What do you see when this photo?
This painting by Margaret Bowland (MargaretBowland.com) is so haunting.  Oddly enough when I see this painting, I see myself as a child.
I remember wearing the tons of barettes and hair balls (dunno what they’re called lol) to subdue my thick tuft of kinky hair.  I remember the routine I had to go through every morning just to make my hair look “presentable.”  Anything else was uncivilized. 
I also remember living in a foreign country that really didn’t prize people that looked like me, and it showed.  I remember feeling not really all that beautiful unless I could swing my pretend hair all around (I used a towel lol).  Then I would wish my hair would magically be straight one day.
This may or may not be Margaret Bowland’s intent, but that’s how I see this portrait.  I don’t just see myself, I see so many of my black friends back home, some girls I knew and didn’t like, but recognized their affliction.  This little girl is a lot of us.  It actually made me teary eyed because I can’t believe I looked like this; we looked like this.  Sure, we don’t have the paint on our faces, but it’s there, isn’t it?
Little black girls have so much sadness they experience because the “beat down” begins early for them.   It began early for me.  I can’t be too mad though, because I would never be able to appreciate what I have now had I not fought to get it, hold on to it and learned to love it; get to know it.  It’s confidence, pride, knowledge of self. 
If I had to reimagine this little girl to be me, she would start off like this.  The paint would get thicker through her tween years, and maybe a bit in her late teens.  It would gradually start to fade in her early twenties, and it would be washed off vigorously, almost violently, by her late twenties.  The hair balls and barettes would be gone, and that hair would stick right out.  And that downcast look would be the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.
What do you see in this photo?

(Originally posted at HappyNappyHead.com)