"Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution" by Sherri Winston, Chapters 11–16

November 2, 2022
Lotus Bloom, a seventh-grade girl who loves the vintage style of the 1970s, learns to speak up and fight for the freedom of expression after facing a dress code violation at school.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Prologue–Chapter 4, Chapters 5–10, Chapters 11–16, Chapters 17–22
“Can’t,” I say, distracted, already mentally listing out the elaborate array of pre-poo, deep conditioning, and twistups I’ll conduct when I get home, to make sure my hair is the best it ever looks at school tomorrow.
Also, I’m a little ashamed of how petty I’m feeling.
Do they look at my hair—which I love—as something dirty and unkempt?
We’re all standing around in this back room at the center, which is clean and well stocked despite its shabbiness. The center could use a total refurbishment.
The chorus will be on the stairs. Ensemble groups will be set up in different areas.
We’ll be like a roving band of troubadours—medieval musicians—going from one area to the next depending on which song we are performing.
He is working hard to keep his anger in check. He’s not mad—he’s seething.
He continues, “Miss Lee is an eighth grader who began study of the violin at age five. She is a gifted and talented young lady with a sophisticated work ethic.”
I feel like my insides are coming undone, and the people I should be able to count on are—what was that vocab word? Oblivious. They haven’t got a clue.
“Is...”—his voice falters—“is Maestro aware of the situation?”
Concentrate on your art, your music. Lead with conviction and keep pushing yourself to do better than you did the day before. I would hate to see a talent as precious as yours squandered.
When I tell Tati and Anabel, Tati says, “Well, duh? Who else would get his endorsement? You’re a natural.”
His cheeks flush bright pink, and his floppy brown hair is wild on his shoulders.
She shrugs, her smirk trying gamely for innocence.
Is she a student of the art or a full-fledged professor?
“I like your flower,” she says. I touch it gingerly.
“You should come meet her, too,” I say to YaYa, casual as I can.
“No, not really. Now, lift your chin a little,” she directs, pausing to take a dainty bite of her sandwich before continuing to scratch lines and curves onto the page.
Our student dress code is clear—students must maintain a manner of dress and personal style that does not disrupt or engage other students. Lotus’s unruly hair has created a disturbance in the classroom and must be taken seriously.
I picture Adolpho’s smug grin.
“Mom, they want me to change my hair. My hair! That’s not right. Can’t you see that?” Even as I’m saying it, I hear the whine in my tone. I don’t sound strong. Defiant. More like I’m begging to be heard.
She eyes my afro with contempt.
It doesn’t take long before I can’t bear sitting at the table with Mom and Derrick any longer, if she’s just going to rehash my misery for dinnertime amusement.
“Closer to home,” the news lady is saying, “a tenacious group of students protest outside a special Thursday-night session of the Miami-Dade school board meeting...”
“Are you okay? I know when you get stressed out you start hurling. Tell me right now”—her voice rises into the tone she saves for frightening salesgirls or snooty waitstaff—“what is going on with you?”
My brain keeps bouncing from the sight of those boys’ angry faces as they drilled me with paper planes, to the recommendation from Maestro, to the awful letter from Mr. Mackie, to my mom’s rare tirade, and, finally, to Rebel’s righteous indignation.
My brain keeps bouncing from the sight of those boys’ angry faces as they drilled me with paper planes, to the recommendation from Maestro, to the awful letter from Mr. Mackie, to my mom’s rare tirade, and, finally, to Rebel’s righteous indignation.
The absence of his full support crashes like a cymbal, shattering my resolve.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted for you, too. We both know how your mother feels. She couldn’t care less if you ever took the stage in a grand hall. Or gained international acclaim,” he says.
Her own finely relaxed hair is bone straight and plastered into a compliant bun.
Miss a day of school? On purpose? Blasphemy!
One minute she was there, the next, exit stage right. The latest installment of the Rebel Show.
Had he really thought that my being humiliated on a daily basis was a “petty squabble”?
“It’s not just them,” I say, lowering my voice and looking around conspiratorially.
Normally, seeing her like that would automatically flick my protective switch, but instead I stifle a yawn.
My pulse beats in time with a metronome on Mr. Mackie’s desk.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cortez fails at discreetly looking at the screen of his phone.
He slides his iPhone into a pocket in his immaculate doctor’s coat.
In the back of my mind, I heard the ominous tones of F and F-sharp alternate. Jaws. Two notes that became a movie classic.
These Black girls from where she’s from—MacArthur Park, right?—are volatile. What if she snaps during one of the performances and goes off on another unsuspecting student?

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