Skip to Content


By Imani Cezanne



There is no moment when I am more reminded of my Blackness
than when I am at an airport walking through TSA
The Security Administration
Whose job it is to keep the planes from terrorism
To keep the people safe

The first time my hair was detained by TSA

They took my hair in for questioning
Because “Just a precaution”
Because “Just to make sure”
Because if this black girl hair wasn’t doing anything wrong
It didn’t have anything to worry about

The second time my hair was detained by TSA

A blonde with more flakes on her shoulders than a box of cereal
Asked why my curls were so moist and conditioned
Why they foamed at the mouth
Said my hair looked hungry for the blood it deserves
Rebellious the way it defies gravity
while coiled into a fist
Million man marches toward 
a well trimmed riot

The third time my hair was detained by TSA
He poked and prodded my scalp like I was up for purchase
Like this black girl might be for sale
He called my afro a magic trick
An illusion
How it shrinks and then blows up
He feared my hair might blow up
Might retaliate
Might pounce like an Oakland panther
armed and black

The fourth time my hair was detained by TSA
I realized it had happened enough times for me to write this poem

The fifth time
My hair asked to speak to a supervisor
The supervisor told my hair it was overreacting
Shouldn’t speak so loudly
So angrily
              should have conformed
              should have straightened itself out
              before it got here
              And then maybe
              It wouldn’t end up in these types of situations

The sixth, seventh and eighth times my hair was detained by TSA

It had flashbacks of red ketchup
poured over black naps
at white only
And Don Imus’ hate for Nappy Headed Hoes
And how pretty those four little girls hair must’ve been
for church that day

My hair thought
about what it means
To commit an act of terror
Considered the irony
of terrorizers
accusing the terrorized
Of terrorism

How they would mistake my hair for a weapon
When it is, indeed, a target
The only defense in a murder case
That will not go to trial
And yet here I am
Standing at TSA
Me and my black girl hair,
Convincing a U.S. government institution
That I am not as violent as they are  

The next time my hair is detained by TSA
They will treat my hair like a threat a violence
Not a victim
Not a refugee
Not an endangered thing just
looking for somewhere to go
Added: Friday, April 1, 2016  /  From Women of the World Poetry Slam Finals 2016 (Brooklyn, NY) and Poetry Slam, Inc. Used with permission.
Imani Cezanne

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Imani Cezanne is a highly acclaimed writer, performer, teaching artist, and poetry slam coach. Rooted in her experiences as a young, Black, woman, Imani Cezanne’s work digs deep into the silenced themes of race, gender, sexuality and privilege to become a catalyst for social justice and change. Cezanne’s work has been featured on esteemed websites such as The Huffington Post, For Harriet, Upworthy, Button Poetry and All Def Digital, Russell Simmons’ most recent Spoken Word YouTube channel. As a nationally touring spoken word artist, Cezanne has traveled to more than 15 states and released two spoken word poetry albums. Cezanne has competed with five teams at the National Poetry Slam and was featured on Season 3 of TV One’s Verses and Flow, a cable television show dedicated to showcasing the best performance poetry in the country. She has made 5 National final stage appearances. In 2014 Cezanne placed 2nd at the Women of the World Poetry Slam and recently returned from Brooklyn as the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion.

Other poems by this author