Blk Coffy Posts

February 4, 2018

We used our hands for union. We would pray, nurture as well as love through the darkness of our hands. Amongst the brokenness, lied a tender softness that communicated some sense of understanding. In particular, a mother gently patting the face of a sick child to determine sickness or a tight squeeze to the hand during prayer to acknowledge the next persons suffering allowed us to see ourselves in the eyes of someone else. It was in these moments of sharing that connected us to spirit. In the south, black folks had found Earth to be that sense of communion. They’re hands were used to plant seeds in fruitful gardens as well as their fingers gently mending tears in old clothing. There was life in old men hiking down to the creek for fishing while children ran around bare foot immersing their toes in the red clay-like soil. Dwelling within nature had given black life a rich dark sweetness that was long and life affirming.

My father, a rooted southern man, grew up in a small town in Louisiana called Franklinton. I could tell by the way he laughed at his own stories that ‘down south’ was more than a small town but a place that molded him. He would speak slowly, while his hands gestured different characters moving in and out of the plot, then he would pause letting his eyes daze off into a memory. Then suddenly, I’ll hear his laugh make a crackling noise until his whole body was sent into pure joy. As a young girl, we would take road trips down from Chicago to visit my grandmother, Faye. I remember being fascinated by its long winding roads surrounded with towering pine trees that seem to never end if you tilted your head back just enough to peer into the sky.

The sweet smell of warm rainfall against burning wood would greet me with open arms as soon as we crossed the Louisiana state line. I would ride along allowing my senses lure me into nostalgia, as my memories of the south became a place where I called home. The smiles, tipping of the hat or the silent waving of the arm as we passed by expressed a love I wasn’t familiar with in the north. There were no blank faces, cold shoulders or clutching of the belongings like life had been for us up north. I had observed an intimacy in the south, where black folks made an effort to care for each other as well as themselves. Everyone’s home was mine as much as it was theirs, as soon as you’d walk in they’ll say something like, “C’mon have something to eat, I jus’ got done cook’n around this messy kitchen,” as they scuffle around making room for you a seat. In their homes, you can see they didn’t care to prepare for guests or make things tidy before someone came for a visit. It was a down home feeling of comfortability, which made the experience even more cozy.

As children, we were safe to wonder through weepy willows, skipping our bare feet over red ant hills then laughing hysterically at literally nothing at all. Then once the sun would set within the horizon, we would race each other all the way to my grandmother’s house until we were out of breath. Grandma Faye’s house would be filled with drunk uncles, aunties making us plates of food, cigarette smoke, with aside of shit talking. The screen door would screech open as my dad would walk in from a day of fishing, his hands would be blacker than they had been before he left, which provided us with living proof of his day’s work. Once it was time to eat, we would all hold hands sharing not only a silence in prayer but a sweet dark communion of love. On our journey’s back to the north, I would take with me a richness I had seen in southern black folks. To me, they will always be as sweet as molasses.

November 20, 2017

The simple phrase, “I’m tired”, was more familiar to me than my own two feet. I had watched these words seep through the lips of my grandmother, my mother and now it was mine to own. I was taught that in order to be a strong black woman I had to sacrifice self. Meaning, it was my responsibility as a black woman to take care of others even if it meant compromising my own sanity in the process. For years, I witness black women carry children, husbands, sisters, brothers as well as three generations of family on their bare backs as a token of pride. Yet, I’ve also seen this type of strength drain the spirits of those same women, which usually left them bound to either health issues or internalized pain. My grandmother, a black woman of 7 children, 24 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren told stories about how she would sacrifice her own nourishment to feed all 7 of her children. “I always made sure my kids ate before I did, I’d eat a piece of bread or something to hold me over till my night shift,” she’ll say. I remember hearing stories about her husband, my grandfather, spilling slurred words from his drunken mouth, while my grandmother took up for his slack. My mother would joke about her and her siblings wrapping their daddy’s arms around their neck as crutch while he walked tangle-legged down the street. “He had a good heart but he drank like a fish,” my mother would say.

In a black household, it was normal to see either big mamas, aunties, sisters or mothers wear multiple hats at once. Even with men in the home, there was an obligation for black women to work, cook, clean, teach, nurse and be all what we needed them to be. I used to sit and watch the women in my family pour all of themselves into the mouths of others until their hands fell numb and her feet swelled like balloons. And yet, most of them took exhaustion like a cool glass of water as if it was a black woman’s responsibility to be overworked. As a child, back then I never understood the reason why black women in my family would overwork themselves to the point that their bodies would cry. It didn’t dawn on me until I was greeted with womanhood that we as black women don’t have a community to make us aware of our own stress levels.

My mother, a single woman raising a child on mediocre income, sacrificed everything within her to ensure that I had some level of comfort. I can recall times where she could’ve went out to celebrate life in the clubs, but she would stay home to listen to me read, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, out loud in our small two-bedroom apartment. Although she wouldn’t trade those moments for the world, I knew there were times she wished she had someone to wipe the tears and tell her it’s going to be alright. I use to pray for happiness to show up at our door step. I would wish for Prince Charming to knock at our door holding glass slipper or awaiting with a horse and carriage to make everything worthwhile like in fairytales. Yet, no one appeared. There wasn’t a soul who voiced concern about my mother’s well-being. As a matter of fact, most of black women within her reach seemed overwhelmed by either career’s, relationships, family or livelihood which made stress seem normal.

The black women I’ve grown to know all of my life lacked the ability of knowing when to let go. With that in mind, many of us like myself for instance developed this tight grip on pain believing if I carried it along with me it’ll prove my worthiness. I had grown to admire my mother’s ability take ahold of adversity with her bare hands. I wanted to be the woman that held it all together when all hell broke loose or the woman who didn’t need a man because I can do it on my own. I thought I needed struggle to define my womanhood but I later found out it was just a thorn in my back. I was crying the blues because it was all I knew. The familiarity with grief in our community has been our source of power. Yet, we overlook the damage it is causing our women for the sake of our own fulfillment. Our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunties will always be there to care for us when everything else fails. However, will there ever be a time when black women will know peace? Or will they be just another black woman sing’n the blues?

October 29, 2017

October 22, 2017

October 1, 2017


September 20, 2017

September 8, 2017

I prayed for it to all be over. I flinched every time the hair grease on my scalp would sizzle like a frying pan from the hot comb straightening my kinks and coils. “Be still and hold your ear,” my mother demanded. I would be shaking like a leaf, while my little finger-tips held onto my ear for dear life. I knew any sudden movement would lead me and my mother into the kitchen rubbing butter on the edges of my ear to lessen the burn. I hated hearing her infamous phrase, “Girl you got some nappy hair,” as she would pry through my cotton-like texture. I would sit watching her through one of those double-sided mirrors that flipped and flopped every time I danced my fingers around its edges. I could see the tightness in the seam of her lips, as well as the raise in her eyebrow. Every black child knew this look and what it meant. I knew my hair had drawn my mother’s patience down to a thread and that I better not fix my lips to complain about any pain. So, I sat in silence holding back the tears wishing I wasn’t born with nappy-hair.

The time shared between my mother and I had evolved into applying relaxers to my hair while chit-chatting about the birds and the bee’s. Then as time moved passed, in college our moments of hair combing became a request, since her duties as my personal hairstylist had grown with age. “Ma, when is the next time you can give me a touch-up?” I would ask impatiently. Her response would usually be mere laugh to herself knowing it was a damn shame that her daughter could not manage her own hair to save her life.

As I became a young adult, my hair became my total responsibility. I would stand in the mirror reliving my mother’s frustration as I pried through my own swelled roots. It was natural to me to pull, fry, and stress my hair until it fell lifeless. The scaly chemical burns, dead-ends, and thin edges didn’t matter because my goal was to achieve an image that wouldn’t classify me as nappy-headed. Straight-hair was what I wanted and it was what I got. I would wear my wispy hair right above my shoulders, blending layers of limp curls with frizzy ends. The temporary straightness made me appear polished; I felt good about how I looked. I could comb through down to the scalp without any wincing or rolling of the eyes. Finally, my hair was manageable, convenient, and most of all tamed – at least, so I thought.

My roots would grow faster than fresh cut grass, sprouting the ends of my hair in various directions. It had been a month since my last relaxer, which usually meant it was time for another one. The texture of my hair had took a turn for the worst, the dry, uneven, brittle hair I had left on my head was straight but damaged. For years, straight-hair was something I wanted but I could see it beginning to starve an essential part of who I was. I had grown this obsession of having to have straight-hair because it disguised the unloved parts of my blackness. It had been the band-aid to the humiliation I would feel in the care of my mother, which I thought would heal and never show itself again. It didn’t matter what lengths I would go to conceal the coiled curls, and knots, I had to face that I was black.

September 1, 2017

A celebration of blackness colored Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York this past weekend. An array of vibrant street-styles and brown beautiful people came out to spread a message of; “No sexism, No homophobia, No hate, No fear.” Through music, art, dance, smiles, and elaborate fashion stood a powerful presence that broke down barriers within the black community. We were allowed to be unapologetically BLACK.

CLICK IMAGES (BELOW) TO VIEW FULL PHOTO

 

August 15, 2017

August 11, 2017

She had hair the color of strawberries swirled in milk and honey. Her skin was as white as cotton with eye’s that reflected the ocean. I and the whole 5th grade student body was fascinated by her beauty. She sat in the front of the classroom every morning religiously. Her hair would be tucked behind her ears draping passed her shoulders to meet the middle of her back. I would watch her from the back of the classroom, unzip her book-bag to pull out her Lisa Frank notebook then take a small bite out of her half-eaten egg mcmuffin. Once the bell rung, we sat in our seats watching her in all her glory. Black and white boys scribbled her name in hearts, while every girl wanted to be her friend. Even the teachers gave a warm smile whenever she would raise her hand.
In my eyes, she was a quintessential white girl. And I wanted to be her.

I watched the same girl allure the world with narrow features, blushed-cheeks and porcelain skin. She covered every magazine, casted every role, as well as featured every story. And there I was, hair as thick as sheep’s wool and skin the color of mud. I had thick eyebrows to match my black quilted- hair along with black tight-curled eyelashes, which would clump together like glue. I had seen my lips being wider than the sky amongst my dark eyes that seemed blacker than blue.

On an evening after school, I remember watching a commercial promoting shampoo for white girls with silky hair. The model was in a convertible letting her blonde-reddish hair chase the wind, while men would stop abruptly to gape at her beauty. It reminded me of the white girl at school. I asked my mother, “what color is my hair?” twirling my fingers around one of my ponytails. She responded with her back facing me, “brown”. I then asked my mother, “could it be strawberry-blonde like the pretty white girl at school?” My mother shifted her body to face me confused by the question. I could see the exhaustion in her eyes as she sighed deeply. My mother replied, “no, because you’re not white, baby.” She gave a gentle rub to my shoulder, then turned away. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what that meant. However, I knew it was a privilege that did not belong to me. I returned to school taking my seat in the back of the classroom waiting for her to appear. Although, this time would be different. I had to be black and she had the luxury to be white.