Saturday, August 12, 2006

hairpeace or "how to take over the world and still remain human beings"

One of my favorite examples of storytelling is called Hairpeace by Pearl Cleage. In college, a friend of mine had given me a copy of a spoken word tape he had dubbed from another classmate. The tape was mostly The Last Poets along with some other unidentified spoken-word pieces (including Hairpeace). For the longest time I had no idea what the piece was even called or the name of the person speaking.

But a few months ago, with Google's help, I was actually able to track the text of the original work down and have included the link above. The piece is, on one level, a commentary on how prominent "hair issues" are in Black culture.
Sometimes it seems like all we ever talk about is hair. But it's not our fault. It's a rule. You can't be a black woman writer in America and not talk about hair. They won't renew your license and, well, a black woman writing without a license in America? I guess you know the penalty for that.

The premise is that there is actually a formal requirement to tell a minimum of 10 hair stories a year if you want to be a black woman writer. But Cleage has not been sticking to quota and since the deadline is coming up and it is too late to get extension (pun probably intended), she decides tell all 10 hair stories in one sitting.

If I had to tell my own hair story, I would have to mention how in college I'd always admired the brothers with their own clippers who had the skill to make a little extra money by giving haircuts. Later on, I would get my own equipment so that I could at least take care of my own hair. But eventually, after a "tragic" clipper accident I started shaving my hair off altogether and the rest is history. I haven't paid for a haircut in years.

I'm reminded of Hairpeace now, especially because of one passage in particular:
Discourse about afternoon slow dancing and the possibilities of grown-up, non-monogamous love, and the raising of sane and thoughtful and affectionate children, and the methods necessary to take over the world and still remain human beings is not allowed, because whenever we get together, we're supposed to bolt the door and dim the lights and look at each other and say, "O-o-o-o-o-o! This terrible hair!"

I was really struck by that phrase, "how to take over the world and still remain human beings". That is what it is all about. Grenada. Progressive politics. The spiritual left. Food not bombs. The Civil Rights Movement. All sorts of humane activism and social justice work. Revolutionary movements throughout history have given into temptation and found themselves on the wrong side of this dilemma, becoming at least as bad as the regimes they overthrew.

Or in terms of my own small-scale political world: How do you change a political system for the better, while holding on to your integrity? How do you deal with dishonest and Machiavellian actors without adopting their methods? How do you follow Jesus' instructions to "be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves"?

If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Grenada's past (the connections to the above aren't necessarily deep or obvious)
somewhat machiavellian
it's a small world after all
it's just the mood i'm in
at the risk of sounding ridiculous...

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