World Afro Day: Why campaigners are calling for hair equality in schools

·2-min read
World Afro Day 2021. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
World Afro Day 2021. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s been five years since Michelle De Leon organised the world’s first National Afro Day.

Several studies show that school is the number one place that makes a child feel bad about their Afro hair. After hearing her daughter singing about her natural hair, De Leon felt inspired – she wanted every child of African descent to feel as positively about their hair as her daughter did.

On 15 September 2016, the state of Alabama in the US passed a law allowing companies to deny jobs to people with dreadlocks. De Leon chose to counter this exact date with the inaugural World Afro Day in 2017, endorsed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Since then, the organisation has gone from strength to strength as it continues its mission to ensure Afro hair equality in schools. Further achievements include setting the world record for the Largest Hair Education Session and launching the Hair Equality Report.

This year, over 174,000 kids and young people from from 237 schools have signed up to the Big Hair Assembly events which are sponsored by Gold Series from Pantene. The educational event involves people from all backgrounds, virtually joining together in a celebration of Afro hair, identity and equality.

“We believe that Afro hair discrimination will one day become a thing of the past in the same way that corporal punishment became an unacceptable way to treat our children,” De Leon said. “We want all schools to be nurturing and not hostile places for Afro hair and we hope that most teachers want this too.”

This year’s event will also include ‘The Big Swim Chat’ with a panel including Olympic Swimmer, Alice Dearing. and young competitive swimmer. Amelia Smith, discussing changing swimming stereotypes and the recent controversial Afro swimming cap ban at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“For me personally, afro hair has been a journey of learning self love and flourishing along with my hair,” Dearing says. “My hope is that now and in the future all girls and boys blessed with afro hair will know their coils and curls are beautiful."

Find out more information about World Afro Day 2021 over on the official website and see how you can get involved

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