This piece was originally performed at 14 East’s live storytelling event on the theme of Transitions in May.
My mom is from Senegal, a country on the coast of West Africa. There, it was a tradition for the women in her family to have their hair braided. Once a month, she and her sisters would be sent to their relatives and would return home with a fresh bed of locks or twists tightly wound and weaved to the top of their heads.
Years after moving to the U.S., she turned that tradition into a business and opened up her own shop, Binta’s African Hair Braiding.
Hair braiding is a process that takes an average of 5-6 hours per head.
Not only is her work demanding of intricate physicality and patience, but it also brings to light what these hairstyles mean to Black women and how braiding can both forge and empower a community.
I consider myself very lucky to be a part of this community and I thank all the women who were open with me in a very vulnerable way and made this documentary a reality.
14 Speaks: Community and Culture in Hair Braiding