Wednesday Wisdom: I Am Not My Hair

11174814_10206946934940303_6201952797479478825_nFresh out of college, I was hired by a company that needed to “diversify” their employee roster (read: hire some black people NOW!). I wasn’t mad because I was fully qualified and passed several screenings tests and interviews to get the job. Being one of two black women in an office of maybe 50 people, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I wasn’t from the town and I was one of the youngest people in a department of mostly caucasian men; I was a living breathing alien. They did welcome me with open arms and worked to make me feel as comfortable as possible, but one day it was made clear to me that they were not looking at me.

After about a month or two of being there, my friend that got hired along with me went to a different department to handle some business and one of the women asked her, “Who was the new girl that just started?” Confused, she inquired about this new person and they said it was another young black girl. I thought to myself, “the building is not that big where could she be hiding?” After a bit more probing, they said she has long, curly braids and that was the extent of the description. They got the immediate side eye because I had just changed my hair style to long, curly braids, and just like that, after “looking” at me for an entire month or two, I was unrecognizable.

I was not offended at all, in fact I thought it was funny. Back then when I was young and free and had exorbitant amounts of me time, I would change my hairstyle as many times as a teenager changes their Facebook profile pic. Curly, straight, long, short, highlighted, braided — whatever mood I was in at the moment, I did it, and in my eyes I could pull anything off and had no problem trying. But in that moment I realized, while I did not think my hair defined me, it was obvious that it actually was what defined me. They were not looking at me, they were looking at my hair. And before you start to think that I must have been coming to work with helicopters made out of Brazilian silky attached to my bun, I was not getting that crazy; it was all professional and work appropriate. No one ever made any remarks to me about my hair, or at least I don’t remember, but I am sure they talked about it at home or thought about it. Which leads me to my questions: Has anyone ever made any assumptions about you based on your hairstyle? Has an employer ever asked you to change your hairstyle? Has a friend ever suggested that you change your hairstyle to get ahead? Do you have any preconceived notions and assumptions when it comes to hair? When you see certain hairstyles, do you formulate opinions on that person’s lifestyle? Would you change your hair if it was suggested that it would get you to the next level?

Here are the answers from the Women of BEB:

Monica Michelle: I wouldn’t change my hairstyle for any employer. I say that with conviction now having recently changed from relaxed to natural. When I did my big chop to begin my natural hair journey, my job or what they would think wasn’t even a thought in my mind initially. It was my choice and I knew it wouldn’t make me a lesser employee. Albeit, when I did get to work everyone was completely shocked. Mostly quiet about it though. The few black people who worked at my job gave me reassuring nods while all others simply said “Oh new hairstyle, huh?” To which I gave a stern… SURE DID! Almost daring them to say anything about it. Would it have prevented me from senior level career pathing, I don’t know nor did I think about it. And so far, no employer has asked me to change my hairstyle.

Allison Younger: My general feeling about hair is that it’s somewhat like clothing when it comes to business folk: you will likely be judged; similar to the way a woman is judged if her skirt is too short or too tight. The question then becomes, “How much do you care?” When I first went natural and was interviewing, I would put my hair in a bun or wear it straight. Now that I am on a different level professionally (and mentally), I don’t really care. My hair is what it is and if someone doesn’t like it, they can kick rocks. I am who I am and I make no apologies or alterations. Fortunately, I’ve never been asked to change my hair for an employer, but if I was, I would then ask why. In my mind, there’s no real way of answering that question without avoiding a lawsuit. Hence, I would never change it for my job or anyone else for that matter.

Kia Marshall:  I’m usually conservative with my hair so I don’t think I’ve ever been judged for it at work. Several years ago I was asked by an older woman of another race/culture if she could touch my hair, when I wore it natural (curly). Or I’ve gotten asked how I get my hair like that. But not so much anymore. People at work will just tell me they like my hairstyle if I change it up.

Ayeisha Seawright Moses: Going into Corporate America, it was stated by recruiters, counselors, professors etc. that braids or locs may not be received well on an interview. But once you got the job, it was “ok” to wear those styles. When I started my natural transition, I wore braids for a whole year and my coworkers would ask me, “how long did it take?” “is that all your hair?” What was funny or sad depending on how you want to look at it, after a several months of having my locs, one person thought I still had braids and asked me how do I take them out! I would not change my hair for an employer. Take me AS I AM!

Fatimah: Hair still matter in many industries however I believe that locs and braids are accepted more now than they use to be. I agree hair can be looked at like clothing when it comes to the work place. Anytime you are dealing with the good old boys club you are your hair and what you wear.

Anonymous: I work in a creative industry and I think it matters wayyy less than if I were to work in a corporate environment. My hair is a great representation of who I am and it changes quite often. It’s smart, bold, flirty, demure, it’s ME. I’ve worn it relaxed with long layers: when I want to conform and make my granny happy, and I’ve worn it short and choppy: when I’m feeling bad-assed and want to make myself happy. It has been a little bit of everything along the way, both natural and relaxed: long and short. My hair usually reflects my mood. I believe employers judge and I think it’s the individual’s responsibility to know their audience. Ultimately, when my hair looks good, I feel great! #freetobeyouandme

Neesha Wilson: Sorry for the late response I was in a training for most of the day. I work with New York State Education Department and I have not been asked by my employer to change my hairstyle. Since it is an industry that focuses on serving those with disabilities it really is not an issue at my workplace. I don’t believe this would ever be brought up in the type of work that I do as a Counselor. I generally wear my hair straight during the winter months and wear it curly during the summer. I notice that people tend to compliment me on my hair more often whenever I wear it curly. I do agree with the ladies that wear their hair natural, you should never have to change the way you wear your hair for a job. As long as it is presentable and well groomed it should not make a difference.

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Ky is the author of the Happy Fridays series and as well as the BEB Director of Photography

Photo Credit: Kyeisha Kelly

Happy Easter: God, Spirituality and Me

HappyEaster_thumb3Growing up, I was a once-a-year church-goer — I only went to church on Easter Sunday and on a very rare Christmas Eve. The day consisted of a trip to church, followed by a great family meal and candy; it was just like Thanksgiving, except with church. It was fine by me, after all it was only an hour (Catholic service was exactly an hour; no more no less) and I had a new outfit, so all was good. It wasn’t until I got older and we no longer had to go that I started to question this behavior. As is turned out, my Dad, who is more of a spiritual man and never subscribed to any one religion, did not want to force any religion on us. My Mom, who was raised in the church and went regularly, agreed but still wanted us to be exposed so we could have some sort of understanding about religion. But all in all we were left to find our own way. Religion was never discussed unless we had questions. The idea was to allow a religion to find us, or for us to find a religion that we believed in and that we could relate to.

It wasn’t until my 30’s that I really started to think about religion and what it meant to me. I was still so lost because there are so many religions, but they all seem to worship the same God (just with a different name). The Bible can be interpreted in a million different ways; after all it is a book of stories and each person can take something different from it. I never felt like it was necessary to visit a church to worship the Lord. I did believe in God, just not the image that, to me, seems forced on us. So much about the church seemed hypocritical  — from the Catholic Church sex scandals to the Baptist Church’s financial controversies ranging from preachers running off with the congregation’s money to pastors spending extravagantly while their parishioners struggled to feed their families. A church could be everything from an extravagant 100 year old plus Cathedral to a dusty basement apartment. It just didn’t seem right and I didn’t want any parts of it, so I just ignored it and walked my own path of righteousness.

But I was feeling incomplete and I still had many questions. I lived a life that I believed to be righteous, but I wouldn’t consider myself as God fearing  — I mean, after all, I didn’t fear God. Why should I? I was always taught that God was a kind and gentle God, a forgiving and loving God. What does that term “God fearing” even mean? In my quest for wholeness I discovered spirituality. I came to the conclusion that I am a living spirit having a human experience. Years ago when I was having my home blessed, the Bishop asked me what was my idea of God. No one ever asked me that, but surprisingly the answer just came to me and my answer was that I believed there was not just one God, but that there were many and that they all served a different purpose. I read it somewhere and it sounded good, so I went with it. Many years later, I found myself thinking about it again and I came to a different conclusion — there is just one God, one being, and it is the universe: everything around us, regardless of if we can see, touch, taste, smell or hear it, it was there and it was God. My idea of God is that we are all cells living in the body of God. Maybe I am in the arm, maybe the foot, but I am in there living, breathing, working and helping supply life to the universe.

With this new found understanding of who I am and what my relationship to God is, I realized that everyone has a choice in this life to either be a healthy productive cell that works with all the cells around it in an effort to keep the body healthy, vibrant and alive, or you can be a cancerous, destructive cell that infects all the cells around it and creates a diseased and dying environment. And with this understanding, I walk through life free to be me. I still don’t go to church; my world is my church. But today, like every day, I will celebrate family, life and love, and my hope is that you will do that same.

Happy Sunday and Happy Easter to you!

Words to live by from Ky

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Wednesday Wisdom: Blessed is ________________.

Wednesday has always been a day of reflection, better known as Hump Day. It is a day to reflect on what you have or have not accomplished this week and also on what you want to accomplish before the week is over. It is a day that you solidify plans for the coming weekend and laugh about the funny things that happened in the weekend that passed.

For this reason, I thought Wednesday would be the perfect day to share a weekly series called Wednesday Wisdom. It is intended to be a group post where you can hear from all or most of our members. We would also love for you to join us and post your blessings also.

To kick off our weekly series I want to rejoice in our blessings this week. They come in all forms and are considered anything in your life that brings you great Joy, Love, Abundance, Hope, Faith, Inspiration and so on.

We hope that you enjoy reading our blessings and it helps you find and appreciate yours.

Blessed is waking up every morning next to the man I love. ~ Mica S.

 Blessed is having the vision and the faith in oneself to see something you love come to fruition. ~ Moni C.

 Blessed is the feeling I have every day of my life! #iamthankful ~ Allison Y.

 Blessed is finding the most amazing pair of shoes and realizing they are on sale! ~  Moni C.

Blessed is cooking dinner for my family as I listen to my daughter practice her flute. ~ Kyiesha K.

Blessed is having friends that make you laugh during stressful times. ~ Neesha W.

Blessed is living out your dreams. ~ Ayisha E.

Blessed is being loved flaws and all. ~ Mica S.

Blessed is loving what you do and doing what you love. ~ Kyiesha K.

Blessed is being a first time mom at 42 and loving every moment. ~ Roxanne C.

Blessed is smiling through the struggle and seeing the pay-off in your children. ~  Rashieda B.  

Blessed is taking a moment to enjoy the journey of life. ~ Mica S.

Blessed is having a partner who is not only a husband but your best friend. ~ Neesha W.

Blessed is knowing your purpose and fulfilling that throughout your lifetime. ~ Kia M.

Blessed is being able to still fit into jeans you’ve had for 5 years. ~ Rashieda B.

Blessed is having wonderful family and friends. ~ Ayisha E.

Blessed is coming home after a long hard day at work and having your little man waiting up for you to put him asleep.

~ Roxanne C.

Blessed is being a first time mom at 42 and loving every moment. ~ Roxanne C.

Blessed is having friends that can make you laugh until you can’t speak, or breathe! ~ Kyiesha K.

Blessed is knowing that your life has purpose, and living in the realization of that purpose daily! ~ Davida M.

Blessed is knowing that God takes care of it all. ~ Ayisha E. 

Please join us by posting your blessings below!

Until we see you on Friday

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Ky is the BEB Photographer and author of the Happy Friday Series.

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