“I’m a plain ol’ Black girl,” she is fond of saying. Too pretty to even notice her own beauty, doe eyes framed by thick lashes and full lips on the edge of spoken word. Splendid as any Mona Lisa a Leonardo da Vinci could dream up or a Nat King Cole could sing about for that matter. (She prefers Prince and Nina Simone.) Today her hair is fire red. Tomorrow it could be orange or green. Next week it might be cobalt blue or bleach blonde. It is her crown to wear as she pleases, to suit whatever mood or occasion as she deems fit. Cornrows bedazzled with copper beads braided down one side of her head. The rest of her flaming, kinky curls swept up with a hand-crafted antique comb.
For as long as she could remember, she’d admired the ornate ivory comb inlaid with mother of pearl and gilded flowering. Her childhood was filled with smartly dressed images of her grandmother. Silvery, charcoal black hair molded into an elegant French roll that was held perfectly in place with the “kushi comb” she’d picked up in Japan during one of her travels as a newly married GI war bride. On the day of Lizzie’s high school graduation, her grandmother presented her with a small, colorful paper box. Inside was the comb. Her grandmother, a second-generation Spelman College graduate, planned to see her firstborn granddaughter donning the fashionable accessory at the convocation ceremony in only a few short months. Her mother had proudly continued the legacy, and she would make the fourth-generation of Flowers women to walk through the Spelman arch. But like most firstborns who have weathered the stigma of so many years of over attention and unrealistic expectations, Lizzie disappointed. And midway through the summer—after her dorm room had been chosen and first semester’s tuition paid—she accepted an offer to attend Garnet College. A small, private, virtually all-white, liberal arts college outside Philadelphia. To this day, her grandmother can’t remember if she graduated from Bryn Mawr or Haverford. Neither is Spelman, so it makes no difference.