On loving us exactly as is

by Jacqueline Bediako

Solange-in-white-some-hair-erased-in-UK-240x300, On loving us exactly as is, Culture Currents
This photo of Solange with some of her hair erased ran on the front page of a U.K. magazine.

Of course it would be a U.K. magazine that erased some of Solange’s hair when she was featured on the front cover. In many ways the British culture, especially what I experienced growing up in the U.K., is one that devalues and denigrates Black aesthetics. If one’s hair was not chemically straightened it was rejected. The Afro was viewed as “picky,” unkempt, and unprofessional.

Young girls, including myself, layered their scalp with chemicals that induced blindness alongside straight hair. Inevitably, Solange’s individuality was partially erased because conformity is the forced standard that functions subliminally and overtly in the layers of society.

Black women with bangs are impossible without the rejection of natural hair; skin bleaching is a form of torture and colored contact lenses are the bullshit particles of white supremacy. (In the same vein. if Queen Bey wants to wear a blond weave, that’s her choice because she is perfect).

The point is how we move and decorate our bodies as Black women is our choice. And it should be displayed, with our permission, in the form that corresponds to those choices.

The existence of these bulwarks, which serve to eradicate Black aesthetics and hide the undeniable reality of Black beauty, are rooted in the same irrationality that allowed for Solange’s image to be changed. But let’s be clear: There is a powerful Black population in the U.K., which relishes the richness of their roots.

Solange-in-red-as-is-223x300, On loving us exactly as is, Culture Currents
This is Solange “as is.”

Here, hairstyles, fashion, cuisine, music, celebrations and traditions are woven into an intricate tapestry of life and prosperity. Blackness is celebrated at cultural centers, exhibitions and events that bring communities together. Some of my favorite Black musicians hail from the U.K. And so, despite the persistence of white supremacy, Black Britons continue to thrive.

Fuck the editor or the idiot who thought it necessary to change the image of Solange! The audacity is mindblowing and the offensiveness is startling.

Indeed, Black individuality is an ode to Black genius and I will be damned if anyone makes me conform to a lesser formation of myself. Black individuality is absolutely marvelous, and relishing in it is part of our journey to freedom. When we become our true selves we are not only living fully, but we are also challenging the political, social and economic constructs that constrain us.

So, in the spirit of Solange, my Black coils are frickin’ fabulous and they are the crown that I wear all the time. Don’t touch my hair. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Ever.

Jacqueline Bediako is a writer, artist, educator and organizer. She is a chapter leader with Million Hoodies Movement for Justice NYC and a member of African Communities Together (ACT). Jacqueline’s work focuses on challenging anti-Black racism, defending the rights of immigrants, and providing access to opportunity for marginalized communities through education, political engagement and exposure to alternative healing practices. A graduate of the University of Bristol in England and Brooklyn College in New York City, Jacqueline has lived in Brooklyn for the past nine years. Learn more at jacquelinebediako.com.