My afro speaks in corporate America.
It pulls on my professionalism
wondering why they can’t be friends or walk together in public.
My afro asked me why I wear it like an apology?
It wanted to stand tall. I made it bow
made it pray to your coworkers’ pupils for approval
Curl into the dark side of their acceptance.
Why must I make my hair less of a fro
for me be more a success?
When my uncle cut his dreads,
he said he did so just to get a promotion.
I remember the shame I felt for him
and the guilt that gripped me when I let my hair grow past corporate comfort.
I fear they will see the black magic in the levitation of my hair
and call it witchcraft
like breaking laws of gravity
makes me criminal
Corporate jungle’s Black Panther.
This dark cloud of wool,
a storm waiting to strike.
This black skin is mount Olympus.
These black thoughts are gods that America’s economy still preys upon.
When I walk in with these thoughts covered in my hair-itage
They stare at this afro like smoke above an active volcano…
Like they’re waiting for me to blow.
Javon Rustin is a software developer by trade and writer by heart. He started performing in middle school, competing in college, made the Dallas Poetry Slam team in 2013, and has been performing across the country ever since. Outside of the main job of programming and the dream job of performing, Javon works as a teaching artist speaking on mental health, professional development, and diversity.