Sheerly Shenanigans

Because I’m Not Solely Writing About DT for the Next 4 Years

I. I had so many disclaimers when this topic wouldn’t leave me alone (and if you’re a writer, you know exactly how it feels to be gently pursued by – or completely annoyed by – a topic or idea):

What would I write about if our dreams of justice were realized and I didn’t need to write specifically about (insert social justice issue here)? Why would that thing be important to say?

My first disclaimers served as comfort blankies… faux “brand protections” for a landscape that’s already so shaped by the think-piece culture.
Here’s how that story goes: a) See instance, b) Write on instance… first (hopefully), c) Be ‘yaaaas-ed’, d) Likes and shares, and e) More work comes until… a) Next instance, b) Write on instance… first (hopefully).

Endlessly responding.

To be clear, it is important to write specifically about social justice – now more than ever. It is important for us to respond to the ways that this capitalist state, this militarized and increasingly militarizing state, impacts the lives of those who are marginalized. It is important for us to respond when patriarchy threatens to crush our dreams, regulate our reproduction, mansplain us away, and stalk us into silence. It is important for us to call out the system of racism for what it is – White supremacy. Now, more than ever, with the threatening rhetoric AND action (let’s be clear) of 45 – we’ve got to resist.

But it is also important for us to continue telling our stories… to our audiences. It is important for us to take respites from the White gaze that pursues us upon each waking moment – especially in the realm of our writing & dreaming spaces.

II. I think about Toni Morrison whenever I’m hopelessly stuck with writer’s block. I have no shortage of things to write about. There is no shortage of things to say. It’s just that there’s so much noise:  links subtly dropped into my inbox with the not-so-subtle hints to do more, work harder, “Say both your words AND mine-for-me. Give me digestible works that I can quickly share with my (racist, ableist, homo-antagonistic) facebook friends”. Chile…

This has only increased with the rise of DT aka 45 aka Trumplethinskin”.

But I know that balance is important – especially if we’re going to find sustainable ways forward. I know there’s another way to exist in my creative & dreaming space – largely because Toni Morrison already said there was:

“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”– Toni Morrison, “Black Studies Center public dialogue,” Portland State University, May 30, 1975

You can literally google the words Toni Morrison and ‘white gaze’. It won’t be long until you realize that she’s not here for it. She’s not here to write under it. She’s not here for it to hang over her head, endlessly bossing her into writing. If we could have coffee, I think she would tell me that I could do better than chaining my writing to such a rickety carriage – heading down such a dead-end road.

And so…

I want to advocate here, kinfolk, for us to continue sharing our stories and realities. This doesn’t mean that the landscape of those stories won’t include the social justice issues of our time – but it is important to also resist being denied the space to tell the fullness of our stories – imagining, as Toni Morrison did, our creative works without speaking directly to an all-consuming gaze. It’s a petrifying and exhilarating exercise… but if I did it…

III. If I did it…

I wouldn’t worry about standard grammar. Seriously. I wouldn’t. I try not to police my writing on this platform, as it is. But after this point, I would give negative fuxx.

Because the speech that comes from my bones, while socioculturally informed, sounds just like music, has different rules altogether, and sits somewhere between the verbal and the nonverbal. It’s the side-eye that tells us what the deal is. It’s the spot between text and
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I would talk with Toni Morrison, August Wilson, and Zora Neale Hurston about writing in dialect, studying how to write Philadelphian AAVE dialect with both precision and beauty. I would diagram North Philly dialects, using Philly rappers like “It’s a cold winter, ya’ll ***** bettah bundoo up” . Then, I would do an analysis of how my speech morphed from:

LAWUHN (Philadelphia) to
[lawn?!?!] (living in the Southeast. I was sociolinguistically all over the place) to
LOHN (Midwest)

I would tell more of my stories. I come from a long line of Black American storytellers. My aunts, uncles, and father can roll their trip to the grocery store into 45 minutes of entertainment with a life lesson at the end. For example…

My family was fighting at the 2008-2009ish reunion. I don’t remember why. I do remember that my cousin processed this issue by telling a story about friends who enjoyed waffles, friends who enjoyed pancakes, and how both of those breakfast dishes needed syrup. Therefore, it’s wise to share your syrup if both parties want to stay away from dry ass breakfast dishes. It’s also wise to choose your fights when it comes to family, if you can help it.

I would tell ya’ll the stories – in my own tongue – about how I’m always doing the most. This is not self-deprecation. I’ve taken a poll and most of my friends… and coworkers… agree. Doing the most… is what I do. You want a report? Chile, you’re getting report, graphics, and a sequined outfit when I present the report to you. I could literally have a series of “Doing the Most” Chronicles. I would always have something to write about and we would both be cackling.

I would talk about how my students are always teaching me. Last week, I learned that references to the popular 90’s / early 2000s group 112 don’t go over well with younger millenials. Last quarter, I learned about a student’s analysis on the process of gentrification to the ethos of Manifest Destiny. (Chile, my students come the f*** through with an analysis).

I would take one week to do an ethnography of nail fashion trends in all the places that I’ve lived. Because, this is how I do. Also, my nail tech and I are tired of ya’ll asking for French manicures and boxy ass filed nails (nells– as we call them in Philadelphia).

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Nails done by @luxurinails, Jewelry by @mashallah_us

And outside of the gaze, and if my Momma slash employers didn’t also read this blog (I think?? Chile, idk) – I would write more readily about how I went from purity culture chastity maven to throw it in a circle ten times past Sunday life. And still get blessed.

So, #52essays2017 is an exercise to “build my writing muscle” indeed. It’s also a chance for me to stretch into the fullness of my human experience, tell my stories, and resist 45 taking up all of the creative oxygen in the damn place.

Featured image credit: Createherstock.com

Things I Would Add to My Resume if I Could

It’s been a while since my last post. Part of that is because of election day anxiety (Jesus in God, the Saints, all of the Orishas, and more). The better part of that is because #BookMe2016-2017 has really been fruitful. I’m absolutely loving the projects I’ve been able to take part in and many of them have had me thinking about my own “professional identity”, both online and offline.

During my time at Kansas State University, I talked a lot about how we can use socioculturally centered theories to assist us in our career process. It was a two day stint of thinking deeply about this notion of “professionalism” which many scholars posit can be inherently rife with issues. Writer, Carmen Rios, says “Often, the way professionalism dictates we should act at work also falls in line with stereotypes and predetermined roles based on our race, sex, gender, or class” (2015).

My initial foray into Student Affairs work was in the realm of Career Services. So, I know all too well how delicate of a dance this is… especially when it comes to advising. For example, general advice posited that we should tell women to keep their hair off the face in interviews. But as a woman with natural hair that is not easily “swept up”, I realized that this advice isn’t always inherently helpful. The same went for gender and professional dress. The same went for the affordability of formal business wear. Lordt.

Yet, these are the waters we often find ourselves navigating and *sigh*, it gets deep. 

Earlier this week, I spent a few days talking with students, staff, and administration about some of these nuances. I spent the rest of the week thinking about how I bring my own identity into the work that I do (both formally and informally). So, today, we’re going forward with a light-hearted post, if I can help it.

Resumes are often used to navigate current and potential forms of work (I’ll leave it to you to interpret what that work is / could be / looks like). There’s even a certain format of that here on this site (because listen, #BookMe2016-2017 is real and steady work, if possible, is important to me). However, here are some of the things I would add to my resume if I could:

  • Interdisciplinary bridge-builder – Because all of my seemingly random interests and levels of expertise would probably fit really snugly under this title. It’s pretty much like when I studied “Integrative Arts” in college. Folk didn’t usually know the details of all it meant… but I could always say it like I was out here doin’ the damn thing.
  • Language

    Because if I could add that, I would. I’m also conversational in Beyonce gifs. Beginner’s level in all other gif forms. (Because when you’re fluent in Prince gifs you have a large spectrum of reactions to choose from). One of my personal faves:
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  • Teaologist – Do you have a headache? I have a tea for that. Folk on your nerves? I have a tea for that. Your hands ashy? Tea. And lotion. But first, tea. I didn’t get the nickname “The Apothecary” for naught.

    (Head over to Amazon to purchase the Lionel Richie mug and the Mana-tea infuser).

  • Musichead – It has been a longstanding value of mine to spend as little time as possible listening to trash music. Live instrumentation is important and I feel like our ears need it. In just a few minutes, I can likely come up with some dope music recommendations to fit your preferred style and genre. I will also encourage folk to stay on their note, and that’s important in life. It builds teamwork competencies. Cause don’t nobody want you jumping up on their note all the time.
  • Natural hair and organic beauty product tester – If there were a such thing as a “tab” at Lush Beauty Products, I would have one. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about natural hair care regimens and products I use, I would be sending big bucks to my past student loan providers. Sooooo…
  • Petty Theorist & Petty Flow Chart Co-Curator – I don’t talk much about #pettyflowcharts here but it’s one of my favorite side projects. However, I literally spend time with a good friend curating flow charts to help people get clear on a variety of things. I can’t add it to my resume because… well… petty. But it sure is fun!
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    You can check these out on IG: https://www.instagram.com/pettyflowcharts/

  • Churchy Linguist – Fluent. Can I get a degree in this? I feel like that’s a possibility. Being raised in an eclectic nondenominational Black church afforded me an entire lexicon of churchisms that I randomly use in everyday life. Last heard at a keynote speech: “I’m feeling moved in that direction”. Announcing a performance, as an MC: “Please clap for them, as they come”. Recently seen on Facebook:

    My friends and I have a running joke that I am “Culturally Churchy, Theologically Complicated” because my spirituality includes sacred texts, rituals, and practices from quite a few traditions. However, I just cannot shake churchy linguistics. Pray my strength.

  • Crystal Collector – Beginner’s Level. Because who is tryna be out here with their chakras out of balance? Not I. Go talk to my friend Ebony Janice of the Free People Project about why it’s so important to balance those chakras.
  • Headliner for the Shower & Car Concert Series – Some of you may know this, and some may not. A few years back (like… a GOOD few), I provided background vocals for a few local Philly artists. A while before that, I was the director of the student-led gospel choir in college. I don’t sing formally at the moment. (Bae does though, check him out). However, my car concerts are on. point. To me, at least.

    What would you add to your resume if you could? Leave it in the comments below! Or you know, wherever else you find me on these Internet streets.

Featured Photo Credit: Createherstock.com

BET Awards Recap (and Petty Encouragements)

It’s been a while, and while I’ve got a few posts queued up for you… I’ve also been working through a nasty season of Writer’s-Block-Prompted-By-Life-Blocks.

Suffice it to say… this month sucked.

Now, there were some bright spots – my 10 year high school reunion, being one of them. However, all in all, it’s been a rough one. I encountered the thoughts that SO many writers, bloggers, and freelancers do: Do I have the strength, the time, the resources to keep on blogging? Should I be writing more for this platform? Less? Have I gotten away from my original mission? Closer? Am I coasting? WHATISIMDAWN?!  Typically, when I get there, I remind myself that “I’ve got the juice” and free-write until I’m clear on my thesis. This time it just didn’t seem to work…

Until I saw the BET Awards.

Ya’ll know that in the midst of these essays, I LOVE a good recap! (Click here to see my recap from The Wiz Live). I love reading them. I love writing them. And let’s be honest… since I basically wrote one from the couch as I was watching the BET Awards yesterday… I figured I’d share here. So, let’s get into it.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. I really did! I watched it with my petty singer friends and our only sort of bougie snacks (think wine and cheese puffs). I mostly watched it because I wanted to see how they would honor our ancestor, Prince. So, I won’t go into detail about each performance or each facet of the show.

But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s get into the opening.

The opening. The friggin’ opening.

Beyonce said, “I’m going to stand here in this wade-in-the-water realness and sing my song. And when Brother Kendrick gets up here, we are giving you the Freedom Frolic you never knew you needed”.

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Was I the only one near tears?!?! I think not. Trust me, I WILL be frolicking in my shower tomorrow morning… ya’ll pray my safety.

After that, there were brief blurs of bad writing (those jokes… mercy), folks obviously reading from teleprompter, and cuts to MC Lyte with her stage manager binder.

I did appreciate the Philly hometown love in the opening Prince tribute set featuring The Roots and Bilal! Ya’ll will stop making fun of Bilal’s sew-in prep cornrows (Black Twitter has had me cackling about that all day)… because he sang the SNOT out of that song! Are. you. kidding. me?! Ya’ll thought he wasn’t going to commit to rolling around on the ground in honor of Prince? Well, his pre-emptive hip thrusts and choice of kitten heels at should have warned you that he was going all. in. 

What goes up, must come down. And the vibe took a significant dip when A. Keys got onstage…

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Who. Is. RESPONSIBLE?! #Crine!

I held my breath as she found the note. I visibly cringed when she pushed over the synthesizer after the ending ‘hit’. I later found out from prolific bassist, Justin Raines, that the synthesizer was not just any old synth… it was a $4k Moog synthesizer.  My final sentiments below:

 

It may seem like I was a bit harsh on this (but I’m still bumpin ‘Diary’ though, so I feel like I’m good). Between A Keys, Desiigner, and Usher, I left feeling strangely encouraged!

Here’s the thing… I’m not willing to say that I haven’t danced to Panda a time or two or ten. However… my statement still stands. We don’t really know what Desiigner is saying, yet he has a rap career. Be encouraged! You can follow your dreams too! (Also, if you haven’t seen the memes done for Desiigner by the genius that is Black Twitter and IG, you NEED this cackle)

Let me pause here and say, I LOVE Usher. His runs are CLEAN every time, and have you heard his collabs? He will outsing an artist on their own song 80% of the time! The strobe lights were just a lot for me on this go round (doesn’t mean I don’t still love Usher)!

There were a lot of highlights from the show, so I want to get into those. Let’s break down these tributes first and go from there.

  • Maxwell – *bows head, “Lord, I thank You for Maxwell. I thank You that he consistently is on the note. I thank You for his swag. I want to cry out against him because he’s had us waiting on his new album since I was but a fertilized egg in the eyes of the Universe… but seeing as how he continues to do great live performances, I’m just going to take this time to say, ‘Thank You”… and thank you, Maxwell.
  • Jennifer Hudson’s Purple Rain – So, here’s the thing. I know a great deal of folk that absolutely loved the rendition! Jennifer Hudson is definitely a powerhouse. However, I was desperately hoping that there might be a mic toss to Fantasia as well. Deep down, my soul was crying out for Fantasia. Did you see her face as the camera cut to her? She was in deep worship, and I needed their energies to meet on that stage!
  • Janelle Monae – YAHS LAWD! Listen… I can’t even! The stamina! The RANGE!  The hair! The attention that she’s so very clearly paid to Prince’s music and career trajectory. Janelle Monae is amazing to me. The end. (Also, the outfit cheek cut outs kind of cracked me up because it was lowkey churchy. Is anyone going to talk about how the cut outs had a sheer panel over them because #modesty? And before you think I’m clowning, know that I’m not because I’m lowkey churchy too and would have done the same. exact. thing. It would have sounded like this: “Oh, you want cheek cut outs?! For Prince?!?! Oh absolutely! Bet… please tell the Mother’s Board of Mt. Sinai Baptist to sew in my sheer modesty cloth across them. Kthanxbye!” I. love. Janelle! *For my real thoughts on the subjective shenanigan that is modest dress, click here after you’ve finished the recap)
  • Sheila E THE QUEEN!
    Sheila E came out with that band and the games IMMEDIATELY ceased. She came out there with her shoes off, her hair out, her sticks in her hand, ready. to. slay. Sheila E came out and brought Jerome from The Time, and Prince’s ex wife Mayte with the hip shaking realness. Sheila E came out and told us to GET IT DAGGEVA FOR ANCESTOR PRINCE. The background singers were amazing. The band was doing their GOOD playing. And life was given. THAT is how you do a tribute, and I’m just here to take notes.
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  • Jesse “Teach the Word” Williams
    I know that this wasn’t a Prince tribute, but it was definitely one of the show’s highlights. So, I’m putting it here. First of all, I want you to see the look on his face BEFORE he gets up. This is the face of someone that has a word just simmering on the inside:
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    A recap of what he said honestly would not do his speech justice. The only quote that I shared on social media were these bars, “Gentrifying our genius” (because #barz), and “Just because we’re magic… doesn’t mean we’re not real”. The reason that I only quoted those pieces was because I was still in deep awe and appreciation for the way that he OPENLY acknowledged Black women. Ya’ll don’t understand… I legit stood up in the living room! Please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get into his commentary on race, racism, capitalism (you could almost hear the edges being snatched when he got into this piece), movement building, and more!

A Final Note:
I want to share this final cackle with you because I know you’ll appreciate it. This is not a show highlight, nor is it commentary on any given performance. I just need ya’ll to understand that one of my petty friends said that Jermaine Dupri and Fat Joe were in prime “Auntie at a wedding” fashions. And I. almost. fell. over.
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(P.S. Who was responsible for the choice to have geishas with swords in the background though….? I’m crying out against that because like… really? *Rolls eyes and tries not to write 1k more words in the key of think piece about cultural appropriation and turning culture into caricature. *Logs out)

What were your favorite parts of the show? What was your least favorite part of the show? Leave them in the comments below!

Cuts & Coconut Oil: New Phases in Hair History

Last year, I was featured on CurlyNikki.com with voluminous hair, pulled into many different styles. In the feature, I talked about my natural hair journey as someone who has always been ‘natural’ (meaning: the curl patterns of my hair were not altered through chemical treatments).

My hair history is far from simple: an unfortunate snipping of my two-strand twists, damages from constant flat ironing, how stress impacted my hair follicles, and… more… *sigh.

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This picture pretty much sums up my hair trials, tribulations, dangers, toils, and snares…

However, I learned to take care of my self and my hair over time by using a minimalist approach. So, while this is not a beauty blog… I really, really enjoy talking about hair both formally and informally.

I’ve recently gone through yet another milestone in my complicated hair history. I decided to cut my hair very, very short.

Online Cut

I’m deciding to write about it today since I’ve a) been writing about some relatively heavy subjects lately, and b) been getting lots of questions about the process. Here goes!

  • How long had I been growing my hair and what prompted the decision to cut it
    I’ve always gravitated toward billows of hair because my MuvaIcons include Chaka Khan and Diana Ross. So, it never really crossed my mind in any serious capacity before now. In 2009-ish, I found myself at the very unfortunate nexus of hair loss (stress + hard water in the Pennsylvanian mountains) & braids-gone-wrong. My stylist gave me that look that said, “You’re about to be in your feelings…”, explained the damage, and had to cut my hair to a shoulder length bob.

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    B.C. (Before Coconut Oil) Memories

    I’d been growing it back out since then, getting trims here and there. My hair care process was relatively simple: make sure it’s moisturized and do whatever is easiest. So, it grew back out without too much drama.

    Flash forward to the year of our Lord, 2016…

    I loved my big hair. At the same time, I wasn’t really doing anything with it on a frequent basis. I made sure it was clean, detangled, and moisturized. I would wear it out for about 3 days out of the week and then, up it went into a high ponytail or into a head-wrap. The thought of cutting it crossed my mind quite a few times. The decision was cemented after one particularly aggravating detangling session that lasted approx 25 minutes. My partner and I gathered the scissors and clippers and the rest… is now in a very pitiful looking bag of hair that I really ought to take out of my bathroom. (Overshare orrrrr….?)

  • How long will I keep this? Am I growing it back out?
    I have no idea. It depends on how I’m feeling down the line.
  • Pros? Cons?
    I’m smiling when I wake up to take off my bonnet! I’m stressed when I wake up in the middle of the night because the hair-to-pillow ratio is really off and I’m not used to it yet. I’m excited to see what my hair is doing at its root level. My scalp can feel things: wind, the sun, the chill in the air. I’m not a fan of hats but my scalp and neck are crying out against me in this Chicago wind. I’m saving product and the muscles in my arms are thanking me. I will probably have to get shape ups very frequently because my hair is already growing back in spaces. Finally, I’m getting reacquainted with my face, earrings, and have big plans that involve shoulder pads… *mischievous grin 

I’m still learning in this process. So, all of my naturalistas with short hair, please tell me about your hair journey in the comments below!

Prayers for Natural Hair Care

I’ve unpacked a little of my journey of growing up in churchy spaces (of various denominations). So, if you’re familiar with the Faith & Spirituality category of this page, you’ve seen my more formal processing around the topic. I’ve also written quite a few serious posts about natural hair care. (I passed out about 5 times when I got a feature on Curly Nikki!)

But, to be clear… this post ain’t that!

This is sheerly shenanigans and peak cultural churchiness. My hope is that you get a few good cackle-laughs, though I have not comprehensively covered all of the “dangers, toils, and snares” that naturalistas face.

Wash Day Supplications
“We come to You, knee bowed, body bent, hair tangled and / or stretched… asking You to bless this wash day. Let the soap lather appropriately. Let not mine eyes experience the troubles of shampoo burning them. Strengthen my arms, even now, so that I can lather on and see what the end gone be. Let the conditioning and sealing of my hair ‘be acceptable in Thy sight’ 1. The strands that Thou has wrought together, no breakage shall tear asunder. It is so”.

Prayer for a Set Style:
To the One Who Watches Over All Late Night Perm Rod Sets,
It’s been years since we’ve connected. However, I’m hoping you remember the true-to-the-gameness that I once possessed. You saw me through many sets before the natural hair vlogging craze and even before there was a Youtube. Should I have waited until dark o clock in the morning to embark on such a venture? No. But as I sleep, let this 3b-3c-4a blend curl reach its maximum potential to Slay. Thank you for the naturalistas across the world. To you belongs the fleekness, both now and forevermore. A-yaaaaahs”.

Bonnet Blessings
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my bonnet on to keep. And if it falls before I wake, I pray the Lord my rod set takes. Amen”

Declaration for the Restoration of Edges:
“God is a God of restoration. They that have laid their edges down by the riverside (or gotten them snatched) shall recover them one hundred fold. Every lace front, braid extension, too-tight ponytail, trace of chlorine, winter dryness, wool hat, etc. that has tried to come against thine edges will not be able to prosper! It is so”.

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Photo Credit: J.O., Group Chat Shenanigans

Psalms, Hymns, and Shenanigan Songs
“Blessed be the gel that binds / Our coifs in peak Coif form”2
“I come into Target alone / While the sales are still on the rows… es”. (Walgreens and Target = natural hair product central for me)3
“I stretch these braids to Thee / Protective style, I know / If it withdraws mine edges from me / Ah! How then shall they grow?!” 4

Length Check Thanksgiving:
“In this time, in this space, in this moment, we pause to say Thank You. In this year alone, I have given a good measure to Carol’s Daughter, Miss Jessie, and Kinky Curly products. Now, my hair is ‘pressed down, shaken together, and running over’ 5. We just want to say Thank You”.

A Note on the Practice of Anointing With Oil:
Readers, do you think there is any way we could start requesting that ministers anoint with coconut oil? Do they understand how healing that oil is for your skin, your hair, your entire life? Because this would basically be me… at altar call… once I stop fellowshipping at Bedside Baptist and 11-o-clock Brunch Ministries on Sunday mornings:

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Found this deep in the InstaGram archives. Readers PLEASE tell me who the prophetic person is that initially made this piece! Also, shout out to Trader Joe’s for having the $5.99 jars of Coconut Oil.  

This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but I have actual life-things to do. So, perhaps there will be a part two because… options: Prayers for Lost Bobby Pins, Loc Maintenance, Praise for Protective Styles, etc. For now, I would love to hear your natural hair care prayers! Leave them in the comments below!

Photo Credit: CreateHerStock.com, Additional quotes and materials are hyper-linked