Sandrina Ntamwemezi - Rwanda, Africa
By: Camille Stampp, The HBN Content Editor
I was born in Rwanda, but my family moved from there in 1994, after the genocide. We moved to Zambia, and then in 2000 moved to Birmingham, Alabama. After that, we moved to Mississauga, ON, in 2005. Mississauga has felt like home to a greater extent than any other place we have lived. This could have to do with the 8 years we’ve spent here, or the fact that I feel so comfortable and at peace here. Of all the places I have lived, Canada is the place that I have felt most natural in. I don’t fear who I am because I know that I will be accepted.
I have always wanted to cut all my hair off and start afresh, but I hadn’t felt that I would be supported. Finally, after a trip to Rwanda, to visit family, I decided I would cut my hair. What convinced me? I watched many a young woman walking around with short hair, and they didn’t seem to be hindered by it, instead, they walked with pride. They owned their lack of relaxed shoulder length hair. When I saw this, I was convinced. I went home, undid the braids I had put in my hair, and asked my brother to cut my hair, and I’ve felt so free since. It was through this experience that I learned that I can only be who I want to be, not what society thinks I should be. So now I keep my hair short, mostly because I like how manageable it is, but also to fight the expectation that to be sexy and lady like, your hair has to be long and flow, or just long period.
I am currently in school, so not much fun to be had. When I am free, or on break, I like to spend a lot of time with my friends, mostly in coffee shops having long and in depth conversations about life, love, and the injustices of this world. I own my blackness to the fullest, and I lament the challenges it presents in this society, but I celebrate the perspective it provides me. I also love going to cultural festivals and visiting local parks. Handmade things are a weak spot for me. I had to stop going on etsy.com for that very reason.
I find myself more and more perplexed when people ask me how it is to wear my hair naturally, because by this point it is the only way I can be, and I don’t know if people understand that. My hair grows the way it does, because my ancestors were who they were, and accepting this honors them, and myself in ways that I fear is lost on some of the younger women I meet today.