By: Sulma Arzu-Brown
Something as beautiful, unique and expressive as hair should never be used as a strategy for division. Yet, all too often, it is. I am a mother of two super beautiful girls, 11 year old Suleni and 5 year old Bella-Victoria. Like any mother, I love my kids enough to live through them, experiencing their emotions along with them. We protect our babies by every means necessary.
Mothers who take the journey of self-discovery, understand that within us flames a powerful spirit of resilience, beauty and strength. We find that our essence begins from the root of our soul and shows itself to the world through our hair. I am a Garifuna woman, born in Honduras, whose people escaped both genocide and enslavement.
I remember seeing superstar mom, Beyoncé Knowles, holding Blue Ivy on the stage of the Grammy Awards. Blue Ivy had her hair in an Afro. It was such a proud moment to witness such a powerful statement of embracing every aspect of her child. It served as encouragement for my own daughters. Expecting to hear accolades in the media, the toddler was instead bullied by adults from her own community, insisting that mommy Beyoncé should “comb” Blue Ivy’s hair. At that moment, I realized that despite Socio-economics differences, I had something in common with Beyoncé Knowles! We are two mothers who love our child’s everything, including their hair. I felt her despair.
I am also the Author of Bad Hair Does Not Exist!/Pelo Malo No Existe! The book is written in both English and Spanish to be inclusive of my Afro-Latin familia. It focuses on proper terminology for hair such as long, short, curly, straight, etc. and depicts girls of different ages, professions (such as astronauts and doctors) and skin tones in order to expose children to the diversity of the world around them, whether “bad hair/pelo malo ” is a part of their cultural vernacular or not. It embeds words such as “love”, “strong” and “genius” so kids can find representation, empowerment and the courage to be the best they can be, as they are. The same way Beyonce used song Formation to stand up for her daughter, I used Bad Hair Does Not Exist!/ Pelo Malo No Existe! to be the champion of my Bella-Victoria, after a caregiver dared label her hair as “Pelo malo.” God gifted the book to me because I responded to the experience with the spirit of love.
After Disney Star, Zendaya, was stereotyped by Juliana Ramsey of ENews! for wearing dreadlocks during the Oscars, she respectfully explained that her hairstyle choice was a tribute to her family. Jada Pinkett-Smith protested the Oscars for lack of diversity. 11 year old Marley Dias began #1000blackgirlbooks in response to her teacher’s selection of books with images she couldn’t relate to. And Bronx teacher, Monique Duncan, hosts educational forums advocating for more diverse books in classrooms.
We are all are working independently for a more culturally inclusive world. My goal for Bad Hair Does Not Exist! is to unite efforts for one concerted movement rooted in Love, solidarity and of course, Hair…It’s ALL good!