Poem for people who ask me when I “went natural”


I was brought up in a kitchen

with a towel around my neck

and a hot comb hissing

I was born

half past a yellow bone

with fine tooth combs that broke upon third use
I was born with beadies at the back of my neck

brushed quickly in the morning

I was born South Carolina dry

something like twine and cotton

in my grandmother’s hands

I was taught with beeswax and Pro style gel stored in my sister’s backpack

I was born natural

permed for one summer

thick strands strung out on chlorine

in Oakland swimming pools

crying for the thick to come back

and it did

in between press and curls sweating out

and the boys who liked the long-haired girls

I was born with people in my hair

in my ear

wishing it shine,

wishing it sheen and straight

I was born wirey-hot headed dirty brown-haired girl

and brittle without oil

twisted in the morning

and touched by white women for luck

I was born light and nappy

I was born not knowing this hair

and handing it to someone else

I was born with afro puffs

and camp counselors who said they were ugly

I was born Louisiana dry spice

and daddy’s Nature’s Blessings to soften my edges

I was born with bad ends and rope twists

I was born with a blow dryer busting on the floor

I was born of a silver-haired Virgo and a balding Gemini in a suit

and hair that wouldn’t obey a rubber band

I am in the bathroom combing for hours in heat

a thick universe of coils that grows from me and down my back


I was born with Lusters pink lotion and the burn of spray on my scalp

I was born with straight parts down the middle

and beads with foil on my braids

I was born natural


Reposted by permission. Original post, here.

Read more by Nijla on our site, here.

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, and also attended Howard University’s MFA Film Program, where she was the recipient of the 2009 Paul Robeson Award for Best Feature Screenplay. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of CalArts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing programs.

Her 2011 short film Two Bodies has screened at festivals across the country, including the Pan African Film Festival, Outfest, Frameline and Newfest at Lincoln Center. Her writing appears in the critically acclaimed book, Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, and she also writes for Shadow and Act on the Indiewire Network, where she’s sought-after for her highly introspective features on black cinema. She also worked as a Production Assistant on Ava DuVernay’s film, Middle of Nowhere. She is a recipient of the 2012 Princess Grace Foundation- Cary Grant Film Award for her graduate thesis film, Deluge, which has screened at BAMcinematek in Brooklyn, with upcoming screenings at Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia and The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA). Recently she was one of 10 writers selected for the Second Annual Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive in March 2014. She is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the 2014 Urbanworld Film Festival.


2 Comments on “Poem for people who ask me when I “went natural””

  1. You didn’t mention you were born beautiful. It’s a lovely poem that soundlessly shouts that word.

  2. Lara says:

    Great poem, Nijla. I love the word – play.