Last year, Beyonce released the most talked about album of the year: Lemonade. The lyrics and images that depicted motherhood, womanhood, love, marriage, and black feminism in a way unlike most of us had ever seen. Everything about Lemonade was iconic; from the fact that it was made by Beyonce, to its profundity, to its celebration of the Deep South. I purchased a Tidal subscription to watch the visual album of the year; there was no denying the similarities in content on her younger sister Solange’s album, A Seat at The Table. While Lemonade did in fact speak volumes to the black community, A Seat at The Table arguably did it more so.
My theme song for Black History Month this year is, “Don’t Touch My Hair” because you can’t have a conversation about what it means to be black in America without mentioning hair. Hair is crucial to the black experience, both good and bad. Black men and women find their identity in their hair and solace in the salons that cater to them. Most black women can remember Saturday afternoons in the salon, waiting for hours until someone touched their hair, the tingling and burning of the perm, tight yank of braids, and the smell of burning hair. The salon is also therapeutic for its patrons and a dinner table for when it’s getting late. Hair has had a reputation for defining one’s heritage throughout history. “Good hair” has been typically associated with fairer skin tones and mulattoes (biracial people), while “bad hair” describes coarser hair of darker skinned blacks.
For Solange to dedicate a song to the topic of black hair is not only bold, but incredibly significant as well. In my own life, I have worn wigs, weave, endured the pain of a texturizer, and heard the jingling of beads around my ears. I have been told that I have both beautiful hair and hair that feels like a Brillo pad. I would be incredibly remiss to think that none of these moments have shaped who I am as a black woman. Solange urges the listener “Don’t touch my hair/’Cause it’s the feelings I wear”, a reminder that the hair of a black woman carries with it her history and feelings of herself. Solange says that she has “Rolled the rod, I gave it time/But this here is mine”.
Solange is reminding every black woman of her childhood sitting in salon chairs, or at home, hoping that with enough heat or chemicals, her hair would be up to a standard that society would accept. But alas, that is not how the hair grows on her head and she is praising the hair of her parents and grandparents. Solange’s love anthem to black hair is a love anthem to the black experience. The kinky curls underneath my wig cap appreciate it.