Imagine being told from day one that you are not the beauty standard or that you don’t fit a particular image. Imagine always being asked about your hair and why you chose to go without a relaxer or why you choose to go to the barber and have him cut your hair instead of a hair salon. Imagine not being able to find the right hair or skin products that work for your hair type or skin or the right clothes or accessories to meet your needs. Imagine not being able to participate in certain conversations in fear that the people you are talking to will not understand your journey or viewpoint. Lastly, imagine major corporations wanting your money but not respecting your culture as they continuously make insensitive apparel and accessories that reflect negative images of you.
Now imagine a safe space where you don’t have to worry about any of the things mentioned above. Imagine an atmosphere where the vibes are good, the people are welcoming. Imagine a place where the theme is self-love, holistic lifestyles, promotes community/unity while encouraging entrepreneurship (specifically from African American vendors). A few weekends ago I was able to experience this safe space at the Blossom and Sol Culture and Natural Hair Fest.
To be honest, had I left it up to me, I would have missed out on being in a safe space where I could naturally be me and be surrounded by others who looked like me and were taking the same journey. Why? Well because you know…The dynamic duo Procrastination and Self Sabotage stopped by for a visit like always
A few months ago while I was on Facebook, I saw an event called the Blossom and Sol Culture and Natural Hair Fest that was being held in Austin, Tx (about an hour north from where I live). I was excited to see what the event was about because I had never seen an advertisement for one like it close to me. I immediately clicked interested and decided I would change the status to going once the date of the event was closer. One day I got a notification from the event soliciting all types of media coverage to include bloggers. I was excited, so much so that I messaged a friend of mine and told her that I was going to step out and see if I would get picked up to cover the event. Like always she supported a crazy idea and agreed that I should do it. A few weeks went by and I never submitted the media package. The reason for not doing so was mainly out of fear of rejection. Then one day I contacted the host and asked if they were still looking for bloggers and the response was yes. Right then, I knew it was now or never. I opened the media package and completed it. When I was done, I asked my very blunt yet respectful 10-year-old to read it and give me her feedback. In a few minutes her soft but stern voice said, it’s good mom…submit it. On a wish and a prayer I did. Within a couple of days I received and email stating that I was selected as part of the media team. I was ecstatic! I told the girls when I picked them up from school, I facetimed my husband to tell him my good news. Afterwards I called my biggest supporter of them all, my mom! I promise you I talked to her nonstop for a good 5 minutes to the point where she could not get a word in. She laughed and rejoiced with me and when I finally let her get a word in, she said, “This is just the beginning”. The feeling was amazing! Not only did I decide to believe in myself, but God paved the way for someone else to let me use my platform to promote her vision. How awesome was that?
Immediately I started preparing for the event. I made sure I had all of my equipment that I needed. I made sure that I charged every device that I was going to use, packed my backpack and put my outfit together to include my shoes.
The day finally arrived, and I was excited! I was going to be a part of something that was bigger than me that promoted self-love, self-awareness, the African American Community and entrepreneurship. As I got ready, I started to think about why this was so important to me. There were many reasons. What stuck out to me the most was that this event was made specifically for me by a woman who looked like me (I know, it is crazy to feel this way in 2019 right?!).
Of course there have been many women to do it before her but the fact that I was able to be a part of it was truly something special. As I started to think a little more, memories from my childhood and adulthood popped up. As a kid, I remember how I personally had a hard time embracing my skin color because let’s be honest those of us with darker skin were not considered beautiful. Then as an adult as I navigated my way through life, I have had to “explain” my choice to rock natural or short natural hair to those who did not understand the it. And let’s be honest, black women aren’t always portrayed in a positive light in the media, in our work spaces and in society. So as you can see this event, that was an hour away was a safe space. Something that I had never attended but subconsciously it was something that was sorely needed. After I got myself together, I hopped in the car, turned on my GPS and blasted my confidently me playlist and headed towards Austin, TX. I didn’t know what to expect but I was ready for whatever God had in store for me at this event.
After chatting with a friend on the phone, I finally made it to Huston-Tillotson (a private historically black college/university). I grabbed my bag, locked my car and headed to the event location on the campus to check in. At the registration table, I was greeted by two young ladies who were cheerful and friendly. They checked me in, gave me my wrist band and swag bag and off I went to take in the scene and explore.
I was amazed at how many vendors(checkout my IG Page:@shespeakz55 to see some of the them) were set up and ready to go. There was a variety of things to choose from (jewelry, hair products & services, holistic lifestyle options, food vendors, beauty products/services and to my surprise an adult self-love vendor). I took the time to chat with most of the vendors. I wanted to hear their stories and why they created the products or services they had on display. Most stories were the same, they were tired of searching for something that worked for them, so they decided to create their own products or services. Check out
The day was filled with panels, workshops and entertainment. The first panel was hosted by the Houston based trio called The Soul Filling Podcast. Their discussion was a great way to open the event. Their topics covered Self Love, Self -Worth, Toxic Relationships and Positive Affirmations. They definitely helped set the tone for the event.
Another panel that caught my attention was the mental health discussion panel (Dr. Kelly, Mr. Tariq and Ms. Rochelle). They discussed the influence that social media and the media has over how we view and feel about ourselves in regard to how we look, how we should look, and they also discussed how important it was that we embrace our natural selves. They also discussed the difference between mental health and mental illness and how mental illness statistically affects the African American/African American LBGTQ+ community along with the warning signs that a friend or a family member may need professional help. This was a great panel as it focused on mental health awareness and the importance of it.
As the events went on, I was starting to get a little hungry. I snuck away and decided to test out the food vendors on a few ocassions. First, I tried the Jerk Truck. Now the owners have a brick and moratar restaurant in San Antonio called the Jerk Shack. I have yet to make it to their side of town. However, when I saw that they would be at this event, I was super excited because I wanted to support them and give them a try. With a few options to choose from, I decided on the jerk chicken tacos and a pineapple soda. I was not disappointed! The food was delicious
On my second trip, I tested out the Cajun Kitchen food truck. This time I wanted seafood and ordered the fried shrimp with a side of red beans and rice. This was comfort food at it’s finest. My only disappointment was they were out of the basil lemonade. I am a fan of flavored lemonade I guess I will catch them next year.
After stuffing my face, I decided to attened one of the many workshops that were being provided. I attended the Loc not Dreads workshop presented by the JLoc Spot Mobile Salon. I have always had an interest for locs and the maintenance of them but I don’t have the patience to let me hair grow. When I heard on the annocucements where the class was being held, I quickly headed that way. There was a small but lively audience in attendance and the diaolgoue was peaceful and informative. A few women shared their loc journeys and the workshop presenter was full of life.
I walked away from the workshop wanting to start my locs but the way my patience is set up, I will admire the women who have embraced their journey and continue to encourage those who want to take the steps and start their own personal journey.
Overall, my experience was AMAZING and to my surprise something that I needed. The timing of this event and where I am in life was perfect. After the Loc workshop, I went back outside and took a look at the event from a different view. I was on top of a hill outside of the building where the workshops and Yoni steaming demonstrations were being held. The view was amazing. There were people laughing, talking, purchashing merchandise and the most important thing that was happening, they were embracing who they were while loving the skin they were in. That was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed all day. Why? you may ask…let’s be honest because that is not how we are always portrayed in the media. We are usually portrayed as a class of people who are still in the struggle, but at this moment there was no media outlet that could persuade me to believe that we could not come togther as a group of people. A group of people who could share the same space, uplift and support each other. Ms. CoCo Bates, you dear slayed this event. I hope your vision was carried out and that those of us that you chose to help highlight your event did so in a way that you are excited about what next year’s event will hold. I know I am excited about attending the Blossom & Sol Culture and Natural Hair event in 2020 as I will not be traveling alone. Myself and members from the SheSpeakz community will definitely be in attendance.