Jewish Journal


November 24, 2010

The Einstein Factor with Kalil Cohen



Einstein Chic Chickadee circa '85

As we gather for another round of Thanks-givings, this year I am making sure to thank my marvelous hair.  Sure, I used to get teased and find myself crying all the way home via taunts of “Einstein! Einstein!” because I was not only smart, but I also had the most ridiculously crazy hair this side of Afro-land.  But, now I’m thankful for my hair - it’s fun, fabulous and gives me a confidence like none other. I’m finally at a place where I appreciate the uniqueness of my funky, fun-lovin’ hair, though it’s often beneath a hat or colorful bandana because of my innate sense of modesty.

This year I successfully gave a schlacking to my first attempt at taking out my first-time dreads 5 years in the making, which means I didn’t have to start all the way over with little-to-no hair after I was done taking them out. Whew!  I mean, regardless if I used ‘schlacking’ properly, I know I definitely chose and used the “correct” detangler and special combs properly over the tedious 24 hour, 3-day period which is why I practically still had a full head of hair post de-dreading - definitely a feat I am thankful for in the personal hair department. 

I wanted to catch up with fellow blogger, Kalil Cohen, about hair, activism and things he is thankful for, as he, myself and some close friends head into another one of our annual Thanksgiving gatherings.  So without further ado…

Describe your childhood hair.
I used to grow it out past my shoulder and then cut it to my ears and then start growing it out again when I was a kid.  By High School it was always pulled back in a pony tail or half pony tail.
Describe your adulthood hair.
My hair has been much more varied as an adult.  I had dreadlocks for a year, then bleached and dyed them different colors (George Clinton style).  Since cutting them off I’ve never had long hair again. Since then I had it dyed pink, red, blue, and bleached.  All last year I had a mohawk for easy maintenance, but now that I don’t cut my hair myself but have an awesome hairstylist - Pony at Sirens Salon for those of you in LA - it’s been changing a lot more frequently.  I definitely prefer short on the sides, longer on top, but in different shapes and looks.

Are there any moments in your queerish youth that influenced how you treat others in your adulthood? Or were you just raised right, so to speak?
I always had a strong sense of right and wrong from my family, my religious background, and my own heart.  I was taught to speak up as a strong woman, and continue to do so as a trans man.  And yeah, my parents have definitely led by example in how they treat others with respect and compassion. 

What is your profession and what are your hobbies? How do they influence your hairstyle and vice-versa?
I’m an artist (filmmaker and rapper) and teacher.  This influences my hair because it always has to be two looks at once, one for work and one for play. I wear my hair up and curly for play, and down and straight for work.  Having thick wavy hair, it’s really easy to make it go either way.  Both styles express a different part of my personality.  For working with kids I have a slightly more serious, calm demeanor and having my hair down fits well with that part of myself.  The rest of the time - and especially for performances - I let the curls go wild on top of my head, which expresses my creative, free-spirit self.

What are the favorite values that you like to embody and impart upon youth, queer or not?
1. Treat people with respect - including yourself!
2. Stand up for yourself and others if someone is disrespectful, but with an educational rather than aggressive approach.
3. Have high standards and high expectations.  Dream big to live your greatest life possible!

If you could have any type of hair or hairstyle in the world, what would it be?
I would love to have a 2 foot tall, 1 foot wide picked out and perfectly rounded afro.
Thoughts on the Jew-fro.
I’m so glad Jews have the Jew-fro!
Hair or no hair, what is the legacy you would like to leave in this world?
I would like to leave a close knit, politically active community that is sustainable and healthy in a holistic way.  I would like people to remember me for inspiring them to reach for their dreams and to help others up along the way.
Lastly, what are you thankful for?
I’m so thankful to have a community of artist-activist friends who replenish my spirits when I’m down and inspire me to grow. 
Got a random twitter tweet this morning - how apropriate for it to be by Einstein!
“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z.  Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”

So get to your mouth-shutting, and let all your hair do the talking! Happy thanksgiving!


Tera “Ashira Tova” Greene can be found at her twitter account.  You will be thankful you stumbled over to it.

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