By AMA KARIKARI
No, I was not hallucinating at the time God gave me the story. I was a heart-broken mother struggling to teach her children and all children to love themselves and the skin and hair that they are in.
Let me tell you what happened. I had gone with my dad to take my older son Jojo to the barber shop. This was not Jojo’s first hair cut and the others were not great. The past barber insisted that we shave his head near-bald in a caesar because that is the “easiest” hair cut for a toddler. This time, would be different, I thought.
I was with my father. My husband was at home working on our shoe line, www.joojos.com. I explicitly told the barber that I did not want it bald, just shorter. Then, the barber started shaving it bald from the very middle and front of Jojo’s head. When I complained he responded, “How can I tell you this? You’ve got a real nig*** here. He is a native boy. He is from the tribe. This ain’t pretty hair. This is the best cut for him.” I forced a giggle and then entered a state of paralyzed shock. This Black barber had referred to my son as the n-word. Don’t get me wrong, he did not say it the way a Ku Klux Clansman would say it. It was clear that he would refer to himself and other black men and boys using that same n-word. But should that make a difference? No matter how much certain Black people claim that the n-word has been re-appropriated, the word still has a vicious bite to me.
I was just sick to my stomach as thoughts about how I’m going to shield my son from internalized racism ran through my mind. I could not sleep well. I had read somewhere that all lessons are better conveyed through stories. I wanted to write a story, but I’m not creative, I thought to myself. Then one day, I was watching Super Soul Sunday on OWN and a speaker said that art is no different from prayer. She said that Michelangelo admitted that he did not create David alone, God created David and Michelangelo just removed the excess stone. Those comments liberated me and I started praying to God for a story. God gave me Sunne’s Gift.
Sunne’s Gift is about a magical creature named Sunne. God imbues Sunne with the power to make the sun rise and set. For that reason Sunne’s hair grows out in spirally twists towards the sun. Sunne’s straight-haired siblings, who have magical powers with respect to the soil, water and wind, poke fun of Sunne’s hair. Sunne starts beating the spirals of hair to fit in, but as a result, Sunne loses the power to make the sun rise and set, the sun disappears and… Want more? Download the free pdf of the fable here.
We are all Sunne. God has given all human beings certain beauties and powers and when we try to look like, act like or be like someone who we are not, we cede our power. The light of the world becomes dimmer. Black children, more than ever, need such stories to counteract comments that saving our kinky hair is “nasty” while saving “long, silky stuff” is fine. We need to counteract school boards that tell our children that little girls like Tiana Parker who wear afro puffs and dreadlocks are not allowed. Please help me to spread this message of magical afros, self-love and bullying prevention to every child by donating to my Sunne’s Gift kickstarter campaign to illustrate, animate, print and disseminate this book.
Please go here to donate. Thanks so much! Together, we can create an affirming environment for all children.