Last night flying home to my beautiful city, Grand Rapids, MI, all I could see is opportunity and possibilities. It’s time to fulfill my purpose and this site that I captured, this picture right here, is my confirmation. My husband wants me to be prepared for the doubters, the haters, and the blockers. I’m ready to go over, under, around and through all of them with undeniable and irrefutable evidence that systems need to be changed. Questions need to be answered.
- Why are black parents 3 times as likely to be substantiated for abuse or neglect than white parents? Why are Black children 3.1 times more likely to be removed from their parents in Kent County than white children?
- Why are more children removed from 49507 than any zip code in the whole county?
- Why is it that more children have been poisoned by lead in the 49507 zip code during the last two years than during the entire Flint lead crisis?
- Why is the infant mortality rate in Kent County 2.2 times higher for Black children and 6.1 times higher for Latino/a children than white children?
- Why is the graduation rate for children in Grand Rapids Public Schools (65.5%), where the most minorities and the most impoverished children in the county attend, lower than the state graduate rate (79.6%)? This is despite the fact that the graduation rates for Black, Latino/a and impoverished children has actually increased over the last five years.
- Why does 49507 receive the highest percentage public assistance (4% compared to 1% in other zip codes) and have the highest unemployment rate (8%) than any other zip code in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area? What does this mean for the children who live here?
- Why are there inequities in the arrest rates in the county (Blacks 42.6%, Whites 47.2% and Latino/as)? How does this affect the children in the county?
The stress of thinking about these and other issues has resulted in my fascination with my hair. The problems seem so overwhelming that I constantly examine where I fit in the picture. My obsession with my hair is an distraction so I don’t self-destruct. It’s an outlet for my frustrations. It gives me a reason to blog but there is so much more beneath these curls. There are so many other areas of life that need to be strengthened by removing carcinogens, just like my hair was strengthened by removing the perm.
It’s no different than my hair story. In order to get the results I want, I can’t attack my entire head of hair. I need to de-tangle it one section at a time. I need to give each section adequate attention and carefully apply products needed to moisturize and protect my tresses from damage. In order to do this, I had to go into the community and build relationships with experts who knew about curly hair care. They taught, mentored and encouraged me until the dry, matted, nappy mess I thought existed on my head became the flourishing curly afro I have continue to nourish and love. I had to deconstruct a serious of misconceptions about my hair (It was ugly; it was needed to be combed, it did not need a lot of water) in order to come up with a whole new system of hair care techniques and an arsenal of products that are effective. If I can untangle and get to the root of my nappy hair problems, I can untangle and resolve some of these social issues the same way. I knew my hair was beautiful. I know my community is too. We just need to be accountable for what the evidence shows to capture the opportunities and possibilities to shine bright equitably in Kent County.
This is a call of action. I will be accountable for holding the systems accountable. Will you?