Boundaries! What have we, as Black women, sacrificed in generations of our lives dealing with the boundaries of our hair to fit into white society? First, we were forcefully brought to these American shores by force, tortured, and raped for 400+ years in this hemisphere by brutish captors of Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and here in the United States – Britain.
Then we were freed with no recompensation or return to our Native lands in Africa. Black women were separated from the traditions and natural plants and minerals our ancestors used to braid, grow and care for our hair. Even laws forced Black women freed and enslaved to wear rags on their heads. We had to hide our hair and beauty as white women complained to politicians that competition with us exotic creatures was unfair. They didn’t realize our history in Africa of hair wrapping for status and tribal designations.
But after freedom, Black women were forced into the beauty standards of the Euro-American white woman beauty. From Madame Walker’s groundbreaking hair potions to Afro-sheen perms to Brazilian hair presses, Black women have stepped through, over, and under our own boundaries of self-care to accommodate survival in a white world. If not, we were considered unemployable for the hair that naturally grew out of our heads. We could get fired, kicked out of school, or shamed for not having whatever is considered “good” hair. Remember, if you were nappy-haired, you might not be marriage material….remember Mama saying to you, “He’s a good-lookin’ man…but your kids will have some nappy hair! Do you want to wrestle with that?”
From the Saturday wrestling matches – no, not the WWF – I mean wrestling with Mama, Grandma, Aunty, or Sis trying to press your hair. You, as a child, teenager young woman trying not to get your ears burnt, scalp burnt, or not get popped with a brush for wiggling in your chair…the pain, the fun? The camaraderie of Black women happened in the kitchen around meals and hair prep.
Did we, as Black women, ever draw the boundaries to protect our hair and beauty in trying to dance to white society’s piper of beauty? Have we protected our children from self-loathing of our hair through the generations? Whether your hair was fried, permed, Jeri curled, afroed, braided, or in locs, why are we trying to fit in when our own beauty is “enough” & “wonderful”? All those perms we used have led to high rates of cervical cancer, alopecia, and baldness within our sisterhood. Is there any coincidence of the wig shops that popped up all over Black neighborhoods as we lost so much of our hair from boundary hopping with an eraser? How many of us remember the abuse we endured because of our hair?
It’s time to draw our boundaries with an indelible marker, no eraser, no dots—self-care. Learn about caring for our hair. So many Black-owned companies are putting out excellent, caring products for us. Just two years ago, a database was started to find out what products worked for the hair and skin of melanated people. Before then, there has been none…even after all these decades of Black struggle.
So take out your Sharpie. Draw your boundaries to use the best, healthy hair products you can learn about, and teach others and your children too. Build loving boundaries and relationships around our hair, beauty, and body. We sisters deserve that after generations of struggle. Wear your crown with pride!
Christine "LIZ" LaRue
Christine “Liz” LaRue is a clay artist and illustrationist. She is known for her intricately textured figurative sculptures and emotionally illustrative drawings. Chicago born though also raised in Utah and Idaho, Ms. LaRue is of Creole/Cuban descent. Her art has been influenced by her Afro-Latino heritage. Ms. LaRue’s interests has been in Pre-Columbian art of the Olmec, Maya of Mexico, Nazca and Moche face pots of Peru. This also includes the bronze sculptures of the Ife of Nigeria, and Tā Moko tattoo art of the Maōri.
Ms. LaRue got hooked on ceramics at the age of 10 at the Hull House Art and Music Camp. She earned a B.A. in Latin American Studies with a Ceramics Minor from the University of Denver. She has a Master’s degree in clinical social work specializing in multi-cultural families. Though she lived briefly in Mexico pursuing ceramic art studies, she brought the knowledge back to Chicago to teach wheel throwing and handbuilding a various ceramic studios in Chicago. Ms. LaRue’s art work spotlights the beauty of the African American portraiture so ignored in American mainstream society.
Ms. LaRue has shown at various venues in Chicago including; Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at the Museum of Science & Industry, winning best in ceramics 2015, 2016, 2017, Hyde Park Art Center, The Cliff Dweller Club, DuSable Museum and UIC 5th Floor Gallery. She has numerous works in private collections.