This is my love letter to Tiana (a little girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was denied entry in school because of her hair. According to the Deborah Brown Community School, her locks were considered "unacceptable" and against school guidelines. The administrators went as far to say her hair locks were considered a "distraction") The policy states that “Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” I quote Dr. Yaba Blay who states that "dreadlocks, afros, and mohwaks are our original hairstyles and our peple have been wearing them since the beginning of time! Go Dr. Blay!! (I believe 'our' to denote African and Native people based on the images in her beautiful Locs of love creation of images and letters in support of Tiana)
I felt a need to speak out because I stand up against injustice and discrimination at every turn. I also believe that "Silence is the voice of complicity." as Poet, Activist, Author, Poet and now Ancestor Queen Mother Audre Lorde said. This is more than just a story about a little girls hair. I see this as a subtle or maybe not too subtle attack on our young girls of African descent and how they express themselves culturally. This ban against her hair and traditional styles worn by people of African descent shows a deep rooted disrespect and denial of expression for the ways people of African descent show up in the world.
I don't buy into the system that places one type of beauty over another. We know that historically, This ban against her hair and traditional styles worn by people of African descent shows a deep rooted disrespect and denial of expression for the ways black women and women of African descent show up in the world.
Historically, the standard of beauty globally for women has been European based; placing any characteristics which do not fit into that model as less desirable and unappealing. Now yes, there are a few models of African descent who have broken through the European standard but they are the exception not the rule and at best they are often exocticized. Whether it is the hair, complexion, body shapes of African women (look at the recent Miley Cyrus VMA video gestures toward black women's posterior and historically what was done to Sarah Baartman)to see the exploitation of women of African descent. Globally women are lightening and bleaching their skin and the ubiquitous sale hair weaves as examples of the desire to fit the European/Western standard of beauty. One can look at the rise of some Asian women who are getting double eyelid surgery to have Western eyes.(http://culturevisuelle.org/introtovc/archives/606)
No judgement here, however we must look at how damaging it is when we are bombarded with images that are imbalanced and place one standard of beauty ABOVE all others. Look at what women and girls are doing to themselves worldwide. It is tragic.
So when a little 7 year old girl wears her hair in it's natural state and embraces her natural beauty, what happens? She is told her hair is unacceptable, ugly, a distraction. It is pretty obvious to see that her school has bought into and through its guidelines is perpetuating a racist and ethnocentric model of beauty and that is WRONG! I find this ban against locks just as ludicrous as banning male Scottish students from wearing kilts because the standard in America is that men "typically" don't wear skirts. How can an institution, private school or not, deny a student their right of self expression and ban them from identifying with their cultural heritage. Note to the Deborah Brown Community School is that when you have guidelines which target a particular group (ethnic, sexual orientation, gender, religious,or other) and you deny them entry based on who they are--that is discrimination!! This school is targeting hairstyles which are typically worn by people of African descent. Why are afros, braids, mohawks and locks considered unacceptable yet others hairstyles are not? What is the larger message this school is perpetuating?
Whether it is our hair or our physical bodies, the compelling issue which demands our attention is that OUR girls(and boys) and culture are under attack and this has got to stop!! All cultures should be respected and valued and should have the freedom of self expression.
We are all beautiful!
You are a beautiful, smart little girl! You, my beloved are a princess and come from a great line of Queens and majestic women of the continent of Africa, which is known as the cradle of civilization.
I was so happy to see the outpouring of love being extended your way from all these beautiful women of African descent who spoke up to support you. I,too, felt a need to join the chorus of voices and write to you this letter filled with love.
Your hair is beautiful, regal, rooted in Africa, the mother of all civilization. Your hair represents a rich culture and tradition and is UNIQUELY yours!!!
I understand your pain as I have been natural for 19 years and have had every traditional African style, braids, locks, Afro, cornrows. I too have had to face ignorance and deal with comments like people telling me that "having locks messed up at pretty face" and asking me "why would I intentionally try to make my hair nappy?"As if having nappy hair is a bad thing. Well, I say nappy hair is beautiful. And if there is such a thing as good hair, I believe that nappy hair qualifies as GOOD hair. It is strong and made up of tight coils and is simply one texture to many different types of hair. Your hair grows out of your head and is perfect as you are my love.
So I understand how painful it can be. The reality is that no one has the right to define our beauty for us except us, only us!!
I think your parents are amazing and taking you out of that school w great decision. Your school should be more concerned with what you are learning than the way you choose to wear your hair. And you my love are a great student in school. You recognize the importance of education. These negative comments are mere distractions from what is really important. Leader and activist Marcus Garvey once said, "Remove the kinks from your brain, not from your hair." He too recognized the beauty of our tight coils.
Princess Tiana...Love the skin you are in, love your hair despite what the world tells you about you. You are beautiful and smart and a gift to the world! I support you Tiana and all the other little girls who are force fed images of beauty that look nothing like themselves. Be proud and love your hair and the skin you are in. You come from GREATNESS and a beautiful culture of people!
Chadra Pittman Walke
Note to ALL: The "hair shaming" has to stop and being a private school does not give you a pass to discriminate.
Note to Deborah Brown Community School: If you target one specific ethnic group and call hairstyles typically worn by this culture of people "unacceptable"- that is considered DISCRIMINATION!
I am so proud of my these women who have come forth to raise their voices and shed an abundance of love to encourage Tiana.
Melissa Harris Perry spoke up to defend Tiana. Another reason I love MHP...
Thank you Mano Reza Kashef for the MHP clip.
Thank you Maat Free for this image sis <3 Queen
Thank you Linda Holmes for the clip from Dr.Yaba Blay who created a care package for Tiana.