Students share their 'hair stories' in an effort to combat stigma
Students who feel stigmatized because of their hair were treated to a special workshop
Zariah Meggo and Nefertiti Butler have seen each other in the hallways before.
They both attend Walkerville Collegiate Institute, and although Butler is in Grade 12 and Meggo in Grade 10, the two students have a passing acquaintance.
What they've realized before, however, is that they share almost mirror experiences of struggling to embrace their natural hair that is easily distinguishable from the majority of their peers.
"I had the dreads which was so different from everyone else, and I thought holy, no one is going to like me or relate to me," Butler said.
"Or think you're beautiful," Meggo said, recalling her own experience. "You just see everyone with straight hair and it's so different."
The two discovered their shared experience Wednesday afternoon during a workshop at Walkerville Collegiate Institute. The event called "Hairstory" was an effort to open the floor to students who may feel stigmatised because of their natural hair.
A barber and a hairstylist were brought in show them how to work with a variety of hair types. They were then asked to share their own experiences about what being black in the community means.
"Its about feeling welcomed, feeling safe in your skin, it's about identity," explained workshop organizer Natalie Browning-Morgan.
Browning-Morgan runs a mentorship program for the school board which helps racialized and minority students adjust to student life.
She said the idea stems from a conversation she had with students in her group.
"It was really just about me opening my door and them seeing me with curly hair," she recalled.
She said that's when the floodgates opened. The students began asking questions and sharing stories about their own curls in a way Browning-Morgan says they weren't able to before.
"I don't think there was a place where they thought they could have that conversation."
Meggo and Butler agree. Both girls struggled not only with self-esteem issues, but also with finding someone to relate to them.
"I felt this for so long, and I didn't talk to nobody about it. I cried to myself at home and said 'Mom I don't think nobody like me no more.' If I knew you felt like this I would've talked to you more," Butler said to the younger Meggo.
Meggo is now part of Browning-Morgan's mentorship program. She says being able to connect with people who can relate to her experience as a black student has been invaluable.
"I don't feel alone anymore. I have people I can trust," she explained.
Butler, on the other hand, has had time to grow accustomed to her locks. She first started her current style years ago.
"My mom was in an accident and was not able to do my hair anymore and I had to learn at the age of 13 to re-twist my hair and...that's when I decided to do dreads," she said. It was rough going at first. But now?
"I love my dreads. I love how healthy they are. I love the feel of them."