The War On Little Black Girl-Ness


This is 12 year old Vanessa VanDyke. That free-form halo of kinky, coppery brown-ness that you see around face is her hair. It’s a little like a lion’s mane, but infinitely cuter. In case you can’t tell, I love it. But that’s besides the point.

Not long ago the story surfaced that she was going to be expelled if she didn’t take a razor, hot comb or some good ole fashioned caustic chemicals to it. I love natural hair.

My wife owns a shop in Atlanta called Locmamas, where she sculpts, styles, starts and celebrates natural hair. My house is the house that kink built.

Not everybody is so enthusiastic. The kids at her school teased her. Her mane was too much for them. Its utter magnificence drove them to distraction.

To hear the administrators at Faith Christian Academy tell it, that hair of hers corrupted them. So they did what any rational administrative type would do when faced with an environment in which one person was being harassed. They sought to remove the source of the problem. Her hair.

By the time you read this, her private school will have already thought better of their position. They will have issued a statement in which they say that they didn’t necessarily want her to cut it or process it; just maybe style it so that it fits within their handbook. A handbook which states that hair, “…must be a natural color, and must not be a distraction.”

That clears it up, right? Vanessa could have sported a Marine style high and tight, a weave down to her ankles or a bun like Princess Leia. If it distracted some other child, then it would simply have to go. Thank God children are so difficult to distract, or she might have to shave her head. Although I bet she could pull it off.

Of course she isn’t the first child this year to be threatened with expulsion if she didn’t change.


Tiana Parker, 7, threatened with expulsion from an OK charter school because of hair.

Tiana Parker was a straight A student, wearing her hair in a manner that little Black girls have worn their hair for eons. The administrators at her charter school said that it didn’t fit in. It evoked something that they didn’t feel was representative of their institution, so they sent her home with a note. Fix it or find another school. Which suggests that little Black girls have mistakes growing out of their scalps.

Like I said, I’m biased. Out of the three children under our roof, exactly three of them would have been threatened with expulsion if they attended either of those schools. Our little girls are just like Vanessa. They love their hair just like it is.

Think about it. They love their hair. Looking at TV, you might think that women have an invasive species growing out of their scalps. Advertisers use words like Tame. They want you to make your hair Behave. Black or white, if you are a woman, there is a whole lot of money to be made in making you hate that stringy nonsense that you call hair.
But for Black women it’s worse. It is an act of rebellion for a Black woman to wear her hair… her regular old, un treated, un straightened, un pressed hair. This is not an exaggeration. Two little girls were almost kicked out of school for it. The same thing has happened in Human Resources offices across the country.

The administrators thought that their hair was as much of a threat to their school as a child who fights, or steals or cheats. Those schools are so threatened by little Black girls just being themselves, that they want to remove them like cancers. Now, no matter what color you are, or how you wear your hair, that should make you mad.

I’m not naive. I know that this school had every right to kick her out. After all, they are private. They don’t need a reason to banish students. And if I were her father the feeling would be mutual. They wouldn’t receive one single penny from me after the school year was over. But, what is it about little Black girls that makes grown-ups so keen on setting them straight? ? What is it about that mane on Vanessa’s head that made the administrators of Faith Christian Academy want to either extinguish it, or banish her. Whatever it is, that’s one powerful free-form fro.

I’ve written about this before. Here you can read about Tiana Parker. Those administrators backed down too. It’s funny what school officials will do when you put together a petition and bring in the cameras.

This child didn’t have it so easy. He too is being threatened with expulsion, just for playing with a toy gun on his family’s front yard before school. His administrators still haven’t backed down.

This is our story. It’s about our exodus from Philadelphia and then our wanderings around Atlanta looking for the best educational opportunities.

This one is about two school administrators in PA who loved the N’ word. One of them was the superintendent of schools. Hmmm.

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