I usually start around 4 a.m. and finish around 8 a.m. I do it every 3-4 weeks. It's one of the few times that I sit
in absolute silence, alone with nothing more than my thoughts. I call this my braiding meditation. It's the time I spend braiding
the hair of my 4-year-old son Zion while he sleeps. People often ask me, "Why don't you just get that boy a haircut?" I don't
have an answer, I just know that Spirit said don't cut it. Years later, my son would tell me that he wants his hair like daddy's.
Well, Spirit was right. I had no idea my husband would grow locs, but Spirit knew and now my son wants to do the same. I've
decided Zion must wait until age 7 to make the transition. I don't know what's special about that number. Spirit is leading
me again. Maybe it's because 7 is a lucky number in African numerology and it's the day of my birthday. Also, in Muslim culture
age 7 is the age when a boy begins the work of becoming a man.
What does all of this have to do with homeschooling?
For me it's teaching my son to not only know thyself, but to love thyself. I tie the hair piece in with the cultural piece
and learning about Africa. To my son, natural hair is normal. Braids, locs, afros, twists, twist outs, are all normal. He's
never heard anyone use the word "nappy" in a disparaging way. In the Utsey house, we are all "happy to be nappy."
we read African folk tales or look through books about Africa, there is no laughing or squealing "ewwwwww." My son is intrigued
and captivated. He identifies with his ancestors and embraces that part of himself so much so that when people ask him "where
are you from?" He responds, "I'm from Africa." I don't have the heart to tell him that though our ancestors are from Africa,
we are actually from Washington, D.C.
I remember as a child feeling sad that I didn't have "good" hair, or if not
good hair, then at least "long hair." Today I rejoice in knowing that my son is learning from everyone around him, from his
daddy to his pastor, to love himself. I don't worry about that rite of passage where he goes to school to learn that not everyone
is in love with naps and in some case you could actually be teased for having nappy hair.
Homeschooling has allowed
me to temporarily insulate my son while I fill up his soul with a love of self from history and culture on down to food and
hair. Sure, there will be times when he encounters people who do not love their African selves. But it is my prayer that by
that time my son will be so fortified in who he is that he will be able to protect himself from mental harm and in the process
cause another person to stop and think.
Self Love Exercise
Inspired by a conversation
I had with Paula Penn-Nabrit, author of Morning by Morning: How We Homeschooled Our African-American
Sons into the Ivy League, I began to think of ways to teach my son about the beauty of Black women. I came up with
the idea of making "Queen" collages. Using a large piece of black poster board, we stenciled the word Queen Collage at the
top. Then we flipped through the magazines picking out beautiful women and natural hairstyles. I learned that he doesn't like
makeup and he likes women who look like momma (what a compliment!) He arranged the pictures and glued them himself. Skills
reinforced: letters, cutting, pasting, organization, and of course-love of self!