Your Crown

A young girl of African heritage wears her hair in braids with purple beads.

By: Angela Navarro-Santiago

As you walk into my home for the first time, I watch as you tentatively inspect your room deciding where to put your shoes and which one of your beloved stuffed animals you would like to sleep with. I help you put your clothes in the dresser and pick out some comfortable pajamas. As you lay your head down on your pillow, which is covered by a cotton pillowcase don’t think twice as to what the state of your beautiful tight curls will look like in the morning. I did not think of purchasing a bonnet when preparing for your arrival. Nor did I realize that my morning hair routine would not look similar or take the time, patience, and dedication as yours.

I come to recognize that your curls have their own personality appearing looser after a shower, but quickly becoming voluminous as it dries throughout the day. Realizing that I am out of my depth I ask close friends, your case manager, and social worker what products would work well to moisturize and style your hair. I’m gifted books that depict characters with hair textures similar to yours. I learn that your curls are more than just hair, but your crown. A part of your culture and heritage that I was not privy to growing up. I take notes as my friends explain how to properly run conditioner and a comb through your hair. I watch as your confidence continues to grow just as the volume of your hair.

When your social worker requests your hair be freshly washed and ready for styling prior to every visit with mom, I must admit I become slightly offended. I think, “Have I been doing things wrong this whole time?  I’ve been trying so hard.” But I quickly realized that the request has nothing to do with me; rather it allows an opportunity for you to bond during visits. Each week you return with a different protective hairstyle and it is obvious by your smile that you not only feel beautiful and confident, but more connected with your mother.

This experience has taught me so much about your resiliency and beauty.   


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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.