Today, once again, I got to touch the earth!
While planting and constructing my indoor container garden, I thought about how my ancestors put seeds into their children’s hair so that in case they were taken away to live and die in chains, they would at least be able to sustain themselves with a piece of the motherland. Rice, okra, yams, watermelon, and so MANY more crops that would go on to make white slaveholding Americans so rich (passing their wealth to their descendants and zero reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans), that they were willing to fight a war to sustain their evil practices of owning human beings as chattel (Check out High on the Hog Netflix documentary which was adapted from a book by Dr. Jessica B. Harris). Enslaved Africans brought these foods to the new world, a direct result of slavery.
As I wash my daughter’s hair (which for Black women and girls is a PROCESS!!), as I moisturize her hair, and as I braid my hair, I am thankful that no one has a right to my child and that I do not need to fear her enslavement. Instead, I manifest her revolutionary future to carry the torch of our ancestors. A Torch and a commitment to elevate our community and move the community forward. I leave it up to her to choose how she will carry that torch forward!
The skills to plant these crops and the cash they made from selling them LITERALLY built this country. Parents sowed seeds into their children’s scalps due to the fear of losing their children unjustly- it was simply their reality. The United States was built on their fear and enslavement. As I hold my baby (whose life I simply CANNOT imagine being taken from me) and planting my seeds in the soil to construct a container garden, I honor my ancestors’ thoughtfulness, resourcefulness, their relationship to the land, stolen children, siblings, relatives, resiliency, lost memory, culture, language, legacy, enslavement, and liberation! HOW CAN WE FORGET????
Today I got to touch the earth and it soothed my soul, reminded me, connected me, and radicalized me once again. What a spiritual experience. One that I hope to share with my daughter as she grows.
I am reminded of this quote rendered from Black feminist bell hooks on the subject of touching the Earth:
“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable health is. We lose our health- and create profitable diseases and dependencies- by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening for instance one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable makes excellent food. And it makes one hungry. The work thus makes eating both nourishing and joyful, not consumptive, and keeps the eater from getting fat and weak. This health, wholeness, is a source of delight.” Thus, “Collective Black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth.”-bell hooks conclusion
When I braid my hair or baby Lola’s hair, I am often in a rush. But there are times I must acknowledge and appreciate the unforeseen history and journey of the three-strand braid, created by my people and the motor function that has been passed down from generation to generation for us to know how to braid today. Today we live in a circumstance in which our history is lost, but some things transcend physical enslavement and the erasure of the history of a people. Braiding is a practice that has been practiced for thousands of years to protect afro hair (my maternal grandma used to always tell me that I should give my hair a break and plait (braid) it up.) It’s a practice and a skill in which I channel my ancestors as it is a miracle that our fingers still remember this art form. I believe I inherited the ability to be good with my hands from my paternal grandmother- we call her momo. She was a cosmetologist and is so incredibly creative and talented, she can do ANYTHING with her hands: jewelry, hair, grow plants and food, and soothe the souls of her grandchildren (because there’s nothing like grandmother’s hands).
She and her husband (we call him paw paw) spent a chunk of my childhood building their own two-story, 3-bedroom 2 bath home. It’s a place I spent picking bay leaves and berries in the woods and jumping on the trampoline with my siblings and cousins in the wild, humid Louisiana heat. Every year my extended family would gather around a bond fire to bring in a new year together through prayer, food, and fireworks (we call them firecrackers). This house and yard sit on a plot of land that has been passed through momo’s family, the Batiste family for a few generations now.
It was her daughter who taught me to braid on my baby doll’s hair (a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Cinderella doll – I could go more into depth about that, but I won’t here) and the rest was history! I was braiding hair for money at 10 years old. At 29, I am retired and share my gift as an act of love, honor, and friendship. When I do my hair or my daughters’ hair, I imagine our hair like a crown. Thus, although it is a lot of labor, planning, and energy, I imagine this is the maintenance of the crown. I have shifted from viewing it as a burden of being a Black woman to a form of self-care.
Now I can see it as a form of sowing seeds. A process of manifestation, giving birth to the qualities that I want to increase in my life. With each braid, I’m manifesting something: abundance, peace, compassion, light, renewal, liberation, etc. It’s not simply about the external beauty but much work can be done on the inside and in the spiritual realm. It has the potential to be a spiritual experience, just as touching the earth is.
Chasity is a Louisiana native and from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a community organizer (young adult missionary). It was here, she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her process of liberation (decolonization). For the last two years, as a Master of Divinity student at Boston University School of Theology, she has focused her degree on exploring various Liberation Theologies including Black Liberation, Womanist, and Decolonization Theologies.
She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! For the last five years, she has done this through various ways: sermons, adult Sunday schools, workshops, individual and collective consulting, yoga and mindfulness, support groups, and more! It was her hope to one day give birth to a movement that would transform the way we engage in anti-oppression and anti-racism work while maintaining and in some cases recovering ourselves. According to Decolonial theorist Albert Memmi, racism is a symptom of colonialism (The Colonizer and the Colonized, 69-70). Therefore, we must reach deeper and address as close to the root as possible to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper.
As a new mother, Chasity is also thinking into conscious parenting as well as how to transmit the core of feminist, womanist, and liberation theologies to children. To stay updated on upcoming events, follow our Facebook page by clicking here!
12 thoughts on “We Are Not Oppressed Because We Remember pt. 3: Sowing Seeds and Braiding Hair by Chasity Jones”
Great post, Chasity. Ever since I was introduced to bell hooks (second wave of feminism in the U.S.), have found her work to be spot on. Love this: “We lose our health- and create profitable diseases and dependencies- by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving.” You’ve woven that connection nicely and effectively into your essay on seeds and hair. Good to hear your voice here on FAR. And Lola is growing!
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She is growing so much I cannot believe it! She will be 9 months at the end of this month and it’s been an honor to witness her exploring the world around her with the full force of life!!!
I was deeply moved by this post – there is something about literally braiding seeds into a woman’s hair that feels like a promise. Indigenous peoples often were able to keep nothing except the sacred seeds as they were herded onto reservations etc… Seeds are literally the future – and each spring as I plant them I am participating in the cycle of living the future…bell hooks was right of course… seeding and planting, are spiritual acts grounded in thee earth, our home.
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So beautiful. We wish you every success. Truly. Please keep posting.
Another beautiful, insightful post. I always learn so much from your posts and you always write so eloquently. I especially love your saying that you think of your hair as a crown. Yes! Please do keep writing!
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Listen to ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ by Solonge!!! She uses the most amazing metaphors for natural Black hair and how much it means to us!
You have eloquently invoked the essence of so many issues that people are struggling to name. But I loved your connections of hair as crown, weaving as creating and preserving, life and art and feeding as sacred acts inextricably grounded in female ancestral relationship with nature. Your writing is poetic and you have a seriously gorgeous daughter. Thank you!
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What an enlightening article! I had no idea that African parents put seeds in their children’s hair so they’d have something to plant and eat if they became enslaved. That is both fascinating and horrifying! I’m not surprised that slaveowners profited from those crops, and of course the slaves didn’t. I also love your idea of thinking of your hair as a crown and braiding manifestation into your daughter’s hair. I did not realize that it takes so much work for Black women to braid their hair and care for it. This reminds me of the time I asked a black coworker with beautiful French braids if she would braid my fine hair. She agreed but after working on it for a bit she exclaimed to a black coworker, “Wow, white people’s hair is so hard to braid!” She then became embarrassed when she realized she’d spoken out loud. I thought it was funny. I agree with what other’s have written, your writing is eloquent and you and your daughter are beautiful! Please keep sharing your writing with us.
HAHA! I’ve had experiences braiding my white friends’ hair in jr. high and they weren’t used to it being so tight and they said it made their hair oily. But the reason why I had to pull the hair so tight was because it kept slipping out of place and that made it super hard!
A beautiful and insightful article. Please keep writing about Black ancestry to inform all of us who were not taught the real history. I have one episode left of High on the Hog. Very informative and presented by a sensitive, grounded and sincere man who I would love to share a table with. P.S. Your daughter is precious!
Very interesting. I had never heard of braiding seeds into hair before. I’m glad you’re touching the earth and decolonizing yourself, your daughter, and other women and men. Bright blessings to your work.
Thank you so much for this powerful article, and for sharing these connections that weave seeds, hair, and earth. May you continue to touch the earth, honor the ancestors, and liberate the spirit.