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Posted under: Community Submitted Opinion

Racial And Social Injustice Still Attempts To Erase Progress In The Natural Hair Community

Make your statement.

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Last month, the city of Boston, Massachusetts held its first large-scale natural hair event, The Quintessential Naturals Tour, presented by Shea Moisture. With over 300 naturals in attendance, the event was filled with rich panel discussions led by top entrepreneurs in the natural hair community, as well as informative presentations, such as the importance of taking care of our natural hair while protective styling. As a proud natural headed sista, and a Boston native, personally, for me, this event was empowering beyond measure. This was my first time in my life, being in a room filled with a sea of beautiful naturals, graced with different kinks, curls, and eccentric styles. As I looked around the room I couldn't help but think about how all the naturals not only showcased the diverse ethnic backgrounds within the city of Boston, but just the site alone, also exemplified the steady progression that women of color are making in embracing and appreciating their natural roots. Nevertheless, our acceptance and appreciation for our natural roots has simultaneously also caused many of us to be put into situations of social injustice and racial discrimination.

This month, just 20 minutes outside of Boston, in the town of Malden, two teens of color were wrongly punished for refusing to take out their protective hair style, after being told that it was against school policy to wear "hair extensions". Although the school has other school policies pertaining to hair, such as no hair coloring, the no hair extension policy certainly sounds as if it's targeting the students of color. It's quite bewildering to me & downright preposterous, how the "Poetic Justice" box braids hairstyle, a go-to for many naturals, has caused two teens to be harshly punished by their charter school.

The two teens are simply a sample of twenty black and biracial students, who were all asked to come down to the administrators office, a week prior, in which they were asked if their hair was braided with any fake hair. More than half of the students that were inspected for wearing fake hair, were given detention, but the two teenage girls who also served detention, were given harsher punishments because they refused to take their hair out. They had to serve detentions, they were suspended, they couldn't participate in any after-school sports, nor could they attend prom- because they simply refused to take their braids out. Despite the racial and social injustice that these girls have experienced by their school administrators, they decided to combat them all, by continuing to embrace their personal and cultural norms.

Not only are many protective hairstyles (including box braids), a way for most naturals to protect their hair, or to simply give it a break, it's also a huge representation of our culture, and our African lineage. For many millennial naturals, box braids, faux locs, or Marley twists, grant them the opportunity of feeling more connected to their roots. I've personally heard many black young women of Caribbean ancestry state how styling their hair in faux locs, makes them feel like a real Caribbean girl. Essentially, many of these various protective hairstyles grant women of color with a newfound connection to their roots. By refusing to take our their box braids, those two teenage girls refrained from stripping their roots, to assimilate into white social & cultural norms within their school. I'm almost certain, if they had went to school with a freshly done perm, they would have never received any racial discrimination for wearing straight hair.

Personally, I always wear my natural hair, in my professional setting. Yes, I love my hair, but it's a little deeper than that for me. I've realized that by wearing my natural hair, that I have a statement that needs to be made, especially in this toxic Trump Era. I personally feel like every natural headed women, has their own personal statements to make, and by wearing our natural hair it allows us to individually, and silently make our own personal statements known. It's a powerful thing, and through the trials and tribulations that people of color have experienced by this land that many of us struggle to call our home, our hair reminds us that we are unique, versatile, resilient, and simply one of a kind. So Thank You, to those two teenage girls, for taking a stance, and for most importantly making a statement. I think I can speak for the natural hair community, on this one by saving we are all extremely proud.

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Hello Everyone! My name is Keyana (Key) Michel, and I'm a active Youth Development Professional, & an aspiring Entrepreneur, hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. I've always been a very expressive young woman, whether its through my personal sense of style, my lifelong passion for dance, my remedy which is poetry, or my powerful weapon which is writing. Personally, I believe that life is all about personal growth, it's about who we are, and who we are becoming, and I believe that my ability to express myself through all these creative facets in my life, have truly helped me learn a lot about myself, and ultimately grow as a person. My mission, is to positively impact my readers with my opinions, and my experiences. I want to ultimately inspire & empower readers to think critically, about their own lives, their own personal situations, as well as the society that they are apart of. Instagram: _thekeytofashionn

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