Monday, July 17, 2017

hey, it's me!



when i first moved to harlem from brooklyn in 2003(ish), strangers on the street had quite a lot to say about my free and natural hair.  "do your hair!!!" was yelled at me as i walked down the street.  many times.  ms. lillian, my neighbor out on the stoop every day, just shook her head at me in dissappointment as i came and went.

a couple years ago i was looking on google images for a silhouette of a woman with an afro for a calendar i was making called "harlem portraits."  i couldn't find anything suitable.  then i (finally) realized that was me.  so i took a selfie, traced it onto a print block and cut out the image.  i ended up hand printing it onto all kinds of things -- rice paper, swatches of silk, handmade notebooks, etc.

for some reason, this summer, i remembered this image and decided to make it my personal logo, having it printed on a t-shirt.  yesterday was the first day i made those "afro-printed" tees available to the public.  and i learned something.

it was the "go africa!" street fair in harlem.  i lost count of the many natural-haired, mostly bespectacled, women who walked past, saw the shirt, and exclaimed:  "hey, it's me!"  not only did i sell a boatload of shirts, but i met so many new family members -- sisters, aunties, nieces, of all different hues, shapes and styles.  it is an indescribable feeling to have so many strangers look at an image of you and see themselves.  that level of interconnectedness is soul-stirring.

one of my new sisters at the go africa! street festival
i had noticed the sea change in the neighborhood for a while now:  ms. lillian had long-ago begun to defend me from the stoop to suspicious passersby; "do your hair!!" was eventually replaced with "i like your hair!"; friends who used to have no problem spotting me at an outdoor concert, now need to text me because there are so many afros today.  so many women with afros.  so many sisters.

it was such a pleasure to meet you all.  shall we have a family reunion at harlem week?

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