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It was fun participating in the American Express Small Business Saturday event and so did our clients.

Who doesn’t like a cute tote?

It was a fun day!

[**I've been a client of Hair's Kay for almost 3 years now, and this salon (i.e. Miss Kay) will forever be a monumental part of not just my hair journey, but my LIFE journey. The following is taken from a blog post written after I spent time traveling abroad this summer. To see this original post and others, feel free to visit my blog: https://prettyfablackgirl.wordpress.com/ **]

Berlin, Germany

Four days ago I got back from six-weeks of country hopping: Spain to Morocco to Germany to Greece to Hungary. Since returning to the States, people have been asking me, “When are you gonna upload your pictures? I want to see them!”

“Soon,” I respond, but I still have yet to post them.

I will probably post them tomorrow, or maybe sometime this week, but my delay has been intentional. I’ve hesitated because I know the photos I post will be so curated, exclusively depicting the beautiful and breathtaking moments I experienced abroad. But posting pictures feels like lying. It feels untruthful because as beautiful and amazing as my trip was abroad, it was also extremely difficult.

Should I take time to document the pain? I asked myself.

I’ve decided I should. I’ve decided I want to. In recognizing the pain, I am learning how to navigate this world as a black woman [with an afro], and through this post, I am choosing unfiltered joy.

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“The wound is where the light enters you.”-Rumi

Traveling abroad was great and full of love/laughter/light, but I also sustained many wounds traveling while black and female. Sometimes I was lucky enough that the wounds only reached surface-level, bruises that disappeared within a day or two. But some wounds punctured deeper, cracking me to my core, and I’m still wrestling with God, asking Her where the light is…

Berlin, Germany

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Athens, Greece. It was 11:35PM and the street lights shone brightly on the main square of the city center. Meiling and I were searching for the free charter bus to the Summer Festival concert. A group of four girls, looking to be in their early twenties were passing by us on the square.

“Excuse me,” I politely began, “do you know where….” my voice trailed off. I didn’t finish my question because midway through, the group of girls looked me directly in the eyes and then proceeded to walk past me, as if I didn’t exist.

In every country I visited, there were dark-skinned, black migrants who were street sellers. Some coming from African countries like Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, others coming from even farther places like Jamaica. The citizens of the countries I visited had gotten very good at disregarding these individuals, deeming Black as a subpopulation to be ignored, just as those girls decided I wasn’t worthy of their time nor attention because of the color of my skin.

Those girls cracked me. I didn’t want to let them have power over me, but sometimes it’s exhausting to be superhuman, constantly holding up a shield against the bullets of this world.

Santorini, Greece

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Budapest, Hungary. It was our last night and it was one of those TREAT-YO-SELF situations, so Meiling and I went to a fancy Hungarian restaurant. We dressed up all swanky and I had just unleashed the fro because it was time to let it be free. The braids were cute and all, but I missed my hair.

Budapest, Hungary

“What would you like for drink?” The waiter asked us.

“Water, from the tap, is fine,” Meiling responded.

“Thank you,” I added. The waiter’s eyes lingered on me for a second too long.

Minutes later, our waiter returned with our water and a question, THE [dreaded] question, “Can I touch your hair?” My heart sank. “I just like it so much,” he continued, despite the clear look of discomfort plastered across my face.

“No,” I responded with the fakest smile I could conjure up.

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To be black and female is to constantly be in a battle of not letting the world and the people around you define your worth. It is the continual back and forth swing between being unseen and too seen…

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I don’t share these experiences to garner pity. None of these experiences abroad surprised me because, let’s be real, being black in America has prepared me quite well.  Instead, I share these experiences to be truthful and to acknowledge the wounds alongside the moments of light and beauty that will be abundantly documented through the photos I post.

"Joy is making productive use of pain." It is not naive. Yes, Joy may come in the form of smiles and laughter, but this Joy also acknowledges the brokenness of this world, sits with and listens to pain, and wrestles with the tensions of this life... (post from my Instagram account)

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The Joy I experienced abroad was complex. It was the disrespect I encountered on the streets of Athens mixed with the middle-aged black woman who stopped me on the streets of Santorini, Greece with a smile and asked, “How are you doing my sister?” Joy was traveling on the metros of Germany with the eyes of strangers glued to my skin/hair/body fused with stumbling across an African festival in the city centre of Berlin and discovering an incredible Ugandan artist.

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Should we take time to document the pain? I think we should. In recognizing the pain, we learn how to navigate this world, we learn how to choose unfiltered joy.

[**I've been a client of Hair's Kay for almost 3 years now, and it has been 1 year and 8 months since I did the big chop. Hair's Kay (i.e. Miss Kay) will forever be a monumental part of not just my hair journey, but my LIFE journey. The following blog post was written after I did the big chop in August of 2016. To see this original blog post and read more about my hair journey, feel free to visit my blog: https://prettyfablackgirl.wordpress.com/ **]

The night before I did the big chop, I had a little pep talk with God.  Here’s an abbreviated version of the conversation that transpired in my journal:

“God, I’m really considering doing the big chop with my hair, but the thought of doing it gives me such a strong fear in my gut.  I am terrified of cutting off my hair…But why? Why am I so scared?  Why is my identity so wrapped up in my hair?  Why do I think I will be the ugliest human being in the world if I cut my hair?…God I need you.  I need you to help me be okay with the big chop.  I need you to help me embrace the change, oh Lord… I need you to help me know I am wonderfully and fearfully made and can’t nobody take away the beauty I have in you.  I am not beautiful because of my hair, I am beautiful because the joy of the Lord is my strength and Your glorious light shines through me.”

Less than twenty-four hours later, I was standing in the hair shop.  “I think I want to do the big chop,” I said to Miss Kay, my incredible hairdresser I had grown to love my past year in New Haven.  I stared at her and she stared at me.  I felt like she was looking straight into the depths of my soul.

You see, I had dropped the idea of cutting my hair several times prior, but she could always tell I was never really serious.  She would always just smile and say, “You’re not ready for that big of a change, my dear.”  Every time I would secretly be relieved because she was right, I wasn’t ready.  But this day, she looked straight back at me and said with such sincerity, “You’re ready.”

“I’m ready?”  I responded, a bit shocked.  I thought she was going to call my bluff again and tell me I wasn’t ready for it, but classic Miss Kay.  She knew.  She knew something had changed within me this time.

“When do you want to do it?” were the next words out of her mouth.

My mind started racing.  Oh shoot.  Shoot, shoot shoot!  This is actually happening. I’m actually doing the big chop.  Like for real for real. I looked at her and sheepishly asked, “Umm, maybe next week, or in two weeks?”  She remained silent with a look in her eyes that seemed to be saying, Nope. Wrong answer.  Try again.  “I mean….do you have any availability today?”

Not even one second had passed after I said “today” before Miss Kay responded with an enthusiastic, “Yep!”  Within in the hour I was doing the big chop.

You can tell from my facial expressions and commentary throughout the video that I was struggling. As I saw the hair fall to the ground, I began questioning everything I knew.  What was I thinking? My hair is gone.  My length is gone.  My face cannot handle this.  I don’t have the face for short hair.  Oh my gosh I look like my brother.  I LOOK EXACTLY LIKE MY BROTHER WHEN HE HAD AN AFRO.  At the end of that first cut, I felt as though I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.  I was trying to be strong, but it was hard.

Then Miss Kay decided to go a bit shorter in the back and on the sides. “Feel back here,” she said as she directed my hand towards the back of my head, “that’s where your true curls are hiding.  I think we should go shorter.” At the point I didn’t think I could look any worse, so I agreed.  “Okay, let’s do it.”

After this second cut I was starting to feel a bit better.  I wasn’t in love with the cut, but I was no longer mortified.

Then Miss Kay put some water on my hair and yooooooo, that’s when I saw it!  That’s when I saw my little curls! They were beautiful–the literal definition of poppin’. I could feel the little curly cues and coils with my fingers and I was in love.

I was also super hyped that I could feel my actual head. My hair has always been so thick and long, I would joke how I didn’t need a pillow to sleep because my hair was my pillow (it really was).  But for the first time I could feel my head without having to dig through layers of hair, and at that moment, Beyonce’s lyrics were high key speaking to me, “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, Freedom, cut me loose!

There are still a lot of thoughts circling around in my head, and there’s so much more I want to say about how I came to this decision, but for now, I’m just basking in the bliss of knowing I am fearfully and wonderfully made and God is perfect in all of his ways, including the creation of my curly little fro :).

“For you, oh Lord, formed my inner parts; you, Oh Lord, knitted me together in my mother’s womb. You ordained every drop of melanin in my skin and you orchestrated every twist and turn to each strand of hair. I praise you, Oh Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am clothed in regality. My hair is my crown, with curl-shaped jewels. Wonderful are your works, Oh Lord; my soul knows it very well.” Nia’s modified version of Psalm 139:13-14