11-year-old with dreadlocks goes viral for standing up to school bullies

Trinity, an 11-year-old with locs, isn't letting bullies stop her from loving her natural hair. (Photo: Twitter/Toshia_Shaw)
Trinity, an 11-year-old with locs, isn’t letting bullies stop her from loving her natural hair. (Photo: Twitter/Toshia_Shaw)

Author and life coach Toshia Shaw shared a photo of her daughter Trinity on Twitter the day after she was harassed at school. “My sweet 11yr old was teased in school today by boys because of her hairstyle,” Shaw wrote. “She loved it and stood up to them for bullying her. She goes to a predominately white school but wears locs like me. She said she refuses to allow kids to make her feel bad about her culture.”

In three days, Shaw’s story has been retweeted almost 20,000 times, with thousands of responses cheering Trinity on. Fans are writing in to congratulate Shaw for “A+ parenting” and raising a “strong young woman.” After the outpouring of responses, Shaw followed up with a thank-you from Trinity.

“As a mom, I want what’s best for my daughter. As a woman, I remember being that 11-year-old girl being bullied for just being myself, but I didn’t have the strength or courage to stand up to my bullies the way Trinity does,” Shaw tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I vowed that if I ever had a daughter, I would instill self-esteem, pride, and courage in her.”

According to Shaw, self-love starts in the home, so she has worked to create an environment where her daughter can feel free to be herself. Their home is filled with positive affirmations — written in the bathroom and in Trinity’s room — and as a mother, she reinforces the mantra of self-love with homemade YouTube videos. She also fills their home with role models for Trinity to look up to.

“I show her examples of strong women in books, articles, and we study the strong women of the past,” she says. “I show her that this world has always been tough, especially for women of color, and that it probably always will be; but she has the strength and support to make it anyway. She knows strength is in her DNA, and she believes it.”

Ironically, Shaw herself chose February to start a “self-love challenge.” She’s teaching a course, with new videos every week, to “help you reach beyond yourself and connect with something greater, wider, and deeper.” With self-love as part of her outlook, it’s no wonder that Trinity was more than equipped to handle a few bullies.

With so many supporters — and, yes, a few trolls — on Twitter, it’s clear that the Shaws aren’t the only family focused on lessons of self-love.

Shaw dismissed the haters and thanked the fans taking up Trinity’s story on Twitter. “I’m so happy to have a child who knows who she is and that her future is bright in spite of morons,” she wrote. “God bless all the wonderful people who understand why her speaking out against being bullied for her hair matters. All others, good luck.”

Trinity is feeling proud of her moment in the spotlight, says Shaw. “She didn’t think that her actions mattered, but after seeing the overwhelming response, she realizes that this moment is bigger than she is,” she said. Shaw is right; today’s culture of bullying makes even one inspirational story all the more powerful.

Schools are increasingly under scrutiny for their roles in disciplining this type of behavior. Last week, Lauren Williams, a high school student in Tennessee, fought back after fellow students ripped off her wig and posted the video on Snapchat. The Williams family shared the damage the students had done to her scalp, and the school is now investigating the incident. In North Carolina, 14-year-old Alex Davis was forced to withstand insults about his long hair from a teacher who told him he “can’t have my hair up like that because I’m not a girl, or I’m not a fag.”

Thankfully, Trinity has her self-esteem and her mom “on standby,” and there are a whole bunch of videos about self-love to watch. How about sending one to the bully in your life?

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