|Bibiana Williams's son is not the first victim of hair discrimination at SMC. Hopefully, he's just the last in a long line of Afro-St Lucians unnecessarily persecuted for pride in their hair-itage.|
It was the late 1960s.
Revolution was not quite in the air yet, but the sticks were beginning to rub together. Luther Francois, the greatest St Lucian composer/musician of all time, was a teenager at St Mary’s College. Luther, like many free thinkers, did not quite understand the society’s obsession with short haired men and like many progressive youth, allowed his Afro-mane to flourish past the point of politeness.
Hunter's lucky Seon wasn't his Principal, otherwise he would also be deprived of an education for the crime of Growing Hair While Black and Male.
Of course, he attracted the attention of the Presentation Brothers, themselves legends in the lore of St Mary’s. The Brother who was the Principal tumbled down in Luther’s skin for his long hair, an Afro so big that it was sensitive to the wind and had scary political, spiritual and ideological overtones.
Luther was sent home until such time as his Chaos-inducing revolutionary hairstyle was nothing more than a few piles of black woolly garbage. The teenager who would grow up to be his island’s greatest musician accepted.
Luther’s father, Hunter found him not long afterward.
“Why,” the good father asked, “are you not at school where you are supposed to be?”
Luther explained in the same quiet, matter of fact, fearless, gentle way he still speaks.
Luther's friend, the celebrated poet Kendel Hippolyte would probably have to sit on the bench in Seon's world too, for his Chaos-creating locks
Hunter Francois was livid. But he didn’t let his son see. He didn’t let his son know what he was going to do next. He simply instructed him to make sure that he went to school the next day. And then, he had a conversation, the actual facts of which shall never be known to anyone but Hunter Francois and the Presentation Brother who was the Principal at the time.
The next day, Luther Francois went to school as though everything was perfectly normal. When he arrived, he found his Principal red and puffy with rage and or embarrassment. It’s hard to tell the difference with white people sometimes, especially when they are in positions of authority.
“How could you do that?” the Principal screamed.
Luther must have thought, “I didn’t do anything to you, you did it to yourself.”
Hunter Francois, you see, was the current Minister of Education. The Principal’s principles were not strong enough to override his own addiction to the chain of command and his subservience to authority. He could not stand up to authority and he was trying to teach the boys to be just like him. Hunter Francois would have none of it. Good Neg had to be free from unreasonable rules. And good teachers had to be focused on what was in children’s heads not what was on it.
Walter Rodney - yet another troublemaker whose uncovered hair would end the world of discipline and order as we know it. People like that have to be stopped. right Mr Seon?
And so, for the duration of the seventies, College Boys wore Afros, unhindered by school authorities, in spite of all the negative Black Power, socialist, communist and anti-establishment connotations of the hair styles. Some of the better, more exalted citizens of today wore the offensive hair styles back them – among them none other than a certain Prime Minister Kenny D Anthony.
“So the moral of the story is that Luther was lucky his father was the Minister of Education?” you say.
If you think that Hunter Francois had that effect because he was the Minister of Education, you are sorely mistaken. Hunter Francois had that effect because HE WAS HUNTER FRANCOIS. He was not domesticated, he was not toeing the line, he was not where he was because he played along and played the game. He was a St Lucian legend already, back then, in his late 30s, early 40s, a giant among men. More importantly, he was not a coward. And he was not willing to negotiate politely with stupidity and backwardness.
You better cover up them, dreads, Bob, otherwise, no class for you at SMC!
As for you, Dwight Venner, you better not even come up Vigie, because you are just not SMC material with that nasty salt and pepper thing you have manifesting on your head.
So Mr Seon, should I cover my hair before you pray to Me? Does my long hair also lead down the road the Chaos, Rowan? Is that what my long hair means to you, son?