Dr. Yaba Blay
Black women’s hair has made the news again. In the same week that Sheryl Underwood, comedian and co-host of The Talk
(CBS) referred to “afro hair” as “curly, nappy, beaded…nasty,”
a 7-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma was sent home from her African-Amerian led charter school because according to school officials and school policy, her dreadlocks are “unacceptable.”
When I first heard this story (sans the video), I, like so many others, became angry. But when I watched the news story, and saw little Tiana in tears, head hung low, I became saddened. Had I not seen the story come to life in that way, I would have likely kept my focus on the school, its administrators, and its offensive, anti-Black policy. But seeing that precious little brown girl break down and cry in front of news cameras, seemingly a day or so at least after the incident occurred, I became instantly focused on her. And her spirit. And her self-reflection. And I wanted to do something for her.
Here is that something. A care package of sorts. A digital book of photos and messages from 111 women and girls from all over the country and all over the world, all of whom wear their hair in locs, all of whom want Tiana to know that she and her hair are PERFECT.
The e-book is nothing short of amazing. The outpouring of support from women from all walks of life, as well as letters from little girls Tiana’s age, goes to show that there’s nothing “faddish” about dreadlocks. The letters come from artists, doctors, and even acclaimed director Ava Duvernay. At the end of the book, Alice Walker allowed for a special message to be printed just for Tiana.
Of course, I will send this care package to Tiana’s father and ask that he give it to her on our behalf, but I’m also going to send it to administrators at Deborah Brown Community School
, as well as administrators at Langston University
, a historically Black university under which the school is chartered.
I also ask that you share this with your networks because as much as this is for Tiana, it is not just about Tiana. Tiana’s story is the one that made the news. Our girls are under attack everywhere. I want them all to know that they have an army of sisters, cousins, aunties, Mamas, GrandMamas, and elders all over the world who support them and at the drop of a dime (or a news story) will have their back.
UPDATE: So many women and girls have reached out to me since I shared the care package asking to be included. For now, the care package is all wrapped up. We’ll see what the Universe has in store for this project, but in the meantime, PLEASE share your photos and messages of love with the growing Facebook community We Love Tiana & her Hair.
Our girls need constant affirmation. They need to know that even though there are people in this world that would have us believe that our natural hair is “ugly” and “nasty,” that it is they who have a problem – not our girls. Not us.
As I did back in December, as I do almost every day, I’m calling on EVERYONE to join me in “singing a Black girl’s song,” not only for Tiana, but for all the little girls who could benefit from the affirmation of their beauty and their value. An intimate weaving of past and present, memory and contemporary, their stories are our stories. Perhaps if they know that we truly understand, they can be encouraged to see themselves through our eyes; perhaps they will soon be able to see themselves for what they are – Pretty Brown Girls.
Not matter her hair texture, length, color, or style, please, in some way, tell a little Black girl that she is beautiful today. And every day.
The beautiful Tiana Parker