It's Bigger Than Shea Butter
Written and Edited
Berakiah L. Boone, M. Ed.
Honey B’s All Natural Hair and Skin Care
Five years ago, I transitioned into my natural state of hair. Along with this came excitement, delusion, but more than anything, self-love and freedom. I didn’t know what was in store. I just knew that after years of wearing relaxers, to the point of damaging my scalp, I was now, loving the length and state of my natural coils. I never big chopped. I used a number of methods to see hair growth and continued to trim until the relaxed ends were gone. Out with the old and in with the new-growth! Little did I know, this would continue to be a mantra and metaphor, for what was soon to be a life comprised of swapping limiting, old thoughts and habits with fresh new ideas and concepts of self-love, that would flourish in all aspects of my life, brightening the pathway to endless possibilities.
Like all, rookie naturalistas, I was in the experimental phase of what worked best for me. That blue hair grease was a black hair staple back in the day. When in doubt, use the blue grease, or so I thought. Can you imagine me being the Director of Education, for a major, cultural organization, with my office overlooking the St. Louis Arch and all of downtown St. Louis in her glory; all while, leaving a grease trail everywhere I went? Now that I look back on it, that was pretty embarrassing. I remember realizing I had nice, full hair. I thought to myself, how could anyone have ever believed I had “bad” hair and more importantly, why did I ever believe them?
I realized I was able to wear my own hair in many different styles. I loved my texture. No weaves, tracks or extensions, just my beautiful hair, growing from my scalp. High puff, low bun, two goddess braids with my own hair, afroed, straightened and bumped, you name it, I wore it. I was Black Girl Magic. The only problem was, I was also, Blue Magic, who was leaving behind more than just a good impression! There was a trail of grease to mark any paper I touched. It became my signature and stamp of approval. I didn’t matter what it was. No document was above the reproach of my greasy fingers. Whether it was: the itemized budget for the entire department, contracts for guest artists, notes from an afternoon meeting with the conductor or principal cellist or violinist, proposals for funding from the development department and the list goes on; Those greasy, magic fingers were there to document it all.
Fast forward--I was still falling deeper in love with me, and my tresses, but out of love with that blue grease. Don’t get me wrong, it can do the trick for many things, but I was tired of it hanging out on top of my hair and papers, instead of being absorbed. The love I had never known prior, for my type 4C hair, continued to flourish, but left me ignorant as to what I should use. I definitely needed to do some research on what was really healthy and would penetrate and nourish my newly-freed crown. Long story short, Shea Butter was the answer!
I approached this like everything else in my life; from the standpoint of education, discipline and creativity. I landed the job with the iconic, cultural organization because it married two things that I love and possessed the skills to do well, which was education and music. Having been a classically trained pianist, since the age of 8, who earned a B.A. in classical piano performance and composition from Spelman and later an M. Ed. from the University of Missouri St. Louis, I was a creative who was accustomed to researching as well. My studies in obtaining an advanced degree in education, revealed that creativity is the highest form of expression and intelligence. I was really starting to make sense of Berakiah and the hair on my head.
I have always been polar. I believe we all are. We are all constantly fighting against opposite pulls and forces. Oddly enough, it was this polarity that led me to do the things in my life that have proven to be the most successful, right down to creating my own company. Finding a cure for my newly-freed locs, who had only known bondage prior to, and in which I hadn’t the slightest idea of how to maintain, was no different. Upon researching, hair and its composition, more and more, Shea Butter, rang through as the solution, not in its original state, but I found a way to make it into silk and the rest was history!
Before proceeding, I must note, that during this time, I had many life-changing events take place, that included: leaving what I thought was my dream job, entering a serious relationship that was on the verge of marriage, but ending it abruptly and going back in the music classroom to teach, for 3 years, in between. Yes, that was mouthful, I know! I ending up officially launching Honey B’s All Natural Hair and Skin Care, in May of 2018 and never looked back. The branding and marketing took place that year, but I had been making my own product for 4 years prior, as well as selling it to friends and family.
Anyway, during this time of transition in my hair and life, I realized and reflected on so many things. Some of them were very surface level and dealt with the physical, but many more dealt with the souls of black people, men, women and children alike. I had time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life and understand what my mission and life’s assignment was, according to my creator, The Most High. I believe we all have an assignment and calling and are put here to ensure we find it and allow it to be a gift to others. There is something about teaching, music especially, and interacting with our youth, that unveiled so many things missing in the world and the black community in particular. High self-esteem, a sense of worth and value, was definitely at the top of the list.
Music has always been a medium to express as well as inform. During my tenure as a music instructor, I was able to ignite the curiosity of young people who wanted to know more about how children, melanated ones in particular, lived all over the world, after hearing various styles of global, ethnic music. It is important to clarify that this curiosity came from not only Black American students, but students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and make-ups. This took place in the middle school music appreciation class, in which I taught and had built the curriculum from the ground up. Class sessions would often give rise to thought provoking and intellectual conversations, that spanned topics such as: race, economic disparity, culture, self-esteem, negative images and portrayals of minorities in the media and entertainment industry, and more! To get the raw and unedited version, straight from the mouths of babes, was its own blessing. To be able to contribute to the discussions and inform children of the need to completely love themselves, was even more priceless.
The school was diverse, but still had a sizeable population of Black American-born children, who were descendants of the slaves who built this country. These children were struggling to truly embrace themselves and find an identity that felt good. While this wasn’t exclusive to just them, it became blatantly obvious, rather quickly, that the age old fight against embracing and adoring deeply melanated skin and hair that was kinky or “nappy” as we called it in my day, was still alive and well. Hair and skin have long been controversial issues within and outside of our community. Nothing has changed. I went 30 plus years of my life being told to hate my hair, relax it, change it, hide it and beat it into submission by any means necessary. The flip side to this, was I always loved my skin, however. Despite the subliminal and sometimes, not so subliminal messaging that lighter skin was better, not one day did I ever think of trading my evenly brown skin with red undertones, for a lighter complexion. The young black kids there had the same struggles with accepting and loving themselves just as they were. I knew I had to do something. I’m an educator, so I educated.
I remember being in the middle of teaching a lesson one day and two black children were hurling insults back and forth. The last one resulted in a girl saying “shut up with yo black, crispy, nappy-headed ass.” This was the day my students found out that Ms. Boone was about that life and did not play those types of games. I went in. I went in on the students in front of everyone. The Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and African children from the various countries on the continent of Africa, all witnessed me have a serious conversation with the North American students who were descendants of the slaves, who had fought long and hard for them to even be in a place like that, to receive an education. I reminded them of this and informed them it was a place of learning, not insulting.
It was however, a teachable moment and I had no choice, but to have them confront right on the spot, why they felt black and dark skin and kinky hair was something to be used as an insult and be degraded versus celebrated. I went on to let the children know that, I am what most would consider a brown to darker-skinned woman and I would never want to be anything other than what The Most High created me to be and they shouldn’t either! I also let them know, that I just so happen to know I am beautiful, with my kinky hair and all!
It was on that day, that the students understood, self-hatred in Ms. Boone’s room was not tolerated and was completely unacceptable. I made the statement, “even if you’ve been taught to hate yourself and you actually do hate yourself, and that someone has convinced you that your black isn’t beautiful, you are going to fake like you love yourself in this room and everywhere else, and show some respect to yourselves and others! And maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll look up and you will no longer be faking, but it will really be true and you will love yourself! Not just parts of you, but you will love all of you, just as you are!” Let’s just say the look on the children’s faces said it all and “you could hear a mouse pee on cotton,” as my college professor would say. The mission has and will always be bigger than Shea Butter.
From my own need to create a product that worked for my natural beauty, that I had fallen so deeply in love with, I knew the Shea Butter was one thing, but my calling had to be bigger and deeper, than the Shea Butter. What was my “it?” My “it,” was the internal longing to be enough. To look at what The Most High Created and know it was and is enough. Not just in the physical. I never struggled to attract the attention of men. I’ve always been pretty shapely, beautiful facial features, and we all know men love that. I’ve always dated and had boyfriends, etc. I had really nice, viable options too. Not just on paper, but they were pretty good guys in real life. Despite the fact that I could have stopped there like so many women and men do, I knew there was more work to be done and there was more inside of me that needed to shine through.
That deep, self-love was still lurking right below the level in which it needed to be, in order to penetrate through at all times and radiate the souls of others who looked just like me. My “it” was and continues to be for every brown and chocolate girl or boy; even those who have gone up in age, but not in mentality and have struggled to know they were enough. My “it” was and is still a journey to educate, advocate, uplift and empower them and myself. It is a journey that even present-day, has to be maintained. I saw the need to impart that same self-love to those children who had been misguided like so many.
Honey B’s was about knowing my worth in so many areas outside of hair and skin. It was about knowing my worth pertaining to being my own boss and creating something that I knew mattered, would be helpful, informative and impactful for my community. I knew if I was consistent, it could eventually sustain me as an entrepreneur as well, which is the ultimate game changer with regard to the economic and mental liberation for the many oppressed people of color and non-color in this country, and all around the world.
Honey B’s All Natural Hair and Skin Care was also about freeing up my time to be the best mom I could be to my son. It was about fulfilling my need to be a creative and express myself and use the same fingers and hands that The Most High had gifted me with, to play and produce beautiful music, to create the perfect symphony of goodness, for our hair and skin in a jar. It was about educating people on what works for the two points of extreme controversy and criticism for us, that never seems to evade time; our kinky, coily hair and dark skin and teaching them to love and adore it in the process. It was about actively taking charge and control of removing myself from the cycle of getting a check to make someone else’s dreams happen at the sake of my own and truly affect change in the lives of young people without censorship. It was about being able to get out and about in the community and rub elbows with my people as I delivered my jars of goodness and teach them how to make those elbows glow while I was at it.
My “it” was and is, bigger than Shea Butter. It was about understanding our history as survivors of the slave trade, segregation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the constant attacks and barrages to slow us down, when we were thriving as self-sufficient and self-sustaining entrepreneurs who circulated our money a minimum of 10-12 times before it ever left our community. It was about getting close enough to my people and creating a platform for education and exchange, by any means necessary.
I knew that black hair care was the one thing that we hadn’t yet relinquished ownership of and responsibility to others outside of our community. I also knew that I would be able to get them to see that we shouldn’t have relinquished skin care either. Lotion doesn’t work and we all know this, as I chuckle to myself. I knew I could win them over in that area too, if I could just get close enough. It was in that moment that I knew my intentions of loving on my people, and educating them and learning from them and exposing them and uplifting them, and empowering them, would be the ongoing and more impactful result and Honey B’s All Natural Hair and Skin Care, was simply the catalyst. I knew it may have started with Shea Butter, but it definitely wouldn’t end there. We are just getting started and have a lifetime of deconstructing, healing, reconstructing, educating and just good, plain old, taking time to love the skin we’ve always been in, while re-creating the narrative for generations to come. While our 100% All Natural Shea Butter Silk is absolutely the best Shea Butter on the market, "it" was and will always be bigger than Shea Butter! Visit thehoneybs.com to join the Honey B's Family.
Honey B’s All Natural Hair and Skin Care