This past Saturday, I attended the 1st Annual Trust 15 Fundraising Gala event here in Toronto. Trust 15 is a community initiative in the Rexdale neighbourhood comprised of two gender-specific programs for youth called Ladies On The Rise and Men of Distinction. The initiative uses guest mentors and group activities to instill values, teach social and life skills, and encourage education - and it gives youth an outlet and support that may otherwise be unavailable to them.
I mentored with the Ladies On The Rise late last year and was SO happy to support them at their fundraiser, which showcased the amazing skills and confidence the students had gained throughout the program. There were so many magical moments throughout the night, but one of my top picks came just as I was about to leave, when I ran into this cutie named Sade:
She caught my eye earlier in the night, and I thought she was extremely adorable with her little doll and her kinks and curls. As I gathered my clutch and coat at the end of the event, I noticed her standing with her mom right beside me. I don't like to make a habit of praising little girls solely on their looks, but I felt compelled to give her a hair compliment - so I sidled my way over, said hello to her mother, then told her I just HAD to tell her how much I loved her hair. Her response? In the cutest voice ever, she looked up and said "I love YOUR hair!" We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and pretty much became BFFs.
We spent the next few minutes talking about our favourite hairstyles (she's partial to pinned-up mohawks), pet peeves (broken hair elastics and lost bobby pins), and some of our favourite hobbies (like me, she had fun doing fashion shows and modeling). Her mom was super cool and allowed me to get a pic with my mini-me, and we laughed about how similar her and I were. Don't you see it in the photo? The hair? The coats? The scarves? It was baffling.
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In recent discussions with other natural hair wearers, transitioners, and those contemplating making the change, there's often a focus on the negatives of natural hair. Whether it's complaints about texture, comparisons to others, or negative connotations about women who wear their hair naturally, I've been feeling unnecessarily burdened with having to defend my natural hair. Having said that, it was SO refreshing to speak with someone (in this case, an 8 year old with an effervescent personality) who exhibited a crazy amount of love of and pride in her own natural hair.
Do we do enough to instill that same love and pride with the kids in our lives? As y'all know, I don't have my own yet, but the nieces and nephews and god-children and close friends' kids in my life get a full dose of love from me. They need to feel proud of the skin and hair they're in, so that when the pressures to change start to build upon them, they're able to firmly push back. I don't think I would have been as proud of my hair when I was Sade's age. By 8, I was starting to ask my mom if I could have my hair "straight and swingy", and she finally gave in when I was 12. When I see a young girl rocking her natural hair, I remember how affirmed I would have felt if another fly natural gave me a thumbs up or a sincere compliment - therefore I do the same. You don't have to look too far into society to find an example of Black beauty being disregarded, mocked, or fetishized. A tap on the shoulder and an "I just wanted to say I love your hair!" is my small way to fight back and either plant the seed or water the plant of self-love and acceptance.
I'm not sure if little Sade realized she was such an inspiration, but she was. That bubbly personality and strong sense of self were nothing short of invigorating. She reminded me of Nikki Giovanni's quote: "...And he said: you pretty full of yourself ain't chu. So she replied: show me someone not full of Herself and I'll show you a hungry person." The Dos Equis dude may tell you to "Stay thirsty, my friends" - but let's be like Sade and never be hungry.
How do the young people in your lives showcase their self-love? Are your young natural hair-wearers proud of their kinks and curls? How do you help to instill self-love and pride in young people?
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