I remember the first time I saw a headline about a child being sent home because of their hair...the title caught me- I was big into self expression when I was school aged (and for that matter, still am haha!) so I clicked the link expecting to get myself riled up over some girl with a head of blue hair getting suspended. What I saw instead was the cutest little black girl- and nothing about her hair particularly struck me in the picture. She had her hair pulled back into a pony tail- which happened to be made of some short dreads. Apparently that style was considered "not presentable enough" for her to attend school. The explanation only further confused me. How on earth was this child's hair distracting when my neon pink tresses never seemed to affect my classmates grades? It wasn't long before I saw this story repeated- and sooner still that I considered it commonplace.
I've thought about what I wanted to say in this post for days. Should I talk about how black hair grows- how it's physically different from these stick straight strands and shouldn't be expected to behave the same? How about the fact that to MAKE black hair behave like white hair requires a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of chemicals that damage the hell out of the hair? Or how incredible black hair is (the variety of styles and textures are endless <3 ) and that it's absurd that anyone would find it anything but beautiful? Should I turn a mirror and ask how any person with european hair would feel if they were forced to cut their hair off or banned from wearing a ponytail? Maybe I should talk about the history of discrimination towards black hair going all the way back to slavery. I could go with a more uplifting line- that New York officially banned hair discrimination as of this year, with California proposing similar legislation now (yay!)
All of that is true, and as strongly as I feel about this topic- I could probably make an entire post for each point. But for me, what it really comes down to is compassion and empathy. All it takes is to look into those kid's eyes in the videos of these school dismissals or the interviews that come after- sadness and confusion. These kids aren't trying to make a statement, their hair is just different than what our society has deemed "normal", which in this case is sadly just a synonym for "white." Humanity should be enough to tell us that when we see that look in a child's eyes, we should be evaluating our actions.
Black hair is beautiful- as an artist I express my thoughts and feelings much better visually, so I decided to bring a group of beautiful young black and mixed race girls together to celebrate their natural hair in imagery- it was an awesome experience and a wonderful (busy!) day full of laughs and flowers supplied by the unparalleled Valen of Blumenhaus.
I will have more images to share from this session in a future post, and my plan is to continue this project and dedicate one day a month to it- please get in touch if you would like for your child to participate! <3