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click to enlarge Author Stephanie Daniels had to muster the courage to let her hair go free form.

Photo by Andy Paulissen

Author Stephanie Daniels had to muster the courage to let her hair go free form.

How I got back to my roots and embraced my true self 


"Girl, why is your hair all over your head?"

I stood there for a moment, my mother's words sharp like a bee sting. I knew she meant no harm, but I had felt so proud of how I looked. I answered, "Mom, these are free-form locs." Earlier that day, I had found and allowed my spirit to shine in its truest form. But the journey to self-love is never an easy one.

Two hours prior to my mother's rather unwelcome, yet not entirely unexpected, question, I was sitting in a hair salon endearingly named Napps. Monique, the beautiful being whose chair I occupied, wore a colorful crop top with a piece of Kente cloth adorning her waist. Her grounding in her own spirit called me to crawl out from behind the world's standards and join hers.

We talked about spirituality, incense, alkaline and ancestors. Then she paused to ask how I wanted my hair done.

I hesitated for a moment, the truth on my lips as if waiting on the pop of a starter's pistol to let it go. But her energy brought it out of me.

"I'm considering free form, but I don't know ..." The words lingered in the embarrassment I felt in not giving myself the love to be free.

Free-form locs are the father of traditional dreadlocks. Most people with locs go in and get their hair styled and roots re-twisted for a more "clean and neat" look. Free form is more organic. It's about letting your hair take the shape for which it was intended: no manipulation. It's allowing your spirit to manifest on the outside in its truest form.

Monique inquired as to why I wouldn't take the leap, rinsing what felt like every inhibition from my hair. Then she laid on my spirit the words that have stuck with me ever since: "If you can't be who you are in your own skin, then what you're doing isn't for you."

It was refreshing to find someone so grounded, but it also saddened me that I'd been living in St. Louis my whole life and never received such bracing words. I was scared of how "untamed" my hair would look to others — the residual effects of the grooming I had received for decades.

Hair was a topic we seldom spoke about directly in my family, but it always tended to come up in conversation, verbal or not. Growing up, I was one of five and the only girl. I can still hear my mom telling me how she'd prayed for a full head of hair for me. She hadn't dealt with natural hair herself, because she only had boys prior to me. And she herself had a low cut like them.

My whole life my mom has always been confident with her hair; I mean the woman literally said, "I'm done with my hair," and cut it at a time where women with short hair were looked at as masculine. Her routine was very simple: She would take the boys to get their hair cut, and have the barber cut her hair as well.

As a child, I would go with them to the barber shop. Her living in her truth was huge to me before I even knew it. I remember thinking "How cool is she?" as she sat among the men, there for the same thing. She could assert herself, cut out the nonsense and remain as delicate as a lotus. She was free and confident in her own skin as a black woman.

I've never seen my mother with hair, like ever. She first cut her hair in her late teens, in 1977. Keep in mind the era she was in. In the 1970s, natural hair exploded in the black community as a whole, and St. Louis was no exception. Afros adorned the heads of many, and black power ignited the black community like the Olympic torch. Black hair was being shown in a positive light. My mom was the image of that in her own way.

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