Amira was born and raised in Brooklyn and has always been years ahead of age. At 3, she was already attending Pre-K at a private school where her mom Karen (Kween James) thought she would have a fair opportunity to grow and express herself despite her early start. However, on Friday September 20th 2012 things took a terrible turn for Amira.
I showed up to pick Amira up from school and noticed She was sitting all alone while the other children were busy at play with the after school instructor. As soon as Amira recognized me, she raced out of the class room instructing me to have a seat. “Mom I have something to tell you, the man who makes the announcements in the morning came into my class opened his hands like a claw over my head and walked me upstairs into the office with 3 other ladies who were all saying bad things about my hair. They were saying it wasn’t combed, it’s wild and they made me cry”
I was slightly confused because she was wearing a fresh twist out. I was upset because no one called me and there was no notices in her back pack. So had my 3 yr old not have been articulate enough to express herself to me I would have had no knowledge of this occurrence. I asked the after school teacher if she was aware of what was going on and she simply said “well look at her!” I took Amira’s things and marched up to the office to see who could possibly shed more light on this situation for me.
When we got there I was berated by an older dark skinned lady adorning a yellowish blond wig. I introduced myself to her and the reason for my visit and asked if she was aware of what happened. She told me “the child hair is not combed!!! Look at it when I sent my children to school their hair needed to have been combed. It’s wild and loose and possibly dirty!” With a scowl on her face. Amira interjects “but this is how my mommy and I wear our hair all the time!” Good for her because I had no words….. At least no decent words. I stood there in awe mouth opened and numb. Sometimes when I play this back in my head I wish I said so many things but I didn’t. My next words were “how do I begin the process of getting my child out of this school” to which she replied because of this?!?! I didn’t answer. I filled out the paper work and Amira never set foot in that building again.
That Sunday Amira asked “mom, can you make my hair less poofy, can you make it straight” I cried so hard!!!! I felt horrible for not being more aggressive with that woman. I felt like I failed to defend her as a mother. I also understood how the mental conditioning started with our young ladies of color with natural hair. After that I made a point to make sure that I always complimented her hair and how beautiful she is. What’s funny is that she began getting so many compliments an her hair that it restored her confidence that was nearly snatched away from her at such a young age.
3 years later, Amira is still wearing her natural hair proudly and was even featured in a documentary called small plates by Time Magazine and of course she wore her Afro.
We are proud natural hair wearing West Indian women (from Dominica and St. Vincent) who will not conform to societies definition of “good hair”.
The link to small plates