My Silent Resistance Through Henna

Social Resistance Through Henna Cardamom Clove Henna Baltimore MD

Last weekend while in my booth at the 13th Annual Privateer Festival in Fells Point, someone approached me about my work. Conversation started as usual - she asked me what sort of services I offer, if I enjoy what I do, and if I'd taken the time to market in a particular pocket of the local area. She was kind, very encouraging of my responses, and she was genuinely engaging with me over this chat.

What was interesting to me is that she didn't seem to be interested in henna itself. That is to say, she complimented my work many times and commented on how the arts are disappearing. She said that she loved what I was doing, but she didn't appear to want to have henna applied to her own person - something that filled me with wonder.

After a few moments, she asked me, "Say, how long ya been doing this?"

I explained that this year would account for seven years total in the field, and that I began working as a full time henna artist a few years back. The expression on her face changed completely.

She beamed.

She told me how proud she was of me.

Total stranger. But she was genuine. I could feel it in my bones.

She went on to describe how female entrepreneurs are necessary for the growth of our communities and our nation as a whole. She pointed out how women like me - making my own money, taking big risks for the benefit of my family, going against the grain - are just what America needs. She noted that my children were with me in my booth, and she exclaimed how happy it made her feel to see this inclusion. She commented on how more people need to see this, "especially in times like these." She praised my work, my family, my dedication, and then she went about her way.

I've been thinking of this woman all week. While henna, for me, has been an act of liberation - both from the corporate race and from other societal norms - it was really something to hear someone else speak these words aloud.

I began to work as a henna artist when my son, now seven, was just over a year old. I moved into working full time when my son reached the age to start kindergarten (around which time my husband and I learned that we were expecting our next child), and I didn't look back. Full time work as a henna artist was the obvious choice for our family. We'd just moved across the country, we had these small children who we didn't feel comfortable leaving with other caretakers, and I felt strongly about homeschooling my son.

My Silent Resistance Through Henna Cardamom Clove Henna Baltimore MD

I've never thought of henna as an act of resistance or sticking it to the patriarchy or anything else. For me, it was purely practical.

This doesn't change that it is resistance, indeed.

Through my work, I teach my children that they have the right (and the capacity!) to be or do anything. I raise them in my home where they can be fully influenced by me and by those who I feel are deserving of an opportunity in their lives. I teach them patience as they wait for me to finish with my clients in the studio, and presence when we play or paint or cuddle together. I show my children - especially my daughters - that they can be confident and successful.

Henna affords me the opportunity to be the one to educate my children about addition, the rain cycle, and why #BlackLivesMatter. I can stay in bed with them when they're down without worrying about repercussions from a supervisor, and I can take them to see their grandfather without asking for time off. I can teach my daughter that she's beautiful without worrying about what someone at preschool might say to her while she's there.

I encourage, include, and nurture them. This, to me, is indeed resistance.

I resist the norm.

I resist the average.

I resist the idea of settling.

I resist the thought that life must be compartmentalized.

I thank this passerby for giving me some food for thought, for the kinds words, and for the push towards more. To each of you, keep resisting.

xo, Chelsea