I’ve been savoring this blog post in my heart for a while now. I’ve been letting it. Just sit. Just brew. Deep inside me. This post is like. This treasured memoir of days gone by that you deeply hold onto. Like that first time that you rode a bike. Or that first time that you had your heart broken. Memoirs of days, filled. With laughter. With pain. With loss. With acceptance.
Days on which. Your life. Seemed to be a play upon a stage. And you? You sat in the audience and watched events unfold.
For me this shoot will always be. A memoir. Etched in forever. A sealed capsule of strength, wisdom, heart, vulnerability, closeness, distance. A merging of worlds. A rebirth of connection.
See Sevonna is The Powerful. Ones. Mother Teresa Powerful. Peaceful and Forthright. Warsan Shire Powerful. Her Words bring forth worlds. Sevonna is Powerful.
When I started school in the US, my first encounter with Sevonna was when I braided her hair in her room in Frosh Quad.
Haircare was the struggle for us black girls in the Berkshires.
The nearest salon was in Pittsfield. A good 45 minute drive away, if you had a car. If you did not? Well then. You’d have to ask a friend to drop you off, or fork out the cointtt to take the green PeterPan bus. (With that square-faced bespectacled driver that never cracked a smile, and always had an apple in his bag as a mid-trip snack.)
Too much effort. For a ritual as intimate and innate as black haircare. So I braided her hair, right there. In her dorm room. I’ve revered Sevonna ever since. She was always rooted, confident, strong, talented, beautiful and super calm. When I say talented, I say. You should hear her sing, watch her lead a student protest, read her honors thesis. Sevonna? Powerful. Her grace, Her love for people. Her passion for life.
Sevonna was woke.
Woke to racial injustices in the US, long before I was. Woke to what it meant to use your art as a message, as education, as encouragement, as release. She was. WOKE.
So here we are. Sevonna and I. At the Davis Center. Summer heat is on. It’s humid. Mosquitos a buzzing. Chocolate students a basking in the glow of the moon. Chitter. Chatter. Laughter. Her skin is glowing so brightly. (She’s definitely one of those black women who’s going to look 21 till she’s 80.) She is golden. Calm. I say to her, thanks for making the time to talk. I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you for a long time. See, the essence of my blog is to write for other women like us. To tell our stories – raw and unedited. Women, finding home. Whatever home means to each one. Women a growing. Woke women.
See there’s something about watching your life lived through one who's bodied like you.
There’s something bolstering, reassuring. There’s something validating about watching a YouTube make-up guru apply her make-up. There’s something about watching your bodied self, mirrored in another, partaking of the rituals of being. Make-up Applications. Tutorials. Hauls. Regimens. Talk Throughs. Hours and hours spent on blogs and tubes. As if, almost watching oneself.
As if, almost learning what it means to be oneself.
It’s a process by which young black women are working through what it means to be young + black + women. Beyond acrylic nails, the latest reviews and lookbooks is a conversation across screens. How should I present myself to the world? Should I wear natural hair or wear human hair wigs? Should I be a minimalist or a bohemian beauty?
Questions of self-validation. Questions of identity. Questions of self-presentation.
This piece explained:
This self-portraiture piece is a celebration of this soul-versation between black women. This piece right here is for all the black women I see on the train, then wonder to myself if that’s how I look to the mostly non-black public.
This post here is a celebration of all those moments of mirroring. All those moments in which we’ve looked at each other across the dining hall. And asked. How’s her face so beat? Why's she so fit? Why's her natural hair so beautiful?
Moments of mirroring, where one black woman’s understanding of self has reflected upon, maybe even greatly influenced our acceptance of self. This post here, especially celebrates that day spent braiding in Sevonna’s room and many days since then. The very power of natural haircare to form new and enduring bonds between continental and diasporic African women.
This post here is a toast: to rebirth, to symbiosis, to mirroring, to unearthing, to celebrating, to affirming our beauty as black women.
Here’s to Powerful.
Love and Sunshine!
Tabitha, with many thanks to Izzy for letting Sevonna and I be his final semester photography project models!! xx