Shedding Trappings…


I recently found this article on the Huffington Post about Singer Eryrkah Badu, it talks about why ten years ago she shed the large head wraps that had become synonymous with her image here is what she said when speaking a reporter from Essence.com:

‘...she visited Cuba to get a Santeria reading, clad in “this white head wrap and this white long dress and all of my jewelry, because it was part of me. It was who I was.” She waited alongside a man with dirty nails, smoking a cigarette and swigging beer.

I finally went in for my reading and there was this beautiful older woman who had on a yellow long dress and short haircut. She was very pretty. She started walking around me and speaking to me in Spanish. I assumed she was the priest who was going to give me my reading.

When the guy with the beard and dirty nails came in, I told the interpreter, “I kind of wanted it to be private.” She goes, “Oh no, he’s the Priest.”

I never wore the head wrap again. I realized it wasn’t necessary anymore, because after all that man was from a long line of healers and he didn’t have to look like one. He was born with it. No matter what he did or what he said, no one could take that away from him. That’s when I was freed and began to evolve. I began to focus on being more in here than out there.

I find this interesting on many levels. The first has to do with Badu’s garb itself. She blew up in the mid-90’s when there was a resurgence of the idea of “Black is Beautiful” and Embrace my African Roots was in full effect. Black men and women ( I say this because it was not only African but West Indian Americans and a mixture of anything else you can image) were shaving their heads, twisting locks, wearing cowerie shells and indigenous garb from where ever their roots or hearts tied them. Personally I thought this was an era when Black people looked their best (in my lifetime) there was a naturalness and ease to the beauty and confidence that they were exuding, it didn’t matter if your hair was an afro, twists, braids, locks, or relaxed… I might add that this was a time before the Yaki Silky extensions and front lace wigs were ubiquitous (not saying that there is anything wrong with that but we can all agree that it is not the most natural look out there) women had extension and weaves for sure, but the idea was that you weren’t supposed to know- you had to look closely for a track, or a change in texture between what was hers and what she bought.

It was a magical time in New York for people of color, we were in Vogue again, and we were feeling ourselves wonderful and beautiful, and the music was a reflection of what was going on, Erykah Badu, had her wrap and Maxwell his Afro and it was all good. The only (slight) downside was, that in our community your hair and style was perceived by some as political position, an outward indicator of whether you were “down” or not. That to me was the one annoying part, because my hair has never a reflected my politics or belief system. The head wrap was a prevalent accessory for women of color in the 90’s (just to clarify I am talking about my experience of what was happening in New York) That “Afrocentric” look came out of Brooklyn Flatbush, a West Indian, African, Black Artist Bohemian Mecca at the time. I lived Harlem and rock every look from a double strand twist, to a large afro or head wrap and when ever someone asked me where I lived they always though I must be from Brooklyn. Erykah lived in Brooklyn and studied under a woman named Queen Afua who was spiritualist and holistic healer known for her cleanses and colonics. Queen dressed in traditional African garb wore and Ankh in the middle of her forehead suspended from her widow’s peak, and was a strict vegan. I became acquainted with Queen at the 10 street Russian Bathes where back in the day Women’s day was all day Wednesdays, Queen would come their with the groups she ushered through their fasts to steam.
When Badu first came out I loved the idea of her but the coded messages in her music that referred to the 5 percent Nation was a bit of a turnoff, mainly because I have experienced the practices to be separatist, but the movement which blossomed out of the Nation of Islam has at it’s root, at it’s heart if you will, the desire to infuse Black people with pride, and self love. So it stands to reason that when Black people started emanating this beauty, power and strength from within themselves and the community, that a sect like the 5 Percent Nation should see a resurgence as well. It was everywhere, the philosophies are all through the work of Wu Tang Clan music as well. But I digress a bit what I was getting at was that when Erykah Badu hit the scene in her head wrap that kept getting bigger and bigger at a point I thought it was overkill, like she was trying to hard to sell it- not the look but what was supposed to be the spiritual belief behind it. So when I hear her say now, the thing that made let go of the head wrap and other trappings was that she realized that it was about being it, not wearing it I am moved. I suppose that, her sub rosa feeling of playing dress up was really what I was reacting to when she first came out I just felt that it was a show more than an authentic way of being.

It matters little where we come from or how we got there, the most important part is that we arrive. I am so
happy that she has arrived, at her Self. It is an important lesson that sometimes the “trappings” are props, a means to an authentic end. Whether it’s clothing, hair styles, cars, homes or partners, getting to the t’ruth of one’s self is the objective. It is my belief that the essence of every individual is inherently beautiful, worthy, and just, the trappings and wrappings are just a way we as those individuals come to understand and subsequently own that birthright…

*The 5 Percent Nation a religious sect that “sees the world population divided into three groups: 85% of the people are blind to the knowledge of themselves and God, while 10% of the people know the truth but teach a lie for their personal gain; seen as part of this 10% are religious leaders that teach that God is an incorporeal being (hence the term “mystery God”). The 10% can also include the governments and corporations of the world that deceive and mislead the majority of the world through most of the available media outlets. The remaining 5% are the “poor righteous teachers” — those who do not subscribe to the teachings of the 10% as they know and teach that God is the BlackMan of Asia. Asia refers to the whole planet Earth, or Pangaea.” Wikipedia

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