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.

 

 

 

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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

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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?