Black Hair and Limb Difference

I am many things but a hairstylist I am not. My story goes like this: at the age of 12 my mother lost her mom. As she grew up, she did have some female supports but at 16 years old she moved to England to live with her father and stepmother. The experience was not always the greatest, but she made it. She developed a great friends’ circle, and she is still friends with many of those people today.

Migrating to Canada, getting married, and having children, life just kept moving. My Mom always said she was nervous to have girls because she did not know what to do with their hair. BOOM! God gives her two girls! My Mom worked nights and my Dad worked days which meant that my Dad was the one who did my sister’s and my hair for school when we did not have canerow – cornrows or canerows are a traditional style of braids. Cornrows on women date back to at least 3000 B.C. and as far back as the nineteenth century for men, particularly in Ethiopia. Warriors and kings were identified by their braided hairstyles. Our canerows were done by my godmother or a family member. My Mom did do my hair in styles such as plaits or twists but at the age of 12 years old (the same age she was when her mother passed) she decided that my hair would be relaxed. Relaxer a chemical product used to straighten or partially uncurl hair. Looking back, I can admit that I was happy because I was over the frizz and the work required to style my hair. My Mom also admitted that she was tired as well and felt ill-equipped.

Fast forward to my daughter and her hair journey. By the time Sheriauna was born I was transitioning back to wearing my hair with its natural texture. As I journeyed back to my natural hair texture, I have spent years encouraging her to embrace her crown and as she entered her teens, she is finally hearing that message. But with that comes the added need to be versatile and express her personality and style through her hair. I have had to learn how to braid her hair but for the most part when I wanted it to be “neat” or put extensions in, I too would source a family member or a professional hairstylist. Since my mother never learned how to braid hair, she was not able to teach me. The added layer to this story is Sheriauna’s limb difference. Sheriauna is a girl that loves hair; she loves various styles, playing with colour and textures. When we attended War Amps seminars or met with her OT, Sheriauna would see daily living aids or techniques showing how to put your hair in a ponytail for example as a limb different female or how to use certain styling tools. As a Black girl with a limb difference the challenge to style her own hair has been difficult in different ways due to length and texture. It can be hard for her to make a tight enough ponytail or gather it all neatly. Styling with braids or weaves allows her to be more independent because she can have a bit more control and reduces a bit of her frustration. When Sheriauna wears her natural texture without any additions, I generally do most of the styling and she can just do touch ups in between every other day, for example.

My daughter has always encouraged me to try and continue to improve my technique and learn about different styles. Even when it was not perfect, Sheriauna would always compliment me for my efforts, but if the style were more complicated, she would hint to getting her hair done by someone else. She is always showing me what she wants to do next; some she will do on her own but more complicated styles she will bring it to me for help. I am not sure if or when there will be further modifications to styling tools but as we navigate, I will do whatever I can to ensure that Sheriauna has access to things that can support her independence safely. I will make sure she knows that I am always here to help her because everyone wants to feel and look their best no matter their circumstances or capabilities.

Check out the video to see how Sheriauna puts her hair into a ponytail with braided extensions. She didn’t realize I was recording at the time but she has given permission to share 🙂


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