On a morning that was remarkable in no other way, the famous sports star stared into the bathroom mirror, into his own face, and the huge problem hovering above it.
A kinky revolution had sprouted atop his head as he’d slept. A tiny 2-inch Afro now stood triumphantly after toppling his closed cropped Caesar like a corrupt regime.
After breaking two sets of clippers and chipping his favorite sheers trying to rid himself of the stubborn scruff he headed down to breakfast, where he lamented to his wife while devouring an egg white omelet.
The news was on: police had shot a young woman the night before and there were protests happening all over the country. The famous sports star ignored the journalist’s voice like he always did, but had to call his wife’s name loudly to draw her attention away from the big screen.
He complained about the new addition to his profile and worried that it would be taken the wrong way; like some kind of political statement or act of defiance.
Indeed this new face, with it’s black power coils, did resemble the pictures of the old activists and rabble rousers he’d seen in the books his wife was always reading. Books with titles that promised of uprisings and critical examinations of things that the famous sports star had either taken for granted or never fully understood.
His wife listened to his concerns, clutching a large mug of tea in front of her chest and nodding with the rhythms of a compassionate lover.
She told him that he was overreacting. That it was probably just temporary, and besides, if some people were rattled by a little something like this, then those people needed to have their coat tails pulled to the ways of the world that they were living in.
The famous sports star trusted his wife and knew that she had a much better grasp on these things. So he sighed with heavy breath, pulled his jersey over his head with a bit more difficulty than usual, and headed out to practice, where he avoided questions about his new hairstyle and led the team through their morning routine.
By the end of the month his mini fro had blown out into a perfect 12-inch sphere and a short beard and goatee had sprouted up to match. He’d begun to resemble some of the men on his father’s side, with their oak skin and drawls that stretched clear back to Mississippi. The ones that the god-fearing Catholics on his mother’s side didn’t like very much.
And despite his early fears, and the fact that he’d made a point to stay away from the bruising debates on race and sex and oppression that had been igniting all over the country, his new ‘do was taking a political stance for him.
He noticed the new attention whenever he wore a hoodie, stood in elevators with white women or made late night grocery store runs. Not famous sports star attention. But something else entirely.
Once his fro reached two feet in length, certain friends said that they were shocked and slightly dismayed that he’d decided to play the race card. They’d never seen that side of him before.
“We didn’t think you were one of those people.”
At three feet, photos of the star and his new hairstyle were leaked to the media. Sports commentators and pundits denounced his actions and questioned his allegiances. They fumed. Sport was no place to insert one’s personal political opinions.
By the time his afro topped four feet in circumference, the town where he’d grown up, which happened to have more churches per capita than any city in the United States, was torn in two.
At the local pizza parlor where he used to work-someone painted a Hitler moustache on his portrait, right before someone else covered it in kisses.
Another restaurant named a hot dog in his honor, while someone else hung a mannequin with an Afro from the oak tree in front of the house he’d grown up in.
By the time the season rolled around the sports star’s Afro was the size of the state of Virginia and there was no way that he could play in his current condition.
Which suited him just fine. At his wife’s encouragement he’d began reading the stacks of books that she had placed strategically around the house. And the more he read, the more that the protests erupting across the country started to resonate.
He’d taken to spending the majority of his time with his books and his thoughts and his wife and the growing movement of people who’d begun to gather around him-drawn by the news reports and social media feeds and the buzz of change. It was like his hair had it’s own gravitational pull as people from all over the world were drawn to the man with the planet sized Afro. Together, under the shade of his curly hair, they’d discuss politics and philosophy and revolution, while mapping out a new world that the famous former sports star now knew that he played a part in creating.
Before long, the Afro eclipsed all of the west coast and some of the more adventurous had began to climb to its peak, scaling the sides to hike across its wide expanse in order to see the world from a new vantage.
Over time they discovered that the kinky curls were excellent for growing crops. A little digging revealed a network of underground freshwater streams. Carpenters sheared off long planks of the dense curls to build libraries and schools and more and more like-minded people began to join.
The famous former sports star’s wife was elected to oversee the development. Villages began popping up on the hairy surface, with small houses and customs and names that reflected the values this group of idealists were working towards.
At a press conference, when he was asked about the developing community and what he was hoping to accomplish, the famous now former sports star said that he was just doing his part to create the world that we all wanted to see.
“We’re just trying to be our best selves,” he said, staring right into the cameras and the flashing bulbs.
“We believe that it’s time to build a world where that can happen.”
And high above them the sound of hammers and working drifted down to the press conference. The sounds of children and singing soon followed, as the promise of something better floated just above them-between the ground and the sky-huge, living and clearly visible to anyone who just had the courage to look up.
Kwan Booth is an award winning writer and strategist focused on the intersection of media, arts and technology. He’s the editor of the anthology Black Futurists Speak: New Black Writing and his journalism and creative writing have been published in anthologies, journals and news sites including The Guardian, Fusion, CHORUS: a literary mix tape, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poets for the 21st Century, the Journal for Pan African Studies and the Oakland Review.