How Momma Gave Me that Swang by Micaela Shambee

Growing up black and a girl in America means that there are certain cultural rituals that are a rite of passage…one of them being a girl’s first perm.  The process of changing one’s hair texture to another gave black women a sense of identity, one that challenged our ability to be apart of society.  Unfortunately, this process stripped away important facets of our original identity, all in an effort to be accepted. This poem looks into the process of this ritual, and its importance to Black women’s cultural identity in America.

Young Black Girl

Photo Credit: Google Images

How Momma Gave Me that Swang

By: Micaela Shambee

Momma grabbed the box from the shelf.
“Should we get super, regular or mild?”
Momma looks at my nappy head,
feels the coils of curls atop my crown.
Without pulling too hard,
Momma finally makes a decision.
We home now.
Sitting between her legs she
mixed the chemicals in the kit like a cocktail.
Rotten eggs stirred with a wooden spatula.
Held my breath as she stirred, rickety legs on the oak table nearly buckled under the weight of her churn
In our wrought worn kitchen

Momma gave me that swang

Twice a year
Wide tooth black power pick parts my naps
Grease slathered ‘round my hairline.
Laid the cold cankered mix on my scalp at last.
“You better tell me if yo head tingling now.”
Momma scolds me.
Last time,
Told momma when my head started to tingle,
and hair didn’t come out straight.
For every straight follicle, their was a nap
So while my head tingled this time,
my lips stayed shut.
30 minutes ’til

Momma gave me that swang

Scalp burning now.
Race to the kitchen sink,
dirty dinner dishes filled the other side,
Lukewarm water running
through my strands,
Eyes stay shut, as water soothed raw scalp.
Blow drying next, hot comb after,
raw scalp, brand new crown
that’s how

Momma gave me that swang


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