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Experience: Hair Discrimination

As a young Black female with natural hair, finding hairstyles, hair techniques and routines has always been a challenge. As a young child my mother would relax/perm my hair as we often did not have time in the morning to do it. I was taught it was a lot more manageable and a lot more appealing. It was normal and many of my friends did it to. It was a painful process, but I was taught that pain was beauty. My older sister had relaxed her hair her whole life, so I trusted the process. As I grew older my dad stated that he did not want me to relax my hair anymore and my natural hair journey started. In the beginning I was embarrassed because I was told that it was not the right way to do it, it wasn’t pretty, and that natural hair wasn’t made for young women and sometimes even that guys would prefer it if my hair was neat and more submissive. It got to the point that I thought natural hair was ugly and when it came to interviews for colleges and sixth forms, I made sure that my hair was in braids, as it seemed the most professional. The one event that I will never forget was when I was in Bournemouth visiting my dad and I had taken my braids out and decided to go to the shop. I remember being in the line when a woman looked at me and said, “Wow your hair!”. She proceeded to run her hand through my hair and pet my head. It was demeaning and it reminded me why I had disliked my natural hair so much. She asked me how I manage to even look after it; I had never felt so different. I wrote it off as harmless curiosity but, as I developed my own thoughts, I realised my hair was a part of me and it was something that was there for me and no one else. Nobody should touch my hair without my consent.

Hair can be a little like people: some is damaged, some has always been looked after, some is easier to manage than others. It comes in different shades, textures, lengths but we are all just trying to find something that fits, that makes us feel replenished, happy, healthy and in the end that is all that matters.

Alex Ocansey

Head Girl

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