The following is an excerpt from “Afro Fest,” the upcoming novel by Javanna Plummer. In this Chapter, Rahnelle Ross-Cassells is getting ready to host the world’s largest hair festival.
The red light went up.
Aaliyah, the darling loc legend, shaped her hands like a crown and moved them up the letter A. While she stunted on the runway, the audience examined this quirky take on Black pride. Once she had reached the end of the runway, the spotlight hit the tip of the A, where a tiny crown sat.
The green lights went up.
Myles, Daja, and Emelia linked arms and walked the runway as one. The lights followed them while they took their poses. Myles, who wore a long headscarf, slowly took it off so that the audience could see the way his fade bled into the F shape on his head. Daja, a long-time braid legend, whipped her head so that the audience could see her multicolored box braids that formed the shape of an R. As for my supermodel sister Emelia, she did a simple pose. She crouched down and looked back at it – the O shape that her bright orange Afro was making.
Thus, the first word was spelled.
Before the audience could even grasp the artistic concept, the Black light was up. This time, four models walked. Fernando led the pack. Like Myles, he rocked a headscarf that was going to reveal his unique style. When he met Myles on the stage, they locked arms to form an F that reflected on both sides of the stage.
Emmanuel Jonathon was in his glo and took long strides so that the audience could take in his eccentric style. He slowly rubbed his head and moved his hands down his back. While dipping into a lower pose, he untied the strings of his cape to reveal a bright red E on his back.
Then came Yohan. Yohan was bald, so their reveal would be different. Yohan took calculated steps so that the audience could witness their glowing scalp. Yohan looked left and the light was behind them, creating a shadow. Yohan looked right, and the light shone down on them. Once Yohan met the others, they slowly crouched to make the shape of an S.
Then, there was Phalene.
She was our headliner, so naturally, she would walk last. As she walked, the stage seemed to wobble in her presence. In 8-inch heels, Phalene did her signature lean at least five times before making it to the group. When she got there, she propped her perfectly chiseled leg onto Emmanuel’s shoulder so that the front row would see her lean (double entendre). Phalene’s Rapunzel locks fell off the stage and showed the final letter – T.
Thus, the second word was spelled.
As I had said in that initial pitch meeting, Afro Fest would be a transformative experience. Now, it was my turn. I took slow strides and said, “I proudly present Afro Fest, the transformative experience honoring the Black excellence among us. Enjoy.” At this moment, the red, Black, and green spotlights were on us. We gave 2 minutes for pictures before we were lowered into the stage so the show could begin.
“Wow! That was so dope, Rah,” Ahmad complimented. I had not told any of the other stylists about the opening segment because I wanted it to be a surprise for all. I smiled. “Thank you. This is gearing up to be the biggest natural hair show in the world, so I had to open our first one accordingly.”
Despite all the days’ fumbles – from Mom’s earlier chastisement to Damien’s unwanted appearance – nothing was going to ruin Afro Fest. Nothing.