unattractive burden by others.

 There have been cultural and social issues revolving around Black hair since African slaves began being transported and sold into slavery by Europeans who consciously worked to leave the Africans devoid of a sense of culture, belonging, self love, and self appreciation. In Africa hair was not only styled for fashion but for spiritual and cultural purposes as well. In ancient Egypt appearance indicated a person’s status, political significance, gender and role in a society. Wigs were worn that were specific to royalty and religious moderators in the community. In other African countries men would style their hair in a certain way, either shaving it or braiding it, when preparing for war.

 With the intentional destruction of the high self perception of the African our hair in many instances had become a source of guilt, humor and shame. This entity that is characterized often by the world nappy and kinky has extreme emotional and discriminatory issues attached to it. Overly kinky and course hair is deemed to be “bad” hair by some members of the community while hair that is processed or straight and resembling that of the European is deemed as “good” hair or acceptable. Various texts and movies bring the issues of negative self image and hair including Spike Lee’s 1988 film School Daze which features a scene in which dark skinned women with kinky natural hair argue extensivley with their counterparts of lighter complexion and with straighter hair while throwing around racially charged word such as “wannabe” and “jigaboo”. Even with the intentional destruction of the African’s positive self image during slavery and the societal complexities that are associated with our hair, it continues to remain too many a source of pride and a means by which to be liberated and express ones spirituality. Hair has a history of being used as a source of liberation and racial pride in America, most obviously represented by the movement to wear Afros instead of permed or conked hair in th3 1960s and 1970s. This style and the appreciation of one’s natural self was promoted with the growth of the Black Pride and Black Power political movements, as well as Black Nationalism. In more recent years women, and in some cases men, in the African American community have used hair styling as a means to liberate themselves from the societal definitions of what is “good” or appropriate hair for them to have.

Often women have shaved their hair very close to the scalp, permanently locked their hair, or decided to go natural by removing all their hair treated by straightening chemicals. Many women also decide to wear their hair covered by a scarf or head wrap, for both liberation and religious purposes. In addition to being a tool for liberation, hair and its styling is as a spiritual thing in the community and comes with norms and cultural rules such as loosely defined rites of passage. For many, whether they consciously express it or it is simply implicitly implied, hair and the experiences around our hair can be very spiritual. Extreme importance lies in the trusting of allowing someone to “do” (style and take care of) your hair for you. For many African American women it is extremely important and intimate to let touch your hair, and when someone is allowed to do so an invisible contract of trust and care between the two individuals is signed.

 Black hair salons, as churches and other staple places for the enjoyment and use of people in our community for cultural practice, can be deemed a sacred communal space where those with membership to this particular group can come and enjoin in the experience. There are even several hair rites of passage that take place in the African American community, including (for many) getting your first perm and eventually being given the freedom to take good care of and style your own hair.

These practices may stem in part from the spiritual nature of people of African descent in the Americas, particularly women, be they Muslim or Christian. There are several references to hair in Bible, which is studied by members of both the Islamic and Christian faith communities (such as that of Sampson and Delilah) that may in some way influence the values, philosophies, and ideologies about the sacredness of the crown.

Historically and religiously hair has been and remains to be very important to people of African descent, beyond fashion and styling for decoration.

What I have learned from all this research and my own personal struggle is that it is not so much what your hair looks or feels like, but the relationship you have with it. Your realityis all in you perception, and if you beleive your hair to be ugly and unruly, that is what is shall be. But if you look at it, and yourself, with loving eyes I'm sure your locs with adore you back. Sometimes they can be a nuisance, but I love my locs none the less.

Peace, Power, and Love

Old Earth Day

"A daughter is a mother's gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self."  ~Author Unknown

My Old Earth is celebrating a birthday and this is cause for the most grand of celebrations. Yeah I know that Earth Day just passed, but that is not the subject of the reference. My Old Earth, the one who provides the nourishment for my growth and gives me life with the renewal of each day, is my mother.

Mothers play an inexplicably important role to all beings birthed into this world, but even more so to their little girls (especially those in the Black Community).

As you may or not know, the majority of homes in the African American comunity are without the presence or influence of fathers. Women serve as the overall rulers of the home playing the role of educator, nurturer, disciplinarian, bread winner and so much more.

I too grew up in a home without the direct influence of a father and my mother served as the concrete foundation of family life.

As I have grown I've come to see her not only as the person who makes it rain when that HU tuition is due, or even as the voice on the other end of the phone who advises me on my next and best moves. I have come to see her as woman who's spirit and being is separate from my existence; a lady accepting the divinity God has bestowed upon her while growing from a little Newark, NJ princess to a cosmopolitan Queen.

I love her dearly, not for being my mother, but for her just simply being who she is.

Feliz cumpleanos madre, y mucho mas.

Peace, Power, and Love