“I love your hair!”
I’ve been complimented several times this month from friends, colleagues, and even strangers. I guess I’m used to it by now but it’s still odd to hear, especially since I’m so self-conscious about my coif. In all honesty, I approached the month of November, err, Movember with a fair bit of trepidation. Why the anxiety, you ask? Well, as it turns out, I’d pledged to “go natural” with a 30-day afro challenge, in support of men’s health awareness and advocacy. Good thing flattery is a pretty powerful motivator!
The idea for my Movember – or “Frovember,” as it’s come to be known on my Mo Sista page – was a result of learning of the cause here at LIVESTRONG Foundation last year and chatting with CEO, Adam Garone, about how I could really step it up and get involved. It wasn’t enough for me just to support my Mo Bro, as much as I love all the guys and their fabulous ‘staches. I wanted to do more to show I, too, was standing up for a good cause. And let’s face it: afros have always been about making a statement.
But Frovember really goes back a lot farther than 2011. Cut to my hometown of South Central Los Angeles where I found myself doing community outreach to educate residents about their risk for cancer. I got into a groove easily enough with students, promoting anti-tobacco programs and healthy eating or exercise. And I did OK getting women screened for breast and cervical cancer, hitting up beauty salons, laundromats, and otherwise meeting them where they were to try and make an impact.
Then came my most difficult assignment: men. Not just any men at that, but brothas. Really, what business or merit did I have telling grown Black men what to do with any part of their bodies? But the thing was those men were being diagnosed and dying at an alarmingly-higher rate than other populations – still are. So, there was really no backing out. I had to figure out how to reach them. As it turns out, I had more credibility than I realized. After all, my dad was a survivor, and I had scores of uncles and cousins about whom I cared and that served as the inspiration for my outreach.
I also had a ton of help in the form of countless volunteers who had agreed to tell their powerful cancer stories. They really deserve the credit for any lives we saved over those years.These men from health clinics, faith-based groups, fraternities, senior centers, and other local organizations pounded the pavement and spoke men’s language to change myriad hearts and minds. Soon enough, people stopped questioning why some scrawny 20-something sista was showing up at their events, and why she cared so much about changing the course of what such dire, overwhelming statistics had dictated for them.
I suppose that what makes wearing an afro a fitting metaphor, a symbol of the pride I take in my brothas and all men that feel empowered by knowledge and do something with what they know. We used to say in L.A., “Don’t just talk about it. BE about it!” So, as we approach the end of Movember, I’ll celebrate the funds we’ve raised, along with 30 days of smiles and flattery (or stares and finger-pointing!). It’s all been worth it because inevitably someone asked, “What’s up with that hairdo?” And I’ve told them why I ‘fro.
*** You can learn more about Movember and Team LIVESTRONG HERE!