College Essay: Jourdan Jones to Attend the University of Southern California

College Essay: Jourdan Jones to Attend the University of Southern California

Jourdan Jones, Contributor '23

I remember the shock, mixed with amusement on my mom and stepdad’s faces, when I came downstairs. My shoulder length, frizzy, chemically-straightened hair was now a choppy mess of coils, a couple inches long, but not yet long enough to be called an afro.

“Jourdan, we could’ve gone to a salon,” my mom said, laughing. She knew getting upset would not grow my hair back. I put my hands on my hips and smiled like a kid who just discovered that scissors could cut hair. (Frankly, I probably looked like one.)

Said, “I wanted to do it myself.”

I cut my hair to make a statement—to show my dedication to activism, to break away from societal norms and pressure from my peers. In my small, Ohio high school, there was only one other black girl in my class. I never had representation, so I permed, straightened, and burned my hair to look smooth and straight like my peers, trying to tame my hair, fearing being different.

So, I did it myself. Becoming my own representation.

I researched and let my parents know I was going to do it (but forgot the part where I told them when). Then I sat in front of my mirror, played all my favorite songs from Lauryn Hill to Rihanna, grabbed some craft scissors from my desk, and cut off all the burned straight ends, Leaving a helmet of only a couple inches of curly roots. I didn’t know how to style curly hair yet. But that didn’t matter, because I was now representation for every young black girl I saw that didn’t have one. By sacrificing my hair, I was taking a step toward inclusion, giving underrepresented people a voice—and in this case, a look, one of a black girl included in leadership roles, with hair that didn’t conform to Eurocentric standards.

I walked downstairs the morning after my self-ordained haircut, proclaiming to my mom that I did it myself.

Despite the choppy mess on my head she said, “You look beautiful.”

Little did I know that the following year I’d go from wanting to do it myself to having to, when my mom and stepdad moved from our home in Ohio to Arizona, and my 28-year-old sister and I became roommates. This was a new challenge: navigating my relationship with my sister and managing a household while trying to complete my final two years of high school. But this time, I learned I couldn’t do it myself. I needed help from my family and from my sister to take on the challenge I faced.

Today I am a Senior whose sister is now her best friend. Who knows how to manage a house and make time to fly out to Arizona to visit her parents. Who now wins awards for paintings depicting her relationship with her hair and Civil Rights issues. Who keeps signs from each protest she has been to and is now the President of her school’s black student union. Who now has a full, curly, and beautiful afro that she loves (and knows how to take care of rather than a choppy haircut she “did herself”). I can still do it myself, but now I can also ask for help.

The day of my craft-scissor haircut was a daring leap of faith, a first step. That day, I became the representation I did not see, maybe not for all but for some. Because we all deserve to be respected in a space where there aren’t many of us, because this is the first step to inclusion—to leveling the playing field. Because my grandmothers cleaned houses so that my mom could become a CEO and move across the country. So that I could learn how to be a good roommate to my sister.

So that I could cut my hair, myself, and choose to have an afro.