Each year I welcome the national recognition of Black Her/History month with such reverence, admiration, and reflection. While I strive to honor the significant contributions my ancestors have made EVERY month, this year is quite different. Why? Well, for one, my role as contributing writer for The Phoenix Rising Collective has provided a platform to discuss all things pertaining to motherhood and its intersections with race, class, gender, love, health, wealth, and education, to name a few. But secondly, The PRC also allows me to inform readers by spotlighting how the extraordinary contributions of our foremothers have tremendously influenced our modern world, as well as the Divine Goddess DNA that flows through our bodies as women of color.
So, in celebration of Black Her-story Month 2014, and rolling with the theme of honoring our foremothers every month, this Motherhood Empowerment article will be about, none other than, MY MOTHER!
According to a February 12, 1972 Flint Journal (Flint, MI) newspaper article, Marilyn Clarke was the first black woman to graduate at 19 years old from the predominantly (99%) white Flint Institute of Barbering Inc. since the 1920s. And, she was distinctively known as the shortest female barber in Flint, Michigan during that time, measuring 4’11. She had to stand on top of a box to reach the top of many of her clients’ heads. My mom began cutting hair as a teenager for my uncle and grandfather, as well as young men from the neighborhood where she grew up – located on the Southside of Flint. She immensely enjoyed cutting hair during this epic era of Afros, blowouts, tapers, pompadours and Caesars (better known as the quovadis back then). However the quick and precise cut of the Afro was my Mom’s claim to fame! She was able to shape the finest, roundest, symmetrical Afro in the city. Hilbert Hambrick the owner of Personality Hair-styling, who was her boss, had only one major complaint: she only spent 15 minutes on an Afro versus the suggested 25-30 minutes. She responded, “Time is money!” Charging $4.50 for an adult haircut and half that price for a child’s haircut, my mom was determined to keep her services quality yet fast paced. The result? A thriving clientele of black, white, young, and old customers!
Being able to work creatively with one’s hands, in whatever capacity, is an exceptional gift. This is a gift my mother has passed down to all of her children and many of her grandchildren. We have all been blessed with the ability to create just about every hairstyle for just about every texture of hair. While none of us at this point in our lives have decided to pursue careers within the hair and beauty industries, we’ve definitely acquired the necessary skills to do so thanks to a little old woman named Marilyn Clarke who broke ground in a male dominated field during the 1970s.
So, as a follow up to one of my recommended tips from the November 2013 Motherhood Empowerment article, extend gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude to your mothers, grandmothers, great- grandmothers, great-great grandmothers, and so on and so on. Simply reflecting on their greatness, strength, wisdom, and accomplishments can help ease what appears to be your most challenging moments, heal what feels like your deepest wounds, and shine light on your darkest hours.
This month (and every month), Mom, I honor and salute you! Thank you for lasting legacy in our hometown and within our family.
About the Contributing Writer:
W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions. She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.