How I Served Students Reclaim Satisfaction for Their Black Hair With My Curriculum


I believe that my encounter with students within the classroom informs, to a good evaluate, the operate that I do nowadays as a college range, fairness and inclusion (DEI) leader. A trainer at heart who values community, I typically mirror on my earlier ordeals with students and the strategies we explored, celebrated and safeguarded our cultural identity. When there are alternatives to do this within the tutorial curriculum, my Black students’ cultural identification is often reflected in how they wear and style their hair.

In Black hair, we discover artwork, creativity, history and connection. Black hair carries these types of dignity and substantial regard in the Black group that it is typically referred to as our crown. At any supplied second, I could gaze throughout the classroom and look at these crowns acquire the type of braids, Bantu knots, buns, twists, coils, curls, locs, lineups, areas, waves, puffs and afros.

Sad to say, these crowns, as beautiful and various as they are, stay under scrutiny in our college systems. When I occur across news studies or a study review that highlights the race-dependent discrimination that Black learners knowledge in U.S. educational facilities, notably as it pertains to Black hairstyles, I come to be indignant and agitated. Observing the effect this policing has on Black learners, including the learners I’ve taught, I experience referred to as to function along with my pupils to problem these systems and racialized perceptions about their hair.

Inevitably, this perform settled into our curriculum as I designed a collaborative unit that invited learners to explore the historic, social, political, and cultural context of Black hair and how we can reclaim it.

How Black Hair Turned Political

“No Coloured or Inappropriate Hairstyles Permitted.”

This was the guideline codified in the student handbook of the school I referred to as dwelling for the duration of the to start with two years of my educating job. All through my tenure as an English language arts instructor, I witnessed the policing of Black hair in faculties on a systemic and interpersonal level. Learners have appear to my desk in tears since their hair did not fit the “standard” of what is regarded suitable or acceptable in the college placing, fearful that they would be penalized or publicly shamed.

School procedures that racialize classic Black hairstyles as unkempt and unprofessional have put targets on Black students that not only effects their self-esteem but also their skill to engage with their educational experiments. According to a 2021 investigation analyze by Dove, 53 p.c of Black moms exposed that their daughters experienced racial discrimination for the reason that of their hair — some as young as 5 a long time outdated. The research finds that these numbers rise for Black little ones who show up at predominantly White institutions.

As we can see from new news coverage of Black students getting suspended or reprimanded for their hair, K-12 schools continue to perpetuate racial discriminatory techniques, which adversely impacts Black students’ capacity to experience a feeling of belonging in their college communities. The challenge is not Black hair. The situation is how the technique regulates Black hair.

It is (Not) Just Hair!

From the time I was a kid, social norms governed my hair. Regardless of whether my mom pressed my hair on the stove with a hotcomb for Easter Sunday or my sister braided my hair into intricate and geometric patterns, modern society marked my hair, and in some instances, deemed it a disruption to social order.

I especially recall staying confronted with societal perceptions of Black hair while competing in my significant university mock trial competitiveness. Ahead of just about every opposition, I pulled my micro braids again into a restricted bun and removed all my hair extras. Individuals of us who ended up Black pupils on the mock trial team selected hairstyles that did not disrupt the social purchase or result in a distraction. Although we have been a really competitive and respected team, we however felt the expectation to conform and adhere to social norms that are inherently anti-Black.

I shared these experiences with my college students, and unsurprisingly, they could relate. For several of my learners, I was their first, and in some situations, their only Black instructor. My learners had been complete of insights and viewpoints on the subject of Black hair, and our conversations close to hair and cultural expression achieved depths typically unexplored in the classroom location. Considering my have hair working experience in schools and my students’ many responses to hairstyles, I wished to know additional about what hair usually means to them, what their hair usually means to their culture, and what it means for them as students.

Usually eager to produce about on their own and their lived experiences, I instantly modified their early morning creating assignment and requested: What is your hair tale?

In their responses, I observed a wealthy tapestry of cultural identification-forming that often goes unexplored and unacknowledged in the education placing. Their stories centered on hair milestones, progressive styling tactics, hair shame and racial profiling they skilled for the reason that of their hair.

Seizing the option to expound on their engagement and fascination, I started establishing a device that would allow my pupils to explore their hair tale and invite them to build a room that affirms the rich diversity of our hair.

The Black Hair Story Challenge

For this venture I affectionately called “Hair Story”, pupils had been tasked with sharing a story of hair by way of a historical, social or political lens, working separately or in teams. Exploring, studying, mastering and crafting jointly was a hallmark of this experience. As pupils were operating, there was a team of youthful women producing a spoken word effectiveness that honored the flexibility of Black hair in the past, present and upcoming.

“So, Ms. Watson,” Jamaria stated excitedly as she approached my desk. “We want to pretend that the phase is a magnificence salon and we’re each gonna use the hairstyles that we’re conversing about in the poem. It will be like the hairstyle is conversing to the viewers.” For the duration of their effectiveness, these young females launched, affirmed and celebrated braids, bantu knots, press and curls, and afros by way of spoken term.

On the other hand, one more college student, Kenneth, made the decision to perform by itself as he interviewed barbers at the barbershop where by he received his hair cut with his father each individual other Saturday. I recall that he commenced his presentation with a two-moment clip from “The Barbershop”, a comedic drama about a day in the existence of a barbershop on the south facet of Chicago.

From this clip, we recognized the Black barbershop to be a cultural staple in the Black community worthy of investment decision and security. The moment the clip ended, Kenneth linked this fictional Black barbershop to his personal barbershop that he patronized because he was 4 years old.

With delight and confidence, Kenneth introduced us to the barber staff with pics. He talked about their route to starting to be barbers, different barber equipment and their function, haircut models and costs, neighborhood support through fundraisers and free haircuts, as nicely as the ways college students can consider themselves to come to be barbers.

While the university student handbook produced angst and trauma for Black learners, we designed a harmless natural environment to examine and celebrate this part of our cultural identification in the classroom. In our classroom, Black hair was not anything to mark as correct or inappropriate. Black hair did not come with a list of expectations and outcomes. Black hair was cost-free and adaptable. By means of this procedure, we had been in a position to reclaim the ability of our Black hair.

Defending Black Hair in Faculties

As I mirror on the connections, pleasure and difficulties I expert as my students and I explored the lots of facets of Black hair, my hope is that my classroom and my students’ activities motivate a lot more educators and college leaders to realize: for Black pupils, hair holds great cultural benefit and id expression.

The racial hair discrimination that many Black pupils facial area disrupts their discovering expertise and complicates social identity. For them, we have to go absent from demanding that they compromise parts of their cultural id to in good shape into a puzzle that is much too rigid for their growth and effectively-currently being.

We will have to acquire motion to assist Black students’ correct to don their cultural hairstyles with no disgrace or consequence, and we can start out by signing the pledge to conclude hair discrimination in workplaces and schools.


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