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No Inferior Seed Shall Prosper: On Black Resilience

Back in an undergrad African American studies class at Syracuse University, I was introduced to a film entitled 400 Years Without a Comb by Willie Lee Morrow. The film spoke abut the Atlantic Slave Trade through the lens of black hair care in America. Not only were black people forced to involuntarily migrate across the Atlantic Ocean and other waters as their families were ripped apart and their indigenous spiritual practices were dismantled and ignored, they were also forced to leave behind certain items, including the long-toothed comb (resembling what we call a "pick"). Without our precious tool, our natural hair apparently became more difficult to deal with. Now, this is not an essay about black hair politics; however, I think it's important to note that black hair not being "manageable" is a phenomenon rooted in post-colonial and western European standards of beauty. This conversation goes beyond our "unmanageable" hair, an early implantation of what Morrow calls, "the inferior seed." This discourse runs deeper than the reality that we lost a bit of ourselves when we left our combs in Africa. This is regarding black resilience and the subversion of the inferior seed--the intangible, systemic ideologies that placed black people at the bottom of the food chain, as inferior humans...or not humans at all.

From slavery to 3/5 of a human, from Jim Crow laws to "Stop and Frisk" and beyond, we've experienced the effects of our suggested inferiority by way of failing urban public school systems, gentrification marketed as urban renewal, and the senseless killings of unarmed black men and women. It's invisible institutions like the school-to-prison pipeline that perpetuate the notion of the inferior seed--a seed that was planted in our ancestors some 500 years ago--a seed that says, "you'll never win," "you ain't good enough." --a seed that has grown into trees and forests of suggested inferiority that permeate throughout black cultures across the globe. The seed says, "you are destined for failure." The seed says. "no matter how hard you try or how fast you run, you will always be a few steps behind." The seed had our parents telling us that "we had to work twice as hard to get half of what 'they' had," as if we even wanted what "they" had. It proclaims the perilous provocativity of our problematic blackness. The inferior seed equates our darkness with evil, ignoring the truth that before God created light, the darkness proceeded it. And just like we'll all return to ashes someday, the sun must set and the light must give way and return to its natural state. We are "the natural state!" I am the natural state! My blackness is the natural state, and there's nothing inferior about that! We are the darkness to which light must give way and surrender its power, fading into the resilience of the night. We are resilient, sprung out of the earth like a leaf in a barren land. We are resilient like the roots of a tree cracking the sidewalk. We are resilient like water bursting through the rocks at Meribah Springs.

We are resilient like the kinks in our pressed hair after getting caught in the rain! We cut down the inferior trees and set fire to the inferior forests that have flourished in our brothers and sisters, nourished by the evils of a country born with the limp of racism. We declare today, in the natural state, in all of our glorious resilience, that NO INFERIOR SEED PLANTED IN US SHALL PROSPER!

As I watch the Republican Party crumble under the bigotry of a tyrant nation, I know that we are a long way away from true emancipation. 151 years removed from that great proclamation and many of us are still imprisoned by the inferior seed. Regardless of what's going on around me, I refuse to claim inferiority, minority status, or any language that diminished my greatness. In the vain of black hair politics, returning to my "natural state" brought a certain clarity about and victory over the inferior seeds that were planted in me. Almost 500 years without a comb and still, we rise--kinks, coils, or otherwise.


View 400 Years Without a Comb here!

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I could write about blackness and identity politics for days! Here are some related posts:

Mia McClain Presents... COLOR ME

Color Me

The Assassination of My Blackness Pt. 1

I Am My Brother

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