Last Sunday, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. held a graduation ceremony for the members of our DJ 101 Program. Some of the girls wrote wonderful, heartwarming pieces that they shared with everyone in attendance. Mercy’s story strikes a chord with every women of color, so we decided to share that story here on the blog. Enjoy!
Accept Yourself, Not the Stereotypical Pretty Girl
By Mercy Carpenter
After eleven years of Mercy bugging her mom to straighten her hair, “Ow, ow, ow,” Mercy screamed.
But the hair dresser just shrugged and said, “It doesn’t hurt that much. I just put the relaxer in.”
Mercy started to get angry, so Michael, the hair dresser, put Mercy’s head in the sink. She stopped panicking and her grimace turned into a relaxed smile as the cold water skipped happily over her burning scalp.
“Am I done yet?” Mercy asked impatiently, waiting to see how she looked with “pretty” hair.
“Yes, you’re done. You can thank me after you look in the mirror.”
Eager to see herself in the mirror, she ran, smiling, and tripped. She frowned at herself, thinking that she always ruined a good moment. As she patted her hair, smoothing it down, the sound of her mother’s quick, sharp voice startled her.
“Mercy don’t you want it to last until the morning? Honey, don’t mess it up.”
Mercy fixed the buttons on her shirt, walked towards her jacket, slipped it on and waited for her mom to pay Michael. She quietly tried to hide her excitement about the “new her”. All Mercy could think about was how she always wanted straight hair. She’d had a whole life of put downs targeted at her hair. Mercy went home after that exciting day of having her hair done.
She thought her hair was ugly because of all the girls she saw in commercials, movies and different ads that promoted straight hair (never her kind of hair). That night she slept uncomfortably trying to keep her hair from being destroyed by her wild sleep habits. When Mercy woke up, after she finished her rant about having to wake up so early, she took off her scarf to be surprised her hair had stayed so nicely. Her mom combed through her now straightened hair. Mercy put on her new outfit, brushed her braces until she could see herself clearly in them. She was ready for graduation day. When she got to school she was greeted by, “ I like your hair better like this,” or an occasional, “Omg, Mercy’s hair is fixed.” Mercy felt as if she was one with the crowd. Now she could wear her hair free without someone messing it up, or humidity trying to and winning.
When Mercy washed her hair, it didn’t turn out well. She took a look in the mirror and shrieked ,“It… it is ruined…m-m-m…my hair!” With frequent sobs, she ran out of the bathroom and into the living room to tell her mom about her hair. But her mother’s expression remained calm, waiting for her daughter to calm down. Then her mother said, “When we got your hair straightened, it ruined your ends. We might just have to cut it.”
Mercy interrupted, terrified. “ Why? No. Please, no. I just want my regular hair back.”
Later on that day, Mercy was thinking about her hair and how it is part of her heritage. Mercy is proud of her heritage because it is a mixture of Native American , Nigerian and European. If she straightened her hair, maybe no one would know how proud she actually is. She was sure that no one could ever convince her again that her kind of hair is ugly. Even with all the commercials, ads and confused people she hears, she will always be herself. And even though she tried to camouflage herself before, she realized she would always be herself from now on.