Friday, August 12, 2011

Black Girls' Special: What am I going to do with my hair when I'm in the Peace Corps?

Hello Dear Reader,

This special blog post is dedicated to all of the Black Girls out there who have considered joining the Peace Corps, but thought to themselves, "What am I going to do with my hair in the middle of nowhere?" For all of you non-Black Girls, don't worry, we all have something to learn in this post!

If you are a Black Girl or happen to know a Black Girl, you will know that hair is, shall I say, a 'sensitive' issue. Let's be honest- for many of us, our hair plays a major role in how we feel about ourselves.

A Black Girl's Hair:
  • Determines if we're going to get in the pool on a, or not.
  • Determines if we're going to get our exercise on, in fear that our hair-do will not last until our next salon appointment.
  • Determines who and how we let someone touch us in fear that our hair might 'get messed up'.
  • Determines our Friday and Saturday schedule. I mean we need to make our regularly scheduled, hours long salon appointments.
  • Determines where we live. A good hair stylist is hard to find. Will you trust a stylist in D.C. the same way you trust your 13-year long relationship with your current stylist?
  • Determines our nightly bedtime routine. Moisturize, comb, wrap, scarf, satin pillow...
  • Determines how we feel about ourselves. Is it long enough? Straight enough? Styled just right? Is it the right texture? Will it behave today? I hope it doesn't rain, otherwise I'm in for a bad day. I hope it's not too hot, because I don't want to sweat out my style.
The list goes on.

I bet that if you're considering joining the Peace Corps (or living abroad), you've given pause to what you'll do with your hair. I'm sure that there are plenty of other Black Girls who wouldn't even consider joining or considered PC, but the well-being (etc) of their hair was was found to be too great of a barrier.

Don't worry, I too had this internal discussion! I knew that, first thing out of college, come hell or high water, I was going to join the Peace I needed to make a plan for the queen's crown! My vision of my PC experience was to be in the middle of the bush somewhere and figured that I'd look pretty crazy searching high and low for a box of PCJ (little did I know that, even in that 'bush' experience I'd been dreaming of, a home perm kit or salon is never out of reach). Mind you, I was also a budding womanist and figured that I needed to get in touch with my ruuts (roots)! When I finally came to a conclusion, I was in Cape Town, South Africa attending a summer-long human rights program and in serious need of a touch-up. It was going to be now or I did the best I could and threw a French braid at my mane. That summer, my new friends grew to hate the French braid. So did I. It wasn't until just after my Senior pictures that I cut the permed ends off of my hair and became fully "natural". Oh My! And the funny thing is that I didn't end up joining PC until three years later!

Black Girls...I should have probably prefaced my story by saying that this was my journey, and mine alone. Doing the 'natural' thing has served me well...10 years strong. But Black Girl, don't despair if you can't imagine giving up your luscious locs. During my time in PC, I served with Black ladies who had locs, perms, presses, home cuts (me), beauty shop do's, shaved heads, braids, twist outs, and everything in between. So fret none (yes, very country, I know!). Your hair does not have to stand in your way from you too living your Peace Corps dreams!

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

From one Black Queen to another...

Yours Truly,



Anonymous said...

I came upon your blog as I was surfing for info about Peace Corps South Africa- i just received my invitation last Friday (8/26)! I am a White woman and I don't have the hair issues Black women have. I too, however, am considering what to do with my hair...

Dani said...

Hey there 'Anonymous'! AWWWWWESOME!!!!! I'm so excited for you! You are joining the likes of Jason Carter of the Jimmy Carter- Carters, hundreds of amazing individuals who have given two + years of their life to serve the Republic of South Africa, and yours truly! I have a long-term love affair with South Africa, so I can't help but to say that you'll love it...and hate 'just ok' with it...frustrated by it...and love it all at the same time, but hey, we're all different! I hope that you take your PC service and it your very own, unique experience! Share with your 'host community' the best things about you and America, learn all you can from great and small, and share your experience with the folks back home! Go forth and serve! Oh, and about the hair thing, we're all trying to figure out what to do with it! I grows out of little holes in our scalp! How weird is that?!

Anonymous said...

Hello Dani,
Thank you SOOOOO MUCH for this blog. I feel like you wrote it just for me!

I too am struggling with what to do with my "black girl" hair lol. I submitted a Peace Corps application 3 years ago but I reneged because I wanted to finish my Master's degree and, more importantly, I had no clue what to do with my hair! YIKES! Since then, I've gone natural, resubmitted my application, and am looking forward to my 2nd preliminary interview in a few weeks. I hope I don't seem vain; I just really didn't want to look untamed for two years, a million miles away from home. *shrugs shoulders*

Thanks again!

~From a Natural Sister to a Black Queen