African Heritage Month Preface

 
 
 

 A note from the Students’ Union president

When I was first asked to write the foreword to the African Heritage Month edition of The Xaverian Weekly, I was excited but simultaneously anxious. In a book, the foreword often decides whether the reader will turn the page or not. I am hoping that what I write will encourage you not only to look to the next page, but also to read the whole edition of this paper. The special contributors for this month are students that you see and interact with everyday and we all share a special characteristic. We are black. Not only are we black, but we go to school at a historically white university. 

You might notice that students of African descent stick out at StFX, this is because we do. By the colour of our skin, by how we express ourselves, by our culture, and most significantly, by the oppression we face by virtue of our existence. I do not point out the last because I am attempting to be controversial, but because experiencing oppression is embedded in the lived experience of being black in Canada. In this country, it is impossible to talk about the experience of blackness without talking about racism. In that same vein, talking about racism is also part of the natural discourse of the black people on this campus; we talk about it all the time. If you are not black/person of colour, do not have black friends, or perhaps have black friends who do not talk about racism around you, this may come as a surprise. Nonetheless, it is true. When you read through the pages of this newspaper, the student contributors will talk about what it means to be black, why we are proud of our heritage, what it is to be from a different country, the identity of our people’s heroes and sheroes, and why we continue to celebrate African Heritage Month and dedicate newspaper editions in its honour. My hope then for you, the reader, is to open your mind, heart, and soul to the possibility of reading something that makes you uncomfortable. When you get that weird twinge, ask yourself why you are feeling that way. If you can answer that question honestly, my hope is that you do not sit idly by with your gut churning, but instead you stand up and do something. A whole group of students are opening up about what its like to be them. Use this edition as an opportunity, as a moment to learn, but more importantly as a chance to change. 

My Hair is Not Your Playground

 
 

“Oh, I love your hair!” You say, as you reach out to touch it.

I wince and half-smile as your fingers tangle up in my Afro like an intruder,

an unwanted invasion on a Monday afternoon.

 

Not too long after, come the questions.

A flood I did not sign up for when I walked into the gym,

nor when I walked into the X-ray room at the dentist’s

or even when I walked into our shared workspace.

 

“I swear it was long last week, did you get a haircut?” You ask.

Like on many other occasions, I try to explain the concept of hair extensions

and protective styling, but your face scrunches up in confusion,

and only more questions come.

 

You don’t understand how I could possibly sit for 8 hours to get my hair braided,

and how on earth do I use a needle and thread to attach a weave on?

You can’t fathom how my hair could shrink when it comes in contact with water,

“Where did all of your hair go today?”

 

I wish you knew your questions were exhausting.

That, although asked innocently (I presume), 

I’ve already answered those same questions five times earlier today.

I wish you knew that sometimes, I just want to sink into the crowd unnoticed,

but your loud compliments and exclamations over my new hairstyle quash my

camouflage.

If you only knew also, your claims that I look exactly like your friend Theresa,

because we have the same braids, are neither flattering nor rational,

perhaps you would consider my peace before you spoke.

 

It’s okay to be confused when I go from long, blonde hair to a shorter Afro next week.

It’s okay to ask because you do not understand the complexities of my crown.

I too, have had my own questions about it.

Questions for God about why He did not bless some of us with straighter, looser curl

patterns,

or why life couldn’t be a little simpler than it is with this kinky mess?

 

But this kinky mess is my kinky mess.

To have, and to hold, and to love till death do us part.

I no longer question the tight, sometimes frustratingly undefined nappy curl of my

crown

because I’ve come to understand that my hair sets its own boundaries,

its own standards of beauty.

It defies gravity and stands up for what it believes.

(If you don’t believe me, look for me on a windy Nova Scotian day).

 

So, the next time you feel the strong urge to run your hands through my hair without

asking,

or when you suddenly feel the irresistible itch to play a game of 21 questions with me,

stop, take in a deep breath, remain calm and repeat after me:

HER - HAIR - IS - NOT - MY - PLAYGROUND.