Scalp-Greasing: A Black Hair Ritual

IMG_7159.JPG

Greasing or oiling the scalp has historical roots for black Afrikans born in America. In fact as we’ve become more knowledgeable about the benefits of natural oils, scalp oiling has become common practice among people of all ethnicities to maintain healthy hair and scalp. This entry will highlight how it relates directly to the women in the #afrikanface show and to people of Afrikan descent. During enslavement, we no longer had access to #palmoil that we used in #afrika to care for our hair, so we used other oil-based products like #lard #butter #crisco to condition and soften our hair. Scalp greasing is a ritual.

IMG_7157

Dr. Kari explains perfectly, “The days of washing our hair at the kitchen sink, detangling in the bathroom, perhaps blow drying, and spending time on your mom’s living room floor on a pillow, nestled between her legs for that routine scalp greasing. It was a ritual that, no matter how busy life got, was NOT forgone. Part by part, inch by inch, your scalp was doused in a “miracle” grease”…

Scalp time was our love time (I wrote a poem about this). It was a time to bond, for mama to lay open her hands souls to literally groom you. It seemed almost therapeutic for both of us (even when my hair was tangled, still a tender headed ass), the way she would place a dollop of grease on the back of her hand, comb, then grease, then part, then grease some more, then plat or braid. The jewel was how she managed to have full fledged conversations, sip beer, and brushed my baby hair all fancy, adding her finishing touch. Those were the days, nights, afternoons I still long for today. Come to the show to see how the hair ritual unfolds!

Warmest,

Thee Amazing Grace B

IMG_7158

Throw Back Thursday :)

IMG_7821 (1)

#‎tbt‬ i remember exactly where i stood-in the living-room, next to the french doors in my apartment on e. clay st. it was hot in the early summer of #2010. i had just turned 30 in march of that year and was having defeating thoughts about aging and he always made me feel ageless and beautiful. he was brilliant. he captured the parts of me that i valued less at that time and made me love them. thank you for that.
‪#‎theartist‬ was ‪#‎oncemylover‬ and is ‪#‎myfriend‬

-Thee Amazing Gracie

Your Arms Too Short to Box with God

Listened to some dope hip hop classics tonight. Heard the verse, “your arms too short to box with god” by at least 3 different artists (Nas, Big Daddy Kane, and Wu Tang Clan). Of course I had to google it’s origin. Come to find out the verse was actually the title of a musical written and directed by a woman name Vinette Carroll in 1977. Totally cool! In fact the same woman was the first African-American woman to direct on Broadway, with the 1972 musical “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”. Carroll said of the musical, “This is a hymn to us, how the black man, who’s come a long way, must continue moving forward.” And how beautiful that black men in hip hop were the ones quoting her work. ‪

#‎ourlegacy‬ ‪#‎everyday‬

-Gracie Berry (thee amazing grace)

Veteran stage/film actress Vinnette Carroll appeared as Dr. Wynell Thatcher in the Season 7 "AITF" episode "Archie's Operation:Part 1".  Source: http://all-in-the-family-tv-show.wikia.com/wiki/Vinnette_Carroll

Veteran stage/film actress Vinnette Carroll appeared as Dr. Wynell Thatcher in the Season 7 “AITF” episode “Archie’s Operation:Part 1”.
Source: http://all-in-the-family-tv-show.wikia.com/wiki/Vinnette_Carroll

Money Madhers: The Day I Asked My Grandma For Another Dollar

I remember it like the moles sprinkled just below my left eye on my left cheek. I lived with my grandmother at the time. We were always in that old Thunderbird making stops for food and liquor. Lynn, my grandmothers husband pulled up along side the curb on 45th and Lancaster Ave Philadelphia Pennsylvania cross the street from Penn State Beer Store. Grandma finalized her order, a pint of gin, Lynn opted for a 5th of vodka and he got out of the car.

I could always tell when she was in a good mood cause she would get to buying stuff and throwing money around. She would be extra nice to Lynn, even gave him a kiss on the lips. She turned toward the backseat where I was sitting and said here Rabbit. Rabbit was a term of endearment she used toward me and my siblings. She continued, take this here dollar grandma got for you as she waved it around. I was so happy and was smiling from ear to ear cause the sun was so bright outside and I thanked her. I thought for a second with the Jamaican candy story adjacent to my left and in plain sight as any kid would about all of the snacks, candy they could buy if they had just one more dollar and since she was in such a good mood I opened my mouth with wide tooth smile and asked in the sweetest voice I could muster if I could have another dollar. Actually I said, “Can I have another one Grema”.

The instant she turned to me, a raging bull, face stern with that evil darkness in her eyes and menacing half smile I was so deathly afraid of and snatched the dollar out of my hand, tearing it in half in the process. She smacked the blood out of my face and blamed me for the dollar ripping. She yelled at me that I better not EVER, EVER ask no adult for no motherfucking money after they already gave me some. She followed by saying, “See what you made me do”. She always said that after beating me badly or when something went wrong. She called me an ungrateful little bitch. I cried in silence with tears rolling down my face and choking on that lump of sadness you get when you just want to scream it all out, but can’t because if you did it would be so much worse.

That was the moment I learned never to beg for money or anything for that fact. To be satisfied with what was given to me. To settle. To never aspire to reach for anything more than what was in my view. To never overstep my bounds even if I wanted something on the other side. I was meek and solitary and confused at how much, me simply asking for that extra dollar made her mad. How angry she was at the very notion of me making that choice. How much control she had over all things in my life. How that one moment debilitated my self-worth and drive that affects me deep down to this very day. How I will often suffer alone instead of asking for the help I need out of some secret fear. She always wanted to break me, every chance she got. -Gracie Berry

For Some Life Is Too Long

Thinking about the courageous folks in my life that ended their own lives. So much love between us, having shared the planet together! I remember seeing the light slowly leave from behind your eyes. To watch you suffer that loss made me so sad. And while some say that life is too short-for you life was too long. I hold you and honor you here, behind my left breast.~Gracie

Remember Life Before the Boat? -Gracie Berry

Photo on 9-13-14 at 8.42 PM #2
Thrift find: At first glance I was disturbed by it, then shocked. I realized that I needed to get a grip, literally get my hands on it before that old white lady did, so I slid in to stake my claim. Her face was irritated like I had stolen something from her. She huffed and puffed and stomped away. I examined the image and how it showed the glutenous way businesses have deployed racism to sell their products. Aah yes- Life After the Boat! They used our faces as they used our bodies to not only turn a profit, but to deplete us from ever existing as valuable human spirits on this planet. I approached the counter and the cashier said, “Wow! I’m surprised a person of color wants this.” In sarcasm I said, “Of course I wouldn’t want an image of a person that reflects me.” She apologized and talked some bullshit about how she lived during the 1960’s where stuff like this was really bad. I replied, “Um, Ferguson Missouri-stuff is still really bad.” I told her that she should never charge people of color that wants images like this. She charged me 50 cents from the $10 the store wanted for it. I told her that it’s part of my life’s mission to liberate my experience as well as those around me, and that this was not a purchase for monetary gain-it is a way to honor my ancestors, objectified like the one in this image. A way to honor them in my home and my heart, so that anyone who enters my space will bare witness to them-valued human spirit. They have a place here. It’s easier to whitewash over our history and pretend it never happened. People of color need to take symbols and images that are meant to oppress us and redefine them. It was like her sweet face was waiting to be found by me-someone that understands her, loves her. They can’t hold you hostage if you’re free. Remember life before the boat and how we honored each other and loved each other? Honor the richness from where we’ve come. Images like this are necessary parts of our healing. In solidarity to us still suffered by racism. Gracie Berry #digtheskinyouin #blacklovebeforetheboathelpsmeremeberblacklifebeforetheboat #weareone

Grease My Scalp

Image

Grease My Scalp

Hair Love Was Different for this Little Black Afrikan Girls-Started with my mama, grandmother, aunty Neece, Diane, Marcita, and Frida. All my first human examples of what being a woman should be like. Thinking about how they each lived so different, yet managed to use the same lingual to teach me all that I know now. Growing up-in my house-everything was ‘STANK’ lol! Stank could show approval or not…mostly related to cute, bitch, funny, sassy, grown, irking, sexy ass, and odorous-cause you can’t have stank without stink. My mama called us Berry women movers and shakers. And instead of our fleshy fruit being produced from one ovary we were produced from many. The Berry’s like wildly staccato infused edible berry goodness planted all over West Philadelphia. My family loved to the intense-degree, unapologetic, ancestral, so deep, genuine, moving, doing everything-grand, natural, fleshy, ancient,  rooted in our DNA. They cooked together and not just on Sundays. They taught us girls how to be ladies and ‘big kids’. Showed us how to play double Dutch, Jacks, hide and seek, hand games, rhymes and riddles, had water fights on the block, in the park, even in the house.

My family always knew how to get a party started and more so how to it keep going. From loud belly laughs that filled stagnant air to stories of survival and hard times. I caught a feeling every time one of my them pulled excess hair from a comb or a brush to burn in hair fire rituals, on stove tops for our protection. They conjured spirits by waving they  magic lady fingers-healing fingers. They had no fear of the dead, so I wasn’t scarred. Showed me how to worship those transitioned, how to burn candles to light their path, how to call on them in times of need. Showed me how the wind and birds gave us gifts and messages indeed. Our lineage ran deep like dirt-on earth grandmothers, mothers, mothers lived abundant on west Indian soil, loved masculine partners from First Nations ancestry shacked up on state sides, shipped to Antebellum South to slave plantations, settling in Philadelphia in the hood of sisterly affections. They dialogued something chatty between Patwa, Ogeechie, to some artful urban-dialect that I loved to understand. I was a captive audience to their stories of glitter, enchantments, death, voodoo-magic, dolls, birth blood, and spells on how to keep a man which honestly didn’t work for me lol! Each story pulled at my heart strings and I smiled.

A jar of Blue Magic pomade was never far away, always partially full, and always in plain sight. When times were hard Crisco, Land-O-Lakes butter, or Vaseline would do just fine. They would always catch me right before bed to grease my scalp. They must have needed the soothing comfort of the experience too. They each would instruct me the same: grab a pillow, grease, brush, and comb-and sit on the floor between their legs, or on some chair. And I loved the way everyone, greased my scalp with the exclusion of my aunt Marcita. It was like she was always in a hurry. She rushed and roughed-up my tender little nappy head soo. And she wouldn’t hesitate to smack my face with comb or open palm at the notion of me nodding off to sleep, acting squeamish, or crying. I was ‘tender-headed’ as they used to say back then, so I hated anything that resembled rough on my head. Since my aunty was the youngest of 5 girls she was the most hip, dressed hip, did everything hip. The hair styles she came up with on me were thee dopest! I did like that part despite the pain. My grandmother and mama would yell at her saying, that the styles were too stank (too grown) in this case. She would defend me by saying that I looked trendy and cute. She always adorned my hair with cowrie shells, colorful beads, and other shiny ornaments. I felt pretty going to school.

They all would begin by parting my hair into four sections. My mom and aunt Neece perfected the craft of paying attention to all of my signs and signals of discomfort, my unspoken body language. The instant either of them noticed me squirming around or tearing up in silence they used their hands instead to part my nappy, thick, wool like mane, brilliant! This was their inherent mama intuition kicking in and I loved them for it. They dolloped a generous amount of grease into the palms of their hands and rubbed it over each strand of my hair before zigging and zagging in-between my scalp with the finesse of a farm tractor. With gentle fingers and palms my mom and aunt Neece held the nape of my scalp and combed til the ends were big and puffy. Their fingers felt with the ease of feathers on skin.They took their time with me and greased each section, parting piece by piece until my entire scalp was oiled. I always got goose pimples from this deeply pleasurable and highly emotional experience-made my head draw in close like a baby nursing, but toward their fingers. I succumbed to sleep on their laps every time. I would awake with the most creative braids, twists, corn rows, or plats beneath an old pair of my grandmothers pantyhose. And oh how I yearn for my mama and aunties touch in my head. Scalp time was our love time. It’s like all of the harshness I remember behind my eyes from my childhood, eases away from my temples for just a moment when I recall this story. Thinking about how organic it was, and how envious I am of my own memories. Longing for one moment more. Sharing in this type of hair love between fingers on my black scalp denotes the experience of truly being in love with me. Dedicated to all of my aunts. And Rest in Love mama and aunt Neece ❤

Warm love,

-Gracie