On Friday, I whisked away to the Lower School to talk with the fourth graders about hair. Teacher Margo Tintle contacted members of the upper school Black Student Union to talk about Black hair because of the swimming unit soon approaching. I volunteered due to my vivid memories of the dire swimming unit. While our society often likes to joke about black people (especially black girls) and swimming, it does not understand the reasons behind a black person not wanting to get his/her/their hair wet. From sitting up to twelve hours in a salon chair for hundreds of Senegalese braids to just getting a fresh press (straightening one’s hair), maintaining Black hair takes an exorbitant amount of time and money. I keenly remember the stress of having to schedule my hair appointments around the swimming unit.
As memories flooded my mind, the excitement of talking about hair and my experiences grew inside of me. I walked into a classroom full of twenty or so eager, youthful pairs of eyes staring straight into my enthusiastic, yet nervous soul. Questions poured toward me in just a matter of seconds. It was quite a whirlwind of a time.
Black hair has always been a source of community in my life. The mixture of the children’s vibrant, boisterous laughter, the mutual showering of affection, and the constant palpable feeling of love permeated the salon. Unfortunately, our society has made black hair a source of shame for many black people. My main goal walking into the classroom was to dismantle any possible inkling of this ideology amongst the students and to never let it see the light of day again. I wanted to let every black girl in that room understand that she is beautiful and so is each strand of hair on her head. After most of the students left, one black girl stopped me and thanked me in such an adorable, poignant way. At that moment, the Pisces in me wanted to cry, but the Holton girl in me had English class, so I quickly responded and left.
The world constantly tries to tear black girls down whether it is because of the way we look and act or simply because of the fact that we exist. However, I saw hope that day -- hope for a future in which Black girls feel unequivocally beautiful for just being themselves.