HAIR...by Phumuzile Mabasha

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“Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals” via Wikipedia

When I was 4 years old my mother relaxed my hair for the first time. It was a traumatic experience. An experience that I would continue doing for the next 21 years. I hated everything about straightening my hair. I hate the process and the smell but the result always seemed to be worth it. My hair was thin, long and silky. What more could I have wanted from this? Everyone loved my hair. Everyone complimented it and believed that this was the standard of beauty. Their minds were colonised like mine. I can’t blame them because long, sleek and silky hair was the ideal. No one in my sphere ever asked why they just conformed and wanted to fit in.  It was what it was.

I went to a predominantly white school where people always wondered why I patted my hair and how I could effortlessly change my hair styles. Questions about my hair I never asked my mother but continued the dreaded experience of relaxing twice a year. It was grueling and I was always in tears during the process. I hated it but still managed to look so damn good by someone else’s standards not mine. In all honesty I was child I had not figured out what made me feel beautiful. I always knew I had beautiful hair and not to brag I still do.  For a long time, I did not see or understand the politics of hair. It was strange to me when I met girls with natural hair. Everyone more or less looked the same but to see someone’s hair in its most natural form was groundbreaking to me. No one in my family looked that way. 

As an inquisitive person, I always wanted to try something new so I decided to transition my hair in high school. I naturally have thick hair so transitioning did not look good in my twists. One girl even went as far as to comment that “I would not let my daughter leave the house with hair like that”. I laughed it off but in private I reflected on this comment. Did I look a hot mess? Is natural hair untidy? Am I presentable? The school I went was very particular about image. In the end I gave in and relaxed my hair. It was again controllable, long, silky and conforming to those damn beauty standards.  In my early 20s, I tried again to transition and it was going well. Now I understood the hair politics but was only transitioning because my friend said we should do it together. As much as I understood hair politics and even wrote a research paper on it. My mind was still colonised and I just kept thinking do I look unkempt. I had a job interview and gave in and relaxed my hair. I was a little disappointed in myself but I felt that there was no way I could look presentable with my natural hair. What also made me give in was the fact that the natural movement had started and I just did not want to follow what I thought was a trend at the time

September 2015 was the turning point, I relaxed my hair like I usually did and I got burnt beyond comprehension. I was in so much pain that I could not sleep and all I thought about was my scalp. I could not believe how much of the relaxer was stuck on my head. My mom put Vaseline on it but she said something that stuck with me. She said “yes you were really burnt but you hair looks so beautiful. It came out really well.” I was shocked by this because I was in pain and these chemicals were stuck on my scalp. I wondered to myself is this process that I dreaded worth it. How many more times will I get burnt? From that day on I have not relaxed my hair. I just could not get over the trauma of the month in 2015. 

I transitioned my hair for over a year until I did the big chop. It was fantastic and liberating. It has almost been a year since my big chop and I am head over heels in love with my hair. I won’t sit here and lie but looking after my natural hair is challenging in most cases. The washing process and styling still vex me but it an interesting learning curve. It is a fantastic way for me to learn about my hair and what it does or does not need. I spend so much time online just trying to figure out what does and does not work. The thing that surprised the most was that my hair is even more beautiful in its natural state than it was. It’s not long because it’s still short but it has personality. I still can do many hairstyles and I still get those you have beautiful hair compliments.

Hair is hair and supposedly having naturally hair is a political statement. It really could be but at the end of the day having natural hair is my decision to express my beauty. Yes I followed the movement but I decided to look like this and make that decision each day because I could relax it and have been tempted to. I sometimes miss relaxed hair. I miss the comb moving smoothly through my hair but I still love my hair. I sometimes feel that I look unkempt in certain spaces but I still love my hair.

2 years of no chemicals and 1 year since the big chop I feel great and proud of my hair. Having natural hair is how I decided to express my beauty and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.  Society lied to me about their standard of beauty and how my hair is suposed to be.

Lessons from Insecure by Violet Kadzura and Phumuzile Mabasha

HBO

As avid TV watchers, Violet and I usually do postmortems ,as she calls them, of our favorite shows so this is a little something about how we felt about season 2 of Insecure.  Here are 10 lessons about what were learnt from Insecure

If You Need Therapy, Don’t Quit

Molly, Molly, Molly…she was strong enough to overcome the initial fear of getting the help she needed, only to abandon it when she was inevitably challenged. She was likely to make bad decisions, but if she had done the work - the Dro situation wouldn’t have gone as far as it did, and she could have handled the news about her parents differently. Therapy is hard work, it dredges up some of your deepest insecurities and demons. It’s painful at first, but on the other side a stronger, peaceful and healed you is promised. Don’t let the hard work of therapy spook you into missing out on the happiness you seek.

Don’t Go for Less Than What You Want

For as long as we’ve known Molly, she’s wanted the right relationship - and as misguided as her efforts have been - we can all relate to wanting to find Mr Right and fumbling at it spectacularly. Imagine our collective dismay when the girl who’s been looking for the right thing, falls into a relationship with someone who will never be able to give her all she wants. No matter how good her chemistry with Dro is, his heart belongs to his wife and all Molly was setting herself up for is hurt and disappointment.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Traditional

Molly threw herself into an open relationship, and she deeply questioned it because it isn’t what she was built for. We live in the era of polyamory and open relationships but someone like Molly clearly wants something more traditional, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Be okay with the kind of love you want and don’t settle for less.

What Looks Right on Paper Won’t Always be For You

Lionel was great, but not right for Molly. Sometimes the people that tick off the standard checklist aren’t what we really need. This taught me that the right person won’t always be the most perfect one and that’s tough for Molly because she’s so set on perfection. The quest for perfection can hold you back if you’re not careful

Your Parents are Human

When we’re young we put our parents on pedestals and are completely blinded to the fact that they make mistakes. This view usually fades as we get older, and makes way for a real relationship with them. Very often you’ll find out things you didn’t want to know, and while they shake us, it shouldn’t change who our parents are to us. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, even when it’s your parents. Accepting this will take away a lot of our misery.

Accountability

There are so many things to learn from the utter mess that is Lawrence Walker (yes I had to add his surname) but the number one thing is accountability. Accountability and Lawrence do not go hand and hand. It is like oil and water. I understand Lawrence’s hurt and anger about Issa infidelity but he also did not see the part he played in the demise of their relationship. Even after Derek pointed it out to him as why Daniel would come off more attractive it seems he just does not get it. The whole thing with Tasha was also a disaster because he just could not be honest or take the responsibility of the fact that he did lead her on. Lawrence inability to take accountability for his feelings ,finds him destroying any women in his path while he is trying to sort himself out. What frustrates me is when he is confronted about this he is either passive aggressive or has nothing to say. It is super annoying. I can understand why most people believe he is a “fuckboy” because he behaviour is so damn frustrating.

A change of perspective

Molly is just a hot mess but I think her biggest failing is her deep inability to be open - minded. What I mean by that is she, like me and many others, has a view as what she SHOULD do. Who she SHOULD date. Where she SHOULD work. As her therapist pointed out she has a certain view of what her life SHOULD look like. This view narrows many things down for her. She could go to a better firm where she will be valued. Molly would definitely not be bamboozled into a situation by Dro or treated as a sidepiece. I believe if she changes her perspective she has a better opportunity of growing and putting herself in healthier situations.

Hoetation

My girl Rihanna famously said “didn’t they tell you I was a savage” well for Issa that is far from the truth. Issa cannot hoe to save her life . All season we’ve seen Issa try and fail at her hoetation. It was awkward and very cringeworthy. The biggest lesson I learnt from this is not everyone is built for hoeing or hoetation and that’s cool. There is no shame in someone who is just likes being in a monogamous relationship. In my opinion, Issa thinks hoeing will make her get over Lawrence easier. This last episode definitely showed that she is not over him. Issa has stressed it many times that it's her time to be a hoe which is fair but she’s terrible at it. An factor to this failed hoetation is that we currently live in a society where casual sex is expected and we all have adhere to it. This is wrong and misleading because not everyone is built for casual sex. 

Being Black in White America

I think as a Black person, some of us are on the edge  being in white spaces. Some more than others but it's a genuine fear. Insecure demonstrates the dilemma of being Black in White America time and time again. Molly’s discovery of being underpaid and undervalued at her law firm brought in that age old issue black woman gender equal pay gap. What was disheartening was how her bosses dismissed her when it came to a pay increase. It really showed that they do not value her as an employee. Lawrence storyline also illustrated the perils of the diversity hire. This hit home with me because I know so many people who have been employed for this reason. It is soul crushing experience because you are there to be seen not heard.

SEX

OMG, Insecure has pushed the boundaries with sex. It’s hectic and times so damn hilarious. TV rarely gives a very realistic portrayal of sex. Sex is many things. It can be amazing, empowering, awkward, cringeworthy and plain disrespectful. Insecure ticked every box when it comes to the portrayal of sex. I love Issa Rae and co for that. There is a mature understanding of what sex is and the consequences that comes with it. Other than Girls, Insecure has given us a great and accurate portrayal of sex. The situations that Lawrence and Issa found themselves in had me either clutching my fake pearls for dear life or rolling on the floor. Wow the threesome and blowjob instance had me shook. 

 

The Dilemma of an Ambitious Black Women by Nomalanga Mashava

September is upon us and we will be celebrating the one year anniversary of Solange Knowles Ferguson’s masterpiece A Seat at the Table. This album was insightful and spoke of the realities of being Black in America. As an African it really hit home for me. Last week Molly, in HBO’s Insecure, spoke of how she still has it on repeat in her car. I understood why because in the workplace actually in general Black people especially are underpaid and undervalued. Race dynamics in the workplace was also the theme in Lawrence’s storyline in this week’s episode. Everything he was going through was just way too familiar.

I have also been there where my ideas have been praised but never implemented. The worst is when you’ve done something that a Black person supposedly will never do and they praise you like you are a show pony. When I left my old company no one but these 2 girls could compliment me but could say things like I have a good laugh or my earring game is dope. It is ridiculous and I understood Lawrence’s storyline the condescension was disgusting. When I was younger, I did agree with this because I was just so happy to have a job; any job. I have been the token Black girl. I have had instances where we’re looking through African names and for some odd reason people believe I can pronounce them because I’m Black. I told the lady that I don’t speak that language. I am Zimbabwean and we don’t speak SeTswana in my country. The old age problem of all Black are the same. 

South Africans do diversity hirings known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). BEE was brought into by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid. In theory it is a fantastic idea but in practice it has done more harm than good. The companies are rated on the BEE scale for their diversity hiring. On the BEE scale, a Black woman is the ultimate hire. The problem is that sometimes like Lawrence, people are just hired to be there not to grow or flourish. I have known instances when they don’t tell you about meetings, set you up to fail or completely discredit your work. For me my bosses were not that cruel but I was underpaid because my boss felt guilty for bullying a new intern. White guilt is something, that is for sure.  The girl was under the impression that we were getting paid the same amount and was surprised to hear that I get less money because I actually did more work than her and had a more senior position than her.

As someone who values her self-worth all this is a hard pill to swallow. There were times where I saw things that were upsetting and astonishing. I just could not believe White people just thinking so little of Black people. Their ignorance is absolutely shocking. For me the microaggressions were the worst and the comparison to mediocre white colleagues sucked. I grew up with White people so I can easily assimilate well, yet I was even lost for words at times because they are just so stupid at times.

I applaud Insecure for bringing this to light with Molly and Lawrence . Workplace politics are the worst and they can break your self-esteem. It has happened to me and I have seen it happen. In the past it would really affect me and I would go home and cry. I obviously cannot change racism but as Papa Pope famously and accurately said in Scandal “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much”. It is also a case of learning the game, but I’m probably being idealistic. The question I have is how do you do well in your job when the odds are stacked against you? The answer is that I have to work for Black businesses or become my own boss. I will admit that being black in the workplace can be hell but I will not let that affect me and my womanhood. I am AMBITIOUS and UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK! That will never change.

DIVERSITY & HOLLYWOOD by Phumuzile Mabasha

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For some months now I have been thinking about diversity and what exactly is it. What is diversity onscreen and in the images we see everyday. Diversity was something that was on my mind that I even had many conversations with my friends about it. Last week, I stumbled upon Yara Shahidi’s essay about acting and activism I-D Vice . Her description of diversity hit the nail on the head. Yara said that “When we talk about diversity on screen we're not just talking about colour; we're talking about gender identity, fluidity and sexual identity. We want to talk about identity in a deeply multifaceted way because our definition of diversity has, and must, continue to expand.”As Yara said diversity is more than having the token person of color in the film, campaign or series. Diversity is about telling everyone’s story. I want to see this and I think so do many others do. I want more stories about POC, LGBTQ, gender fluidity and real people.

Over the years, Hollywood has attempted to tell these stories. In some cases Hollywood is thriving because of this with the likes Atlanta, Insecure, Queen Sugar, Master of None, Black-ish , Jane the Virgin, Fresh of the Boat, Dear White People and Orange Is The New Black to name a few. Even new shows such as TNT’s Claws and Netflix’s Glow like Orange is the New Black have brought back back the diverse female ensemble cast. It is fabulous to see a diverse cast of strong women who are so flawed.

This Summer which was deemed as “The Summer of Doom” because of the many flops and unnecessary remakes. This Summer in my opinion was the death of the Traditional movie star. For decades the traditional movie star was a white male such as Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp. This year the unexpected happened because both Cruise and Depp’s film were panned by critics and flopped. The gems of the Summer were obviously Wonder Woman, Girl’s Trip, Baby Driver and Spiderman: Homecoming. These films were hitsbut refreshing for the first time because they were led by minorities such as women and Black women. Spiderman: Homecoming had a very diverse cast. In its core cast there was only white person who was Tom Holland as Spiderman. I read about how the producers went out of their way for a diverse cast but I was surprised that they followed through with this. As a Black woman I was excited to see  Laura Harrier and Zendaya Coleman were the love interests. It is so rare to see a white man better yet a superhero lust after a Black women in big Blockbuster film. It was just so fucking great. I appreciate Marvel’s attempts on diversity. I look forward to see Tessa Thompson in Thor:Ragnork later this year. Last year I cannot wait to see Black Panther. I am super excited about Black Panther because it is such a great story. I think it will an amazing experience for Black people and everyone else.  It is not a stereotypical or caricature plus it has an amazing group of actors in it. Black Panther is story about a man trying to figure himself and the new position he has in his life but is also a superhero. It is a story that shows being Black is not monolithic.

I cannot speak about diversity without mentioning Get Out, Hidden Figures and Moonlight.  I have grouped these three movies together since most of the cast is Black and the stories they were told were diverse to me. I have watched Get Out multiple times and I feel as I always find something new. What shocked me about Get Out is how clever it is and its refreshing take on race relations in American. Excuse my French but it was a real mind f*ck. Hidden Figures was approached in such an inspirational way and was a feel good film. It showed struggles these women faced but made a point to also illustrate how they overcame them. Additionally, it also stressed the fact that Black women are a part of American history. A history that most of us do not even know. Moonlight surprised me and is one of those films that has a special part in my heart. It is not a film I would watch again but it got me thinking. It had me thinking about love, loneliness, masculinity and society. It was such a pure movie that after I watched it I was in awe in its diversity not just in the fact that the cast was Black but in its storytelling. Moonlight flipped the stereotype of the thugs and gangsters with Maharshala Ali’s Juan. Even the approach to Chiron and his mother was interesting. People who are usually made villains in films were made complicated and human. Moonlight similar to Fences showed a different and nuanced side of masculinity, homosexuality and sexuality. It was great that it won an Oscar for Best Picture because Moonlight is the type of stories and films that should be told because it gives us a true depiction of our world and other people’s world.

With the release of the Forbes highest paid actors and actresses Hollywood has a long way to go with inclusion and creating roles for POC, LGBTQ and women. I hope the last couples of years can continue and we finally see the content that we deserve to watch. The commercial success of Get Out, Hidden Figures, Girls Trip, Atlanta, Insecure and so many more illustrates the need for diversity and more diverse stories. 

UNTITLED by P.K. Mabz

Lately, I have been thinking who am I and where do I belong? I think in life we all go through these phases. The conclusion I came to was that I have been code switching all my life. I grew up in an environment where I was encouraged to speak English over my mother tongue Shona. I went to primary school that was predominantly White. I was one of the few Blacks in my grade. Then I went high school and it was predominantly Black.

I could barely speak my mother tongue at the time but did understand it but it was a very basic understanding. When I tried to speak it, I was specifically told by my schoolmates not to speak it. That still haunts me till this day. I was embarrassed by this and still am. I felt as if I was not Black enough or my Black card had been revoked or something.

 

As I mentioned, in my household I was encouraged to speak English because it seen as being educated and the “Good Black”. For years this affected me and I could not take pride in my Blackness because as an African, language is such an integral part of our identity, our rebellion and our culture.

 

 

My younger self believed that I was failing at being Black. I was stuck in a rock and hard place because at times it seemed I was being shunned for not speaking Shona fluently. Yet I did not completely fit with in with our race. There are certain things that a Black women get, something as minute as patting your weave or the use of the word “girl”. I get so excited when I hear my friends say “girl” because I know the tea is going to steaming hot…LOL!!!

This dilemma I was in really affected my Black womanhood and me. When I reached my twenties I met more people like me and it was refreshing. I felt that I had met my tribe. I even made friends that liked historically white things but spoke the most perfect Shona. They were considered coconuts and weird as well. My older brother who is pro – Black, Black conscious and has an obsession with Tupac but my Shona is better than his. I realized that as much as I had code switched I had been looking at being Black so narrowly. This taught me that my Shona may not be the best but I’m Black af. I could not believe for all these years I believed and perpetuated the lie that there is one way to be Black.

 

There are so many ways to be Black and I love that about my race. I find the complexities and nuances about Blackness to be amazing. I love learning from Afrofuturists , Blerds, Black rock n rollers and so on. Being Black is more than a stereotype or a caricature and I’m so glad I learnt and embraced that.