My hair was the first site of the Colonizer’s landing. Through the tangled bush of 4b coils that crown my head they entered, hacking away at the foliage deemed uninhabitable and uncivilized, until they had settled themselves safely within my consciousness where they would remain unbothered for many years. There, they existed as a sort of invisible roommate alongside my inner voice. Their face a blank mask taking on many personas throughout the years, they are many and they are and no one. They have many particular tastes and desires, of which they never hesitated to share with my inner voice. The two have spent much time in opposition (as forced roommates sometimes do). In fact, most of their conversations are argumentative. The Colonizer is strong. They aren’t afraid of good fight.
We didn’t meet by happenstance. My Colonizer was a gift, an inheritance of sort passed down to me through generations. Everybody in my immediate lineage has had one with whom they’ve had to contend their entire lives. Some embraced them more closely, seduced by the prospect of an easier way of being in the world. Some continuously held them at arm’s length. We have been lockstep in an abusive tango for centuries.
My Colonizer hates my hair. They were loudly vocal about it from about when I could remember starting to develop a sense of self. It reminds them of the dark and mysterious bushes they had to traverse in order to conquer its darker and more mysterious people. None of my attempts to tame it ever satisfied them. It’s unruly defiance of gravity, it’s tight delicate coils that fought combs and brushes and biceps. It’s kitchen in the back. My Colonizer resented the fight it insisted on putting up against heat, so easily reverting back to its jungle-like ways. Why couldn’t it just be branded into submission? The love that went into it’s fashioning was always lost on my Colonizer. The countless hours spent sitting between the knees of older women absorbing their understandings of the world. The pain ignored in my mother’s aging hands as she knowingly weaved intricate patterns out of the wilderness. And me, the small basket born from the weaving, waiting to be filled with all of the bounty she could pick from the branches of this world. Even the smell of Pink Lotion and Jam which are still sweet to me after all of these years! All of this was a nuisance to my Colonizer, manifestations of my ancestral burden.
So I took the pilgrimage to Wakanda, and spent the rest of the week wondering about what my inner world would look like if my Colonizer had never moved in. Who would I be if I hadn’t spent my formative years contending with their conclusions about my being? What if instead of sharing space, I was always at the center of my consciousness? Would I have always fancied myself as brilliant as Shuri? As formidable and masterful as Okoye? As desirable as Nakia? Possibly. As astounded as I was to be presented with a vision of Africa devoid of the colonizer’s influence, I realized how tightly interwoven that influence was to my perception of self. I have never known myself without them. The recurring question “Who are you?,” in the movie begs an answer of us all. Who are you now? Who were you? Who will you be?
I left the theatre confident, ebullient, and proud. I left carrying a longing for myself deep enough to shame the ocean.
My Colonizer, though still present is now quieter than they have ever been. My inner voice is stronger; she has been training on this battlefield of life for several years now and is no longer afraid of the Colonizer’s demanding presence. When they get too loud she barks like the Jabari, tightening her handle on her spear. Their tango is violent. The Colonizer’s grip embeds their fingernails in her spine, drawing blood. Each of her steps is a calculated maneuver to eventually wrap her hands around their neck and end the dance once and for all. Each is vying for control. She cedes less and less of it with each passing minute, but the Colonizer won’t go down without a bloody battle. They never have.
I hope for this inheritance to die with me. I wonder just how much #blackgirlmagic it will take to undo the generational curse.