Arts + Culture

A Love Letter to Shea Butter

A heartfelt love note to a vital component of black hair and self care—raw shea butter. Light the candles. Cue the violins.

Dear Sista Shea,


You’ve been apart of my heritage and household for longer than I’ve known, yet I’ve only become truly acquainted with you about six years ago. It was when I went natural, and I suddenly became more aware of what goes in and on my body and how my body reacts to it. It was when I started to consciously practice self love and self care.

Self care. It’s one of many buzzwords that rose in popularity in recent years. Simply put, it is the act of caring, catering to and comforting oneself in times of emotional and mental need. I’ve needed to do this more often lately because sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart: police brutality against black people, the acquittal of offenders in controversial cases, and, most recently, the presidency of Donald Trump. We have to take care of our minds, hearts, and bodies, and thus, one another.

For me, self care varies from cooking myself a delicious, healthy meal to reading a good book to going on a mindful walk and treating myself to a cup of tea. It means logging off of social media, meditating, stretching or calling a friend.

It means buying all natural soaps and hair products because it eases my senses and my body. It also means washing and styling my hair, which, as a natural hair mama, can take several hours, but I find it exciting because I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my hair. It is an intimate, personal activity filled with aromatic essential oils, scalp massages and creamy conditioners.

And you, shea butter, have played a key role in my self care routines. As you know, I care a lot about maintaining smooth, clear skin and growing strong, healthy hair. You’ve been helping me get closer to these goals.

Growing up, I’ve suffered from all kinds of skin issues. Eczema has plagued my body, ranging from itchy, scaly spots to more severe symptoms. I am susceptible to boils in the winter (I know, gross!) and essentially, I have dry, sensitive skin. But with you, shea butter, I’ve found a cure to these dilemmas.

You smooth the cracks of my heels, you appease the ash on my elbows. My lips drink your moisture, my curls cuddle with your softness. With you, my body awakens: glowing, glad, grateful.

And when you meet the likes of coconut, almond, avocado, extra virgin or vitamin E oil, your benefits multiply in number. With the whip of my wand (a long spoon) and the addition of these essential oils, you transform into a supple, buttery cream that glides easily between my fingers and kisses the grooves of my curls. You become a still, golden river.

No more stark white lotions with ingredients I can’t pronounce—I’m on my DIY body creme flow, and you’re the star. No more overpriced lip balms—err, wait! I still like those! But I make sure you’re the main ingredient. And my soap bars contain you as well. You are with me all day, in many ways.

Yet, there is another reason why I feel connected to you. You are the treasure from my family’s homeland, Ghana. And although I haven’t been home yet, I feel like I have a piece of my roots every time my grandmother returns to the States with hunky globes of you. You are the bridge that connects me to the land I dream of.

And it’s not only I you've touched. There’s natural haired people far and wide who have been blessed by your wonder. They do tutorials about you, have started skin and hair care lines in your honor. You’ve helped us realize a new level of our potential, have empowered us to embrace our kinks, our melanin, our now unchapped lips.

Because when your skin is smooth, your hair is poppin, your mind and body softened, you can go about your day with more confidence and stride. Then you can focus on other important things as well: like work, creativity and social justice. You bring out the best in me, and thus I can walk into the world as my best self.

Love always,

Sista boo

popular
Photo courtesy of Chontudas.

This Black Hairstyle Collective Is Embracing the Beauty of Natural Hair in Colombia

Chontudas wants to strengthen natural hair knowledge among young black girls in Colombia.

In 2012, a champeta duo from Santa Marta, a Caribbean town in Colombia, dedicated their song "Pelo Malo" to all women that have a "bad," "weird" or "disorganized" hair. The song suggested that all these women have to use "liser" – a product to straighten their hair to make it look cool. The song neatly illustrates the stigma of wearing natural hair in Afro-Colombian communities. But these offensive categories don't represent the growing movement of Afro-Colombian women who are embracing their natural hair and all of its beautiful complexity.

During the American Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the 60s and 70s, there was a revolt in favor of wearing natural hair. The second wave of the natural hair movement has reached a global audience through social media and Colombia is not an exception. It's been five years since Mallé Beleño, an educator, and other black women created a hair collective called Chontudas—the name refers to a kind of palm tree whose presence evokes the hair of black women. The group was initially founded to discuss how to wear natural black hairstyles as well as to spread ancestral traditional hair knowledge.

This collective came to life as a Facebook group with 70 black women in 2014. Since then, it has become a place to share the experiences of making the transition to natural hair, and a place to showcase a more diverse standard of beauty as well as a place to trade hair care advice.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Photo still via YouTube.

This Dominican Ministry of Education Director Was Fired Hours After Her PSA Promoting Natural Hair Was Released

Marianela Pinales' dismissal from her position the same day the motivational campaign was released raises questions on the true motive behind the ministry's decision.

It pays to encourage every young, impressionable black child to accept themselves for who they are—even when it comes down to loving their natural hair.

Marianela Pinales did so through a new campaign she helmed on behalf of the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Education, entitled 'Ni Pelo Bueno, Ni Pelo Malo,' which translates to 'No Good Hair, No Bad Hair,' Latino Rebels reports.

The PSA celebrates all hair textures in an effort to counter the stigmatization of black hair people face in the Dominican Republic. In the video, you'll see young students with diverse, gorgeous hair stand firm in what's theirs. "Vive tu vida, y suelta mi cabello en banda (live your live and leave my hair alone)" one young girl says in the video.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
(Photo Courtesy of DIARRABLU)

Meet the Senegalese Designer Making Math Chic

Diarra Bousso uses algorithms to create designs for her line DIARRABLU.

Who knew that math and fashion could work together so seamlessly? Apparently Diarra Bousso did, the self-described "Creative Mathematician" and mastermind behind DIARRABLU. The Senegalese serial entrepreneur and multidisciplinary artist left a career of trading on Wall Street to pursue design and it paid off. She has just been awarded a coveted spot as the Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator for her innovative use of equations and algorithms in her beautiful designs.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

Daniel Kaluuya Is Producing a Live-Action 'Barney' Movie with Mattel

Yes, you read that correctly.

In a move that absolutely no one saw coming, Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya is set to produce a live-action Barney movie in conjunction with Mattel Films. The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story.

Kaluuya will co-produce the film as part of his 59% production banner, which signed a first-look deal with Paramount back in May. Speaking on his involvement with the project and the impact of Barney & Friends, Kaluuya had this to say: "Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood. We're excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of 'I love you, you love me' can stand the test of time."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.