Let's discuss the magic of Afro hair!
I want to talk about Afro hair because I'm always looking for ways I can explain the differences between myself and my mixed heritage children, I'm always looking for words I can share with them and indeed with other parents in my life too, because we all need to be educating children about differences and why they exist, so that they can move beyond a place of something being 'strange' to them to being something that they are very comfortable with, differences that they can celebrate!
I'm going to talk mainly about my eldest daughter as her hair is the longest and she's now at school so she has the most questions! We live in a predominantly white populated area and for many I am sure it is intriguing, and to some extents sometimes it still is to me, as it evolves with her age and continues to change texture and grow.
My daughter's hair texture is very similar to her Nigerian aunties, her coils are plentiful and her hair grows like a crown, up towards the sky. Every time we have wash day and I get to sit and run my hands through her hair, moisturising as I go, I feel grateful for the experience, it's a privilege to help my daughter with her self care. It won't be forever and I'm sure that one day she will look back at photos of herself and criticise the styles we sometimes make up as we go along, but I am trying my best to instil pride and self love.
There is a flip side of course, and that is from her perspective having very different hair to mummy isn't always cool. I'm her first love and at the moment she looks predominantly to me for influence. She gets frustrated that her hair doesn't 'go downwards like mummy's' and we have many conversations about self love, but really understanding this concept is going to be something she grows into as her emotional development unfolds. And what I need in order to make sure this happens, is for the children in her school, in the playgrounds and all of the adults around her, to understand intentionally how their words and actions about my daughter and her appearance, her heritage, her experiences, can either help or hinder that self love development. Because I can tell her as much as I want to that she is a beautiful person inside and outside, but it doesn't take much to knock a 5 year old's confidence, and trauma can be stored.
It isn't just hair. It's a huge part of my daughter's identity, it represents her lineage and it also represents how traditionally white people have responded to Afro hair. It's a very important topic to discuss with children for the sake of self development and generational improvement - and then we can really help to create a positive change around how we raise our children.
So, with that in mind I've put together some talking points to help non-Black children understand why Afro hair is different and wonderful:
- All human hair is made the same, but we will have different textures depending on where we, or our elders come from, so it will look and feel differently
- You will see Afro hair on people who have Black heritage
- Braids and locs are a style you see on Afro hair as it helps to protect the curls and also, it can be a beautiful way for someone to express their personality
- Some people with Afro hair will wear a bonnet at night to keep the protective hairstyles in place and look after the curls while they are sleeping
- You shouldn't touch someone's hair, it isn't polite and it's important to have boundaries
World Afro Day is 15th September and it is a brilliant opportunity to open the conversation and delve deep into celebrating the uniqueness of ourselves, and the uniqueness of others!
Thank you for reading.