“Straight and Easy” | Celie’s Rites Recap

Celie’s Rites,” this week’s episode of Black Enough, grapples with beauty and depicts the creation of Black women’s community around hair. Implicit in the question that returns throughout the webseries, “what is Black enough?” is “what is beautiful enough?” 

Amaya goes to visit Ember for her appointment for braids, in spite of the catastrophe that was the Weston Crown Scholars’ Spades Night. Ember is kind and takes Amaya in, a move that is perhaps also metaphorical. The music, soft and emotive, helps viewers to understand that this space, Ember’s space, is an arena in which Amaya can be all of herself. Ember deepens this feeling by telling Amaya a little about her childhood understanding of her own hair as she braids. Amaya listens carefully, and inspired by the film the two are watching (which we are to understand is The Color Purple), she offers up her own childhood hair story. 

The two girls fall into an easy silence when Ember’s roommate Hadiyah bursts in. The girls enjoy each other’s company until Dre knocks at the door, looking for Ember. His appearance sparks a shouting match between Ember and Hadiyah, during which viewers realize that Dre is Hadiyah’s ex. Forced to answer the door and cover for Ember, who is supposed to be at a meeting, Hadiyah begins to let us in on a moment of vulnerability. She screams at Ember when she accuses Hadiyah of letting Dre run her life, pleading for her to understand that she is “trying to learn to love [herself] in private again.” 

The episode ends with the three girls creating a sister circle, sealed by the sacred ritual of doing one another’s hair. Ember continues braiding Amaya’s hair, while she helps Hadiyah with hers. They are quiet after realizing they’re each going through something: Ember appears to be on a weight loss journey, Amaya is searching for God in herself, and Hadiyah struggles to remember how to love. They are all exploring what beauty means, and specifically, what it means to Black women. 

The creation of the sister circle around tending to hair is a theme that appears in other works by Micah Ariel Watson, most notably, in her production for stage, Canaan (2018). In Canaan, protagonist Louie’s affections are split between church going, good girl Lisa and activist and revolutionary Camille which causes a rift between the two girls before they even have a chance to meet. After Camille leaves a protest that turned violent, she runs into Lisa, who extends an olive branch in the form of offering to help Camille with her hair. We understand that a sisterhood is forming in that moment, much in the same way we see it in this episode of Black Enough.

Watson is in a long tradition of Black women who are interested in the way community is formed around hair, and also in beauty shops. The beauty shop becomes a public sphere for Black women, in which they can gossip, talk politics and church business, in one of the few spaces that was often for them and them alone. It also is the site where familial bonds are forged. For many, visits to the salon with their mother, auntie, grandmother, sister or cousin, became time that they belonged only to each other and could honor that. I remember always having mother’s full attention on our Saturday morning drives to the salon, as I prattled about nothing and looked forward to the inevitable stop at Dairy Queen for dinner on our way back, as I tossed my long, shiny, relaxed hair just to watch it move. As much of a Daddy’s girl as I’ve always been, I could always count on a good long conversation with my mother as she sat me between her long legs and pulled my hair into whatever style she thought was cute on those days in between our Saturday adventures to the salon.

Though Ember characterizes having relaxed hair as “straight and easy,” there are always complications with even the most seemingly effortless styles. In this case, it comes with identity questions– is it really you if your face is half hidden behind a curtain of hair that was often was never meant to hang that way? Black girls explore our inner, and outer, worlds through our hair. 

What will Amaya discover?

Further Reading:

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Poetic Justice, directed by John Singleton

The Virtual Beauty Shop: Crafting a Digital Black Feminism in the Blogosphere, Catherine Knight Steele

Black Hair, Black Voice,” Ravynn K. Stringfield

Hair Story: Understanding the Roots of Black Hair in America, Ayana Bird & Lori Tharps


Meeting Nic Stone and Other Adventures in Friendship with Writers

Last Wednesday night, I got to meet Nic Stone.

For context, there are a bunch of contemporary Black and Latinx women writers (primarily YA fiction writers, but many of them write across genres) who I love, read frequently and carefully, and follow on Twitter and Instagram. This list includes, but is absolutely not limited to: Eve Ewing, Morgan Jerkins, Angie Thomas, Tiffany Jackson, L. L. McKinney, Elizabeth Acevedo, Tomi Adeyemi, Nina Moreno, Erika L. Sanchez, Lilliam Rivera, and, of course, Nic Stone.

Over my life, I’ve gotten more or less the same advice about writing, packaged in different forms: read widely and voraciously, and study the careers of those you admire. Naturally, with the advent of social media, watching my favs make power moves has gotten increasingly easy–as has connecting with them.

I was doing an early morning scroll through Twitter on Tuesday when I came across a flyer for a book signing and Q&A with Nic and author Lamar Giles in Richmond the next day. Up until the moment I saw that advertisement, I had been planning an impromptu trip to the city on Thursday for a Harry Potter flash tattoo event. Jokingly, I tweeted a poll asking my followers if I should go see Nic or get the tattoo, and to my surprise, Nic voted and quote-tweeted my poll, saying, “I voted for me, but 100% because I can’t go to the tattoo event and I’m petty.” The moment she tweeted that, I knew I was going to be at that book event. She seemed a kindred spirit: a Black Potterhead writer with a petty streak.

Even before the Twitter poll closed, I was already picking out my best Harry Potter themed outfit and planning my route to the Chesterfield Barnes and Noble where the event would be held. Before I knew it, Wednesday had come and I was driving an hour against the afternoon sun to meet Nic Stone.

I arrived just in time to grab a snack from the Barnes and Noble in the store before the Q&A began in earnest. Lamar and Nic are good friends, so their easy rapport and back-and-forth made me smile as Lamar volleyed Nic questions. As we neared the end of the Q&A, Lamar opened the floor up to the audience to ask folks what they thought two writers talked about. I smiled to myself as they called back, “Books!” and “Writing!” I made a mental note to tell my soul sister, Micah, about that part when I got home. Later, after I sent her the message, she laughed at the text and replied, “If only they could see our chats.”

Micah has been my writing partner in crime going on four years now. I’ve read multiple drafts of just about everything she’s written since Black Monologues 2015, and she’s my first pair of eyes on most everything I work on as well. Before meeting her, I was never brave enough to think that I could actually publish my writing. Now, I actively keep a stack of projects in my back pocket, ready to pitch at a moment’s notice. Yeah, we talk about writing and drafts and books, but we also have extremely emotional conversations about This Is Us. We have watched Brown Sugar together at the same time in different states so we can live-text each other our reactions even though we’ve both seen the film at least two dozen times. I bore her to tears with rants about Smallville and Avatar the Last Airbender and Harry Potter; she sends me playlists that she knows will take me years to actually sit down and listen to. We talk about God and Indian food; love and mental health; our hopes and our dreams. To be fair, I want to say a solid 90% of them involve writing–but our conversations are as wild as our dreams.

I was thanking God for my soul sister while I watched Nic and Lamar talk, really seeing what a difference it makes to have writer friends.

I waited for about an hour in line to get my books signed, making friends with some nice librarians and a high school English teacher (who was incidentally a W&M alumna) as the line inched forward. Finally, it was my turn. I walked up to the table, suddenly realizing I’d been standing there for an hour and I had come up with nothing to say to either Nic or Lamar. Fortunately, Nic noticed my Deathly Hallows t-shirt, which gave me the opening to tell her I was the girl from the Twitter poll she’d retweeted. One of my librarian friends, who I had handed my phone to for pictures, managed to capture the exact moment when Nic gleefully remembered the tweet and by extension me. She also captured the joy on my face when Nic hopped up to give me a very genuine hug.


A little stunned, I managed to tell her and Lamar a little about me while Nic signed my copy of Dear Martin and Jackpot: that I was a Ph.D. candidate by day and a YA writer/essayist by night; I researched Black women and girls in new media fantastic, digital and futuristic narratives; and that I looked up to folks like her and Lamar. Both of them were warm and engaged as I struggled to make coherent sentences. Finally, after she realized that I was a Ravenclaw, that you could make the “Ravynnclaw” pun and adjusted my personalized autographs in the books to reflect this discovery, I got my picture with both of them, packed up my books, and headed home.

Meeting Nic was amazing for so many reasons. How often do you get to meet a NYT Bestselling author? How often do you get to hug one? Or get a book signed? But beyond that, she met me with real sincerity and interest. It would have been so easy for her to shrug it off when I said I was a writer, but her immediate response was: “Are you working on something?” In a few short moments, we bonded over Harry Potter and tattoos, as well as the craft.

That night, when I got home, and she liked and responded to many of my fangirl tweets about the event, I thought about how lucky Nic’s friends are to have this genuine person in their lives that also happens to be a talented writer.

And then I remembered, as I excitedly sent Micah photo after photo, videos and voice memos as I sat in bed, that I am lucky to have a very genuine person in my life, that also happens to be a very talented writer.

Writers need writers. But we also need friends.

It’s awesome when they’re both.

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Black Excellence & Hip-Hop? | Talented Tenth Recap

Amaya tries out a new look in this week’s episode of Black Enough, “Talented Tenth.” In the last three episodes, viewers became accustomed to Amaya’s casual look, either clad in yellow shirts and dresses or decked out in her dancer gear. Lena picks at her for buying a whole new outfit to hang out with an old flame (?) in a new context, but in the end, Amaya arrives to play spades with the Weston Crown Scholars in a dashiki and earrings in the shape of the continent.

The Weston Crown Scholars are varying degrees of welcoming to Amaya. Once the game starts, the conversation turns to Barack Obama, the first Black president. The debate is lively, and revealing: Dre questions whether Obama did enough, Ember defends him and his policies, while Vaughn lands on the side believing his very presence in the White House was a political statement in and of itself. Dre accuses Vaughn of engaging in “respectability politics,” when she states that “Black Excellence” has to account for something. Eventually, they ask Amaya to weigh in and she carefully notes his introduction of ObamaCare. When the conversation spins out even further, she cites her Diaspora Studies class as the basis for her interpretation of Blackness as subjective– a move that causes Vaughn to lash out.

After Vaughn’s verbal dressing down, things move on smoothly…until Amaya reneges.

How many of y’all play spades? If you do, and even if you don’t, you probably know that reneging is one of the most telling signs you don’t know how to play. In Amaya’s case, the example is that she played a spade when she had a heart she could have played.



The Weston Crown Scholars are unforgiving, particularly Vaughn and, surprisingly, Tryston. What should have been just a game turned into yet another moment in which Amaya felt as if she did not belong.

She runs out crying, only to be discovered by Jaheem as he walks home from work. He consoles her with music: back to back, they listen to music in a shot that draws directly from the original cinematic love letter to hip-hop, Brown Sugar (2002).

In a beautiful moment, deepened by “Loveyou” by KAT ft. Deja, Jaheem reaches for Amaya and tells her, “You good.” And in that moment, in the space between beats, we believe Amaya is safe.

While it would be easy to attribute that safety to Jaheem, I want to complicate that notion and consider that it’s the music, hip-hop, that throws Amaya the life line. Amaya is a dancer– music is the backdrop of her entire life. Music is dance’s soul sister, so it follows that with this song Jaheem is able to speak Amaya’s language. For once, she’s not worried about being “enough” in any capacity. Instead, she’s whole.

This is what hip-hop can do for us.


Further Reading:

The Talented Tenth,” W. E. B. Du Bois (1903)

My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates (2017)

Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, Brittney C. Cooper (2017)

Brown Sugar Is Still A Love Letter to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop,” Tari Ngangura (2018)