Teens Shamed for Embracing Their Black Heritage Have Every Right to Fight Back


In the spirit of Black History Month, a group of African-American teenagers at the School for Creative Studies in Durham, North Carolina, came to school with African headgear known as geles. While that seems fairly innocent, they were met with threats of suspension. But this group of young women protested in hopes of making a change. Their parents are supporting their fight -- and so do I.


As young black girls, we're often made to feel ashamed about styles that derive from our heritage -- at times this shame can come from our own mothers, unknowingly. We're told to take our hair scarves off before we leave the house and car, so as not to make white people too uncomfortable or look at us with side-eyes, often forgetting that scarves are an intricate piece of African culture. As a result, the stigma has been attached to women who wear scarves outside of their home as often "ghetto."

Following a rally at the school earlier this week, the public is being encouraged to show their support via social media, with the hashtag #ItsBiggerThanaHeadWrap.

However, the more the natural hair movement progresses, the more in touch we have become with the styles that accompany it -- geles (or turbans, as many others call them) have begun to make a comeback as a mainstream trend among black women looking for protective hairstyles (myself included). And now, with these girls being threatened with suspension, it's yet another way of a predominately white society trying to keep us at bay from our roots.

Alexis and Alexis both wrapped in love and standing in solidarity #itsbiggerthanaheadwrap

A photo posted by Gemynii (@gemynii) on

As a young black woman who was often targeted for blurring the lines of the dress code, I'm quite familiar with the common school rule of NO headgear unless it's religious. However, being that it is Black History Month, it would be my hope that these young ladies would have the support of the faculty in light of the fact that it is indeed an educational experience for them.

Because let's face it: American history books only cover about a paragraph's worth of African-American history; thus, it falls on us to educate ourselves. Which is why it especially saddens me to find that the principal, Renee Price -- an African-American woman -- resorted to suspension, not because it broke the school's rule but because the geles weren't worn to a societal standard, with long tresses left in plain sight (a cultural conformity).

Essentially, the girls are being punished for making a team of administrators uncomfortable with how comfortably they wore their black heritage, and that doesn't sit well with me. Truthfully, it shouldn’t sit well with any of us, and that's why I'm glad that these parents stood in solidarity with their daughters and protested. It's going to take a great deal of solidarity to erase the colorism and racism that perpetuate certain stereotypes, while denying us our history.



Kiarra SylvesterKiarra Sylvester is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared on Huffington Post, Yahoo, and YourTango .




Image via iStock.com/PeopleImages

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