Critical Conversations #3:
"The Politics of Hair"

This is a very important conversation, to be presented seriously and respectfully in the presence of a racially diverse group of independent school faculty.  At a very early age black girls become aware of and focused on their hair. Texture and dilemmas about style occupy a significant amount of their attention for a lifetime.  Hair salons thrive when other businesses seem to fail.  Black hair care products and the sale of hair itself are multi million dollar  businesses.  Poets write about black hair.  Ph. D's write about black hair.  Popular culture newspaper and magazine journalists write about black hair.  Hair is a source of identity and self image.  It can be the source of pride or embarrassment.  It can lead to tension and misunderstanding in relationships.  Hair (both inside and beyond the black community) confuses and confounds us all. What is most troubling are the ways in which hair continues to be a tool of white supremacy.  It's complicated.  The goal of this workshop is to create a safe space to explore the ways in which hair embodies, exacerbates, and triggers racism in many forms, visible and invisible.  The goal of this workshop is for teachers to return to their school environments with heightened cultural sensitivity."   


Guest Speaker: Lurie Daniel Favors
Author of 'Afro State of Mind'

Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl is both a memoir & coming of age story about a Black girl fighting to find her place in a world where her hair & skin color are outside of the norm. As a girl Lurie wrestled with the "problem" of "bad" hair. The predominant standard of beauty explicitly & intentionally excluded Black women with hair like hers & at first she bought into that way of thinking. Once she accepted the fact that she didn't have "good" hair, Lurie began the process of changing her beliefs about what "good" hair means. She slowly learned to love her own hair and by extension learned to love herself and her community. In the decades after slavery, many women of African descent squeezed, manipulated & contorted their bodies to fit into a beauty model never designed for them. This battle is strongest when it comes to Black hair and colorism. Afro State of Mind challenges those belief systems & encourages us to embrace & value Black women just as they are: natural, beautiful and exactly the way God intended.

Critical Conversations #3
"The Politics of Hair"

February 18, 2014
4:30pm to 6:30pm

Hosted By Agnes Irwin

Agnes Irwin School
Ithan Ave. & Conestoga Rd.
Rosemont, PA 19010


Tulsa school sends girl home over hair: 
‘Dreadlocks’ and ‘Afros’ are too distracting



Florida School Forces Black Student to Cut Hair or Face Expulsion

In another classic case of school authorities foregoing education to reinforce racially disparate beauty standards, yet another black student was given the decision to either cut her hair or leave the school.

12 year-old Vanessa VanDyke has been attending the private school Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida, since the third grade and is proud of her hair:

"It says that I'm unique…First of all it's puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it's not straight. I don't fit in."

But when VanDyke's family tried to report the aforementioned teasing, the school fired back with the ultimatum. That's right. The school raised no issue about the young lady's hair until her family complained about bullying from other students. Real smooth.

According to the dress code section of their student handbook, "Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction…" We need to stop equating different and distracting, stat. If students are distracted by different, clearly they need some talking to. Why the hell is the school administration punishing this girl for being the target of other kids' shittiness that may or may not come from a lack of understanding perpetuated by their own dress code? If some kids make fun of a student for having RoseArt colored pencils, you don't fucking tell that student "Crayola or GTFO."

Also, it's hair. Let's all understand that natural black hair doesn't work like other hair. And if the dumb school dress code doesn't accommodate that, CUT IT OR LEAVE.

While VanDyke and her mother plan to fight the school, VanDyke is preparing to keep her hair and part ways with Faith Christian Academy.

"I'm depressed about leaving my friends and people that I've known for a while, but I'd rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair."