Previously, in Part Four of “Finding Self”:
My journey to grow my hair and finally be au natural, was a process as well as a revelation. My hair freedom gave me the confidence to embrace “me” – my skin, eyes, hair and heritage. Friends and family commented that I resembled my elders, and I received them as compliments. And what’s more beautiful than your appearance being an ode to your past? Nada! (at least to me) (if you missed Part Four, you can read it HERE)
This is Part Five…
Reconnecting With My Heritage
Today is a much different world than when I grew up. The 70’s and 80’s were not a time where people embraced each other’s differences, not like today. Although my experience taught me how to navigate the world, which wasn’t easy, It did make me stronger. Now, for my kids, they face different challenges, but I’m glad that it’s not about their differences. I’m super thrilled that complexion, heritage and faith are catalysts for curiosity, conversation, and most importantly, connection. We’ve come a long way but there’s still more work to do.
As for me, I have now come to love my family heritage and history as an adult. But it wasn’t easy to get to this point. I needed to find my place within that history, while still being true to myself. My grandparents (and even parents) symbolized the old world and not everything that I was taught or experienced resonated with me. But I needed to do it my way. And it brings me absolute joy to be the first of a new generation to continue it and pass my cultural rituals – with a spin!
This spin comes out in my style of bellydance and also with the work I do now. When my parents heard that I was fusing fitness with dance, they were like WTF?? What is that? I would hear, “this is right, that is wrong, and this is how it should be.” It was tough pushing back against what my parents knew. But it was about finding my place, and it actually has done well for me. SharQui resulted from it!
Another ritual that I do now that I have put a spin on is getting henna on my hands. Traditionally this was done when a woman was getting married, and the bride, and women in her family would get it done. Now, I don’t wait for a wedding. I now do it every year during my wedding anniversary with my daughter. This new ritual is a celebration of marriage EVERY YEAR – and with super funky designs too (something you’d never see at traditional Yemenite henna). This new ritual reconnects my husband and I as we had a modern day henna almost 20 years ago, and for my daughter, it encourages her to ask questions and feel closer to her Yemeni roots.
And another cultural spin I do is presenting Jewish Yemenite dance with the new and funky Yemenite Israeli music coming from Israel today. Yes I do teach and present the traditional dance, but the fresh beats with old rhythms and a little funk, is more my jam. And I still feel like my ancestors are coming through me everytime!
These new rituals have been such a great way to not only honor those who came before me but to build a legacy that makes future generations proud. And FYI, the “WTF?” moments from my parents… they were short-lived. They are actually very proud of me and what I have created.
So folks… this is how I do it. This is my way of reconnecting and my way of celebrating!
You know, there’s a real richness and vibrancy that comes from it, and being able to OWN IT. It’s living your true authentic self!
Now when I look in the mirror, I see me. I see the cocoa skin (which turns dark chocolate in the summer), the eyes, and the curly, full hair of which I was born. It tells the stories of music, dance, diaspora and ancestral wisdom. And I am f*cking proud of it.
So, in the end, I think I came out of this journey more confident than ever. All these moments shaped me and made my values even stronger. It was all part of the beautiful plan. It was my journey that created the space for what I do today. That’s why with SharQui, it’s imperative that I build a community where EVERYONE is included.
“Mom and Dad, I’m grateful that you didn’t send me those letters. Yes you were different, but you were still figuring out how to move in this world. I get it. My disappointment of not receiving letters from you at sleep away camp that summer has lived deep inside me, but I now see the lessons from this. That I will not hide because I am different – even when it may be hard or embarrassing, and that your “I Love You” notes came in a different form. Thank you for those beautiful lessons.”
I’ve got one last installment for you of this series of Finding Self. Hang on, it’s coming next week.