Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Kimberley Tull

What is your name?

Kimberley Tull

Where do you live?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What is your occupation?

Manager, Community Development & Engagement; Project Manager, Access Programs, in the Post-Secondary Education Sector

What is your educational background?

BA (Hons.), Specialist Political Science, Minor Economics, University of Toronto Scarborough; Post-Graduate Diploma, Arts Administration & Cultural Management, Humber College; Event Management Certification, George Brown College; and Master of Education, Adult Education & Community Development, University of Toronto

How long have you been natural?

23 years (give or take a two or three years in there when I decided to switch it up, so probably 20 years in total).

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

Well, I didn’t “go” natural, I went back to being natural. I was a student-athlete, who was trying to rock a relaxed short cut, but with all of the sweating, the back and sides of my hair would revert to natural. I was rocking a half-fro and that was not cute! I was also putting super, extra-strength relaxer on my hair every couple of weeks. One day, I said, “This is enough”… So, I cut it all off, and rocked a TWA; and that’s when I felt like me. I fell in love.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Two-strand twist/twist-out, usually in a pin-up, updo (warmer weather); here, in Toronto, my hair is against the cold temperatures, so it hibernates in the winter under crochet braids, twists or faux locs.

Have you ever experienced any challenges in the workplace due to your natural hair?

I have; but it has never been an issue at my place of business. I can say, no one close to me has ever told me that my hair is unprofessional (whether family, friends, or colleagues). Those that do, my response is: “How can something that grows directly out of my scalp be considered ‘unprofessional’? Whose standard of ‘professional’ are we talking about?” That being said, I’ve been fetishized; treated like I was the entertainment; petted; asked the infamous “Is that your hair?” question; othered. It took me a while to learn to find the words and ways to call people out. As a Black woman, I had to set and stick to my boundaries.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

I get to do whatever I want with it; it’s flexible, and my kinks and curls have their own personality. It’s freeing and it’s unapologetically me!

What have you found to be most challenging about being natural?

Finding ways to keep it moisturized during the different Canadian seasons. My hair responds differently to the different seasons; as a result, I have to change up my products to suit, from shampoos to moisturizers. And, of course, wash day, potentially a full day off the grid (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)

How do you maintain your “work-hair-life” balance?

My hair forces me to take time out of the day just for me, so whether I’m twisting it up for the night, detangling, two-strand twisting, crochet braiding it, I’m forced to sit and be (somewhat) still. I look at that as a bonus, it’s me time and I get to reflect or binge watch a show.

What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who is considering going natural, but may have reservations due to their profession?

1. The natural hair journey can be a long and daunting one – manage your expectations – it will take some time to figure this thing out

2. Let go of the control and follow your curls, they’ll let you know what they feel like doing

3. Accept your curl pattern. We tend to longingly look at other people’s hair wishing and wanting their curl pattern, their thickness, their length but that’s their hair, not yours. You’ll never be truly content with your hair unless you own and accept your hair.

4. Let other people own their issues with natural hair, that shouldn’t be your concern or business. Oh, you have an issue with natural hair… oh, well that’s your issue, you can keep it.

5. Don’t suffer in silence. Find your circle of care and ask for support, opinions, recommendations.

6. Have fun! Play with it, braid it, twist it, wash ‘n’ go it, colour it, cut it, grow it … but most importantly, love it!

***

Follow Kimberley on Instagram: @kaeniktee

or Twitter: @kimzies

or visit torontoaka.ca or misseducation.ca

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Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Abigail Browne

What is your name?

Abigail Browne

Where do you live?

Toronto, Canada

What is your occupation?

Government Lawyer and Trademark Agent

What is your educational background?

Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.), McMaster University; Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B), University of Windsor; Master of Laws degree (LL.M.), Queen Mary- University of London

How long have you been natural?

Roughly 5 years.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

It was time…and YouTube videos let me know it was possible!

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

2 French braids, a twisted-out bantu-knot undo, or a braid-out and end twist-around.

Have you ever experienced any challenges in the workplace due to your natural hair?

I don’t think so.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

The versatility and its health.

What have you found to be most challenging about being natural?

The fact that I can’t just wash and go! Also, trying to maintain moisture.

How do you maintain your “work-hair-life” balance?

I go to my “go to” styles!

What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who is considering going natural, but may have reservations due to their profession?

Put the health of your hair first and find a style that makes you feel beautiful and confident!

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Mrs. Shaneka Shaw Taylor

What is your name?

Shaneka Shaw Taylor

Where do you live?

Toronto, Canada

What is your occupation?

Lawyer, Partner at Boghosian + Allen LLP

What is your educational background?

Honours Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Windsor; Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

How long have you been natural?

From birth until around 1995; and since 2004 to present.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

I just really wanted a change and a fresh start. I had just started undergraduate studies when I started my dreadlocks from 2004. I cut my locks in 2011 when they got too difficult to manage and I didn’t have the time to spend on my hair as I previously did. I cut my hair to a low fade, and the rest is history.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Hahaha, a side part with slicked sides and a side tapered afro.

Have you ever experienced any challenges in the workplace due to your natural hair?

Not to my face! I have heard of other negative experiences but I personally have not had any challenges due to my hair.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

The curls! I have tight coil curls that resemble the spring coil inside a pen; however, I have noticed that my curls have changed over time, perhaps due to the chemical colouring of my hair.

What have you found to be most challenging about being natural?

Maintaining the right balance of moisture in my hair and trying to get it to grow. It perpetually seems to be staying at the same length.

How do you maintain your “work-hair-life” balance?

Honestly, I don’t do anything different. From season to season, I try to mix it up with crochet or regular braids, and once per year, I get a blowout. Otherwise, my hair does what it wants!

What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who is considering going natural, but may have reservations due to their profession?

Embrace your curls. Do not feel limited by others’ perception of what your hair should look like. Once you accept your hair, the way it grows and the way it makes you feel, others will learn to accept and appreciate it. Do not feel the need to conform to Western society’s beauty constructs, as that narrative often does not view Black hair as beautiful. The more you embrace it, the more others will. Get a great stylist who is adept at working with natural hair and get him/her to teach you how to properly care for your curls. Be kind with yourself!

***

Follow Shaneka on

Linkedin: shanekashawtaylor

Instagram: shaneka_taylor

Twitter: @shanekashaw

or visit: http://www.boglaw.ca/shaneka-m-taylor

Black History (Month) is not a joke

What does Black History mean to you? For some of us, Black History is only important in the month of February; for others of us, it is recognized all year round. It’s who we are.

When I was in grade school, I remember Black History Month, for the most part, meant learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman, or maybe even Nelson Mandela.  Whereas, at home, in addition to the aforementioned, it also meant learning about the more-often-than-not unsung heroes like Mary Ann Shadd, the Maroons, Mansa Musa, the Queen of Sheba, and a long roster of Black inventors, among many others. The list was endless.

Mary Ann Shadd, Abolitionist, Publisher, Lawyer (Public Domain)

Mansa Musa, Emperor of Mali (Public Domain)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do-rag

This week, however, a teacher at Archbishop Denis O’Connor Catholic High, a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) school, decided to forgo the usual Black-History-Month-go-tos and opted to wear a do-rag (a nylon headscarf) in his commemoration of Black History Month (click here for the story). The typically uniformed school allowed students to wear do-rags for their February dress-down day in honour of Black History Month, so the teacher donned a do-rag of his own “to [support his] coloured friends”.

 

Apparently, it was a joke.

While it is commendable for educators and educational institutions to actually make the effort to acknowledge Black History Month—and while many members of the Black community would like to see more variety in what is taught in schools about Black History—it is inappropriate for such efforts to be based in the mimicry of Black culture. (The minstrel show is really starting to get old now.)

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African peoples and people of African descent, and to recognize our contributions to the world at large, not a time to mock our experiences.

According to one student, the do-rag idea was a suggestion made by a student on the Black History committee. Even if that’s the case, it’s troubling to know that wearing a do-rag is what Black students think our history represents—and it’s even more concerning that the school just went along with it.  It is clear that despite today’s Black renaissance of sorts, our youth are still not getting the history lessons they need to learn who they really are. We, adults, have to do more to change this: the lessons must start at home.

As for the non-Black educators out there who would sincerely like to make Black history relevant and meaningful to students, please treat our history in the same way you would your own—with true reverence and acknowledgment.  Do the research.  Do a Google search on “Black History” or “Black History Month ideas”.  Go to the library. Or better yet, if you don’t know, ask somebody. Ask the Black teachers.  Ask the Black parents. Visit a Black bookstore (if you’re in the GTA, check out A Different Booklist or Knowledge Bookstore). But whatever you do, please don’t use your “celebration” of Black history as an opportunity to denigrate us. Save your caricatures for art class.

 

Here are some Canadian Black History Resources, as a start:

http://blackhistorycanada.ca

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/black-history-month.html

http://www.cbc.ca/kidscbc2/the-feed/all-about-black-history-month

 

Here are some U.S.-based Black History Resources.:

http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/10-black-history-little-known-facts/#.Wn6Bf2YZP-Y

https://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/edsitements-guide-black-history-month-teaching-resources

http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/resource_library/african_american_resources.html

What do you think about Black History (Month)? Is it important to you?  Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair? Book Launch

book-launch-collage

Let’s celebrate Black History Month together at the book launch for “What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?” at Knowledge Bookstore (117 Queen St W, Brampton, Ontario L6Y 1M3) on Saturday, February 25, 2017, at 2pm!

This is a FREE event! Please register on Eventbrite: zurisbeautifulhair.eventbrite.com

For more information, please visit www.knowledgebookstore.com or www.thenaturalhairadvocate.com

Follow us on:
Facebook: The Natural Hair Advocate
Twitter: @TheNHAdvocate
Instagram: @zurisbeautifulhair
#ZurisBeautifulHair

2016: The Year of Birthing a Vision

2016.  This year was really something.  This year, I did not do a good job of managing everything—this blog included.  For that, I sincerely apologize.  I was doing a lot.  At times, I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I couldn’t juggle it all. Then I would feel guilty and beat myself up. But I realize now that, sometimes, you just can’t do it all.  Or at least you just can’t do it all well.  And I have come to accept that that’s okay…

2007. Nine years ago, I was tasked with carrying a vision that was bigger than myself: I was commissioned to write a children’s book.  It was something that I had never done before, but for some reason, the people who sought me out thought I was capable.  I worked on that book while I was pursuing my law degree and had gotten to the copy-edit stage (with an expectation to publish in 2012)…

2011. Five years ago, during my articling year (after a long period of silence from the publisher), I found out (in a very roundabout way) that my book deal, along with all others at this publishing house, had been canned because the company had been bought out. So, after a couple of failed attempts to pitch the manuscript to other publishers, I shelved the project.

Maybe I wasn’t a writer, after all, I said to myself.

And, in any case, I had a blossoming legal career that I needed to attend to…

2014. Two years ago, I found myself newly married…and out of work.  As the Type-A person that I am, it wasn’t long before I was going half-crazy with nothing (thought-provoking) to do while spending time at home.  Until I felt God telling me to “go back to the project”.

God, don’t you know I need a JOB?! Who has time to publish a book?

After wrestling with the idea for months, and with the encouragement and support of my husband, I decided to acquiesce: I went back to my manuscript, updated it, and then fielded it for feedback from some authors and teachers…

2015. A year ago, I made the difficult decision to re-write the book, on the advice of a few of my friends who work in education—who did not hesitate to let me know that “the kids aren’t going to read it” (thank God for real friends who will tell you the truth!)—and I also made the equally difficult (at least for me) decision to self-publish.  I then began the process of seeking out the “right” people to help me bring the vision to life, which came with its own set of difficulties and headaches…

2016. This year, nine years later, I gave birth to the vision.

Though I’ve never birthed a child before, I feel like my experience has been what I imagine a pregnant woman must go through (based on the accounts of friends and relatives).

Nine years ago, I was nervous but also curious about what it might mean to write a book. I thought about what it would look in the end and whether people would like it. I knew it was going to be a long process, but I had no idea how long or hard it was going to be.

Sometimes your baby is born earlier than expected, sometimes overdue, but always at his or her appointed time.

During my journey, I learned so many lessons about people and about myself.  I’ve learned that others will not care about your vision in the same way that you do.  I’ve learned that while it is important to devote your everything to your vision, you also have to take care of yourself given that you are the vessel through which it will enter the world; the healthier you are, the safer the delivery will be.  

And then there was the emotional rollercoaster.  There were times throughout this process when I was so excited about the potential of what I was carrying; there were other times when didn’t think I was going to make it and was ready to abort it; there were times when I wanted to jump for joy because things were going great; and other times when I wanted to bawl my eyes out in anger and frustration (and I did—several times). And by the time I got to the end of my “gestation period”, if you will, I was completely exhausted and just ready for the vision to finally be birthed.

So, here she is, my first-born child: 

what-are-you-gonna-do-with-that-hair

What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair? A book by Ndija Anderson-Yantha; Illustrated by Kaela Beals

I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I did.  Thank you, Jesus!

 

If you are carrying a vision of your own, trust and believe that it will come to pass!

If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time (Habakkuk 2:3 MSG).

May you birth great things in 2017 and beyond! Happy New Year!

 

The Natural Hair Movement is here to stay: Afrofest 2015

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For the past 27 years, Afrofest has been bringing the rhythms, flavours, creativity, and vibrancy of the African continent to the heart of Toronto, in a free festival that attracts thousands of people annually.

This Saturday, I headed down to the festival at Woodbine Park, with my hubby and my brother, to not only celebrate Mama Africa but to also ask some of her daughters the following question:

Is the Natural Hair Movement just a trend, or is it here to stay?

First, I met Marilyn.  “It’s about time!” was her response, when asked for her thoughts on the traction of the Natural Hair Movement.  Marilyn started out her natural hair journey “spit-shine bald” two years ago, and now sports an oh-so-perfect asymmetrical ‘fro!

 

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20150704_154305Then I had the privilege of running into YouTube sensation, Samantha Gomez of I’m Samantha Gomez (click here to check out her channel), and fitness, lifestyle and hair blogger, Alaina Gomez-Henry of Shorty with a Curl (click here to visit her blog), who were working the festival as representatives for CURLS™ Hair Products.

They both agreed that the Natural Hair Movement is here to stay.  “People are embracing it more and more,” stated Samantha.

These beautiful curlistas were also kind enough to bless me with some samples of one of my favourite styling products, CURLS™ Crème Brule Whipped Curl Cream (love how it defines my curls!), which made my day!

Perfect travel size too!

Who doesn’t like crème brûlée?

20150704_163536Later, I met the lovely Shaniqua, wearing extension braids with grey highlights, at the Black Experience Project tent.  She was recruiting participants for the BEP Project, an important study about the “‘lived experience’ of individuals across the Greater Toronto Area who self-identify as Black or of African heritage” (if you’re interested in participating in the study, click here).

Shaniqua thinks that the Natural Hair Movement is here to stay, as “people are reconnecting with themselves and are embracing themselves.”  She shared that she decided to go natural about 4 years ago, when her hair had broken off from perming it.  The breaking point for her was when her stylist wanted $125 to perm just a couple of inches of hair…needless to say, she has been natural ever since!

 

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Then I chatted with Sipo, whose glorious twist-out I spotted at the City of Toronto tent.  Sipo believes that the Movement is here to stay:  “Once you go natural, and get used to it, you never go back!”

She shared that earlier on in her hair journey, she would go to Afrofest just to check out the hair—the festival offered a great opportunity to see what kinds of hairstyles other people were trying out!

And I agree with her—what better place to get a snapshot of what’s happening in Toronto’s Black hair scene than a gathering of brothers and sisters from across the African continent and the Diaspora?

Honey Fig, the natural beauty supply store (www.honeyfig.com), also had a tent!

Honey Fig, the natural beauty supply store (www.honeyfig.com) had a tent too!

If my conversations with these naturalistas—along with my personal observations—were any indication, it looks like natural hair is not just a fleeting fashion trend, but rather is developing into a true movement of self-awareness and self-acceptance that is really taking root (pun intended) in the Greater Toronto Area.

 
 

Do you agree? Is the Natural Hair Movement here to stay, or is it just a trend?