Monday, September 19, 2011

Natural Hair and the Spa Experience

I had the best spa experience in my life so far. And it was mainly due to putting my straightening comb on sabbatical and went natural.  My life has been far from a crystal stair lately.  When someone treated me to a free massage anywhere of my choice, I booked an appointment at The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley with the quickness. My mind and body were crying out for some calm and release.  I’ve been to spas and enjoyed my experiences, before but this time was different. I packed a bathing suit in my tote bag and nothing else. No comb, doo rags, hair gel, grease, scruniches, brush or shower caps. Nope. Just my bathing suit and a worry-free hair attitude. 

I arrived to the gorgeous hotel and walked downstairs to a paradise of white terry cloth robes and cucumber water.  My massage was heavenly. I got the full body treatment. The masseuse massaged my scalp and I didn’t care. A few years ago I would have been concerned about her lavender-oiled hands messing up my straightened hair. I didn’t care this time and let her fingers rub through my fro. I think her hands got stuck in my kinks a few times, LOL. Hey it is what it is.  I don’t recall my scalp ever being massaged.  My God it felt goooooood. 

Next stop was the steam room. In my pressing days, I wrapped a towel around my head and stayed in the steam room for a few minutes.  I’ve always liked steam rooms but didn’t want to risk my straightened hair, that I spent $50 on at the salon, getting nappy. So I deprived myself of a simple pleasure.  Ahh, but it’s a new day.  I reclined on the stone tile steps in the steam room and loved every sweaty second.  The only towel I used in the room was to sit on.  Black natural hair loves water. My hair embraced the moisture and my skin left with a priceless glisten.

I put on my swimsuit and simmered in the whirlpool.  No black scarf on my head. No shower cap. My hair was out, wild and free.  But the best moment of the day, the moment I gave God a “thank you” was when I bathed in a majestic 6-head shower.  I turned on the ceiling dome head and warm water gently rained on me. There was no way in hell I would have done that a year ago. No way.  I spent at least 20 minutes in the shower, occasionally twirling under water drops.  I felt free and at peace.  A year ago I would have walked away from that shower, with a plastic cap on my head a little disappointment because I couldn’t enjoy the full experience.  God forbid I spend 20 minutes in a shower getting my hair wet, only to spend a couple of hours washing, blow drying, pressing and flat ironing it again.  Thankfully, I have freed my mind and hair.

I floated out of the Claremont Hotel that day worry free, smelling of lavender and a little ashy.  Next time I’ll pack body lotion in my tote and conditioner for co-washing in the shower.  Spas are meant to be relaxing.  My past hair worries took away from the full, relaxing experience. Ahhh, but it’s a new day for me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saving Our Girls from Oakland's Streets

Interview with Writer Harry Williams
'Straight Outta East Oakland 2: Trapped on the Track'

Rev. Harry Williams signing his book.
Photo Credit: Jenee Darden
Author and minister Harry Williams II knows how to do an author’s book reading. I have not yet read his latest book “Straight Outta East Oakland 2: Trapped on the Track” but he delivered on the theatrics when he read excerpts to the cramped room at the World Ground Café in Oakland when I heard him in the Spring. The non-profit MISSSEY hosted the joint authors showcase which featured Rachael Lloyd.  She gave a riveting presentation as well. She has so much heart. I’ll give a review of her book soon. Back to Williams,  his novel is about a reformed crack dealer named Firstborn. He returns to Oakland to take Crayon, 15 out of prostitution after her grandmother pleas for his help. Much of the energy Williams gave during the reading is rooted in passion for the atrocity going on Oakland streets, particularly the sexual trafficking of girls and young women. Again, there are CHILDREN, being sold on the streets of Oakland for sex.  Williams is working with MISSSEY to end the problem. There was a lot of activity going on after the readings, but I managed to sneak in a quick interview with Harry Williams. FYI: "The Track" is a street in Oakland where sex trafficking is extremely prevalent. 

CF: How did you get interested in the subject of child trafficking?
 I live here in Oakland. You can’t live in Oakland and not be aware that people are being bought and sold like chattel like in the 18th century. You can’t go to the supermarket and not see women and sometimes men caught up in human trafficking. Being that I live here, and I care about my community and as a person of faith it’s impossible not to have a concern for the world around us.

Talk about the main character of your book Firstborn Walker. Where did you get the inspiration for that character?
Firstborn Walker is several people that I know, myself included. When I was young, I was very naïve and made some very bad decisions that led me to make even more bad decisions. But I came to a place in my life where I realized that God loved me, He had a plan for my life. Not only my life, but for the lives of the people around me and I needed to give something back.

I look at Rachael Lloyd from GEMS and Nola Brantley of MISSSEY. There are lot of women involved in trying to get girls off of the streets. What do you see is your responsibility as a man in trying to end this atrocity on Oakland’s streets?
Each one of the women is our daughter. If you have a movement that has no men, it will lose its impact. I believe we have to have men who women can see as a real man, who’s not there to take advantage of them but to love them as a brother or sister. Also, we need to go back and tell our brothers that the exploitation is not the perfect male-female relationship. So much of the problem comes from the way that men see women that has been perpetuated for many years. You need to have some men that say “I own that. I’m changing and I want you to change with me. “

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Photo by Sung Sook
The last year of my life have been hectic to the 10th power.  I've been helping my grandfather as he battles cancer, getting used to a new job, had to sue someone and so much more I don't want even want to get into. I missed a lot. I felt like had abandoned a child.  When I first moved back to the Bay Area I had so many ideas for this blog, but then life put some those plans on hold. I did a few book reviews over the past months, but I miss blogging. As things start to settle I will be slowly getting back to my habit of blogging regularly.

Going through trying times has made me again think of people who have it much harder than me. I have great respect for people who are ill and get up everyday to fight for their life. I admire those who have been out of work for years, yet they hit the pavement and send out resumes daily. And I'm in awe of people who have lived through atrocities (i.e. families of 9/11 victims, victims of crimes, survivors of abuse, etc.) and still have the heart to give, live and keep going.  

With all that has been going on in my life I'm so thankful for good friends. You really know who your friends are when you're having tough times. Thankfully, God put great people in my life. They know who they are. I'm just thankful that through all of this I'm still thankful for some things: family, friends, job, food, shelter, good health and "Two- and-a- Half Men" reruns that keep me laughing through all of the bad days.

Life is beautiful. Life is hard. Life is what we make it. Life is out of our control. Life is to be lived.  Life is a b*tch. Life is a lesson. Life is a blessing. 


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