Khembe Clarke is an extraordinary woman, mother and entrepreneur. I attended her 4th Return to your Roots event yesterday in Birmingham which was a vibrant and positive celebration of today’s black women.
Return to your Roots is multi-faceted concept which chimes with the current resurrection of an entire generation of women of African and Caribbean heritage, who are determined to define beauty on their own terms. Beauty and self-determination that stems from full and unashamed acceptance of everything that makes us unique daughters of the diaspora. I saw black women of all shades, sizes and hair types; some in full-make up, others bare-faced. Some wearing elaborate braided styles and others free in the knowledge that their natural hair looked just fine. There were dozens of stall owners of black female entrepreneurs, selling home-made and vegan cakes, vegetarian recipe books, and an array of natural health and beauty products. Women of letters, running online bookshops with mountains of literature were out in force to ensure that parents could purchase books detailing the contributions of black scientists and mathematicians, as well as other fiction, to ensure a firm grip on our childrens’ future. Raw food seminars were well-attended as were the children’s workshop, which coached parents on how to create a calm and positive dialogue around managing their child’s natural afro hair.
Khembe was very clear about the theme for the event when naming it, as she believes that returning to the roots, or going back to healthy raw foods and hair that is not chemically treated is one way for communities to reclaim a belief in themselves and to relinquish the shame of naturally textured afro hair. The natural hair movement is gaining traction globally Khembe believes that natural and creative styles enable an enhanced sense of self. The additional focus on this year’s show was on well-being, as well as hair to highlight the link between healthy lifestyle and healthy hair:
“My motto is: making women feel good inside and out,” said Khembe, “for too long black women have felt the need to conform to a version of beauty that doesn’t reflect who they see when they look in the mirror. It’s time to accept who we are, including our big lips, chunky thighs and big bums. This is who we are, and we are beautiful!”
I was inspired to write a poem after attending Return to your Roots:
Beauty comes in many hues,
black, brown and honey fair
natural beauty means knots and curls
curly, kinky natural hair
whatever beauty your type is
give thanks and leave it like it is!
If you want to commission me to write for you, do get in touch.