It was a simple call. Drexel University Professor Dr. Yaba Blay, an outspoken advocate who uses her platform to break down the binds of colorism and to help uplift the self-esteem of dark-skinned Black folk, saw that awful story about little Tiana Parker being sent home from her Tulsa charter school for wearing locs and she decided to do something about it: Blay asked her network of friends with locs and natural hair to send her pictures and uplifting words for a message book meant to make Tiana feel better about her hair. Within 24 hours, 111 women answered Blay’s call, which she quickly turned into “ Locs of Love: A Care Package For Tiana,” a virtual love fest for Tiana and brown girls everywhere.
“Locs of Love” is, in a word, breathtaking. Women and girls from all over the country—indeed, from around the world—told Tiana, without hesitation, that she is beautiful, from the top of her pretty loc-covered head to the soles of her little feet, and implored her to understand—really understand—that locs, Afros and even Mohawks, all banned by the Deborah Brown Community School, are not fads but hairstyles that have been worn by people of color for centuries. Because they are powerful. Because they are pretty. Because they are uniquely our own. On behalf of MyBrownBaby and my two natural-hair daughters, I contributed to “Locs of Love” with a picture of my Mari at age 10 when she started her own loc journey, and a passage of my own, detailing for Tiana how pretty my daughters’ natural twists and locs look blowing in the wind and dancing against the deep blue water of our pool.
I need you to really think about that, Girlpie—that all the way over in Atlanta, Georgia, a world away from where you live, there are two little brown girls who have hair just like yours—strong, thick, pretty. Just the way God made it. The way God intended it to be. God doesn’t make mistakes. And he certainly knows how to create beauty. Sunsets. The stars in the sky. Hot pink flowers and birds that sing early in the morning. Brown girls.
Beautiful brown girls just like my Lila and Mari and, of course, you.
Know that a legion of Black moms and dads are wrapping your pretty little self and your gorgeous locs and your sweet smoochie face in a warm embrace full of love, with the might of angels. You are beautiful—every inch of you—exactly the way you are. Know this with all of your heart.
In just one day, Dr. Blay’s blog post detailing why she created “Locs of Love” was visited almost 10,000 times, and as of this morning, the virtual hug has been viewed a whopping 40,000 times, including by Tiana! The 7-year-old “A” student later sent a text to Dr. Blay that read: “Thank you Dr. Yaba. My message to little girls is that they should believe themselves.”
No truer words could have ever been said.
Know, though, that “Locs of Love” isn’t just for Tiana: it is for all of our babies. Dr. Blay implored those who read “Locs of Love” to share it with every child in their life, and pointed out that:
Our girls are under attack everywhere. I want them all to know that they have an army of sisters, cousins, aunties, Mamas, GrandMamas, and elders all over the world who support them and at the drop of a dime (or a news story) will have their back.
Our girls need constant affirmation. They need to know that even though there are people in this world that would have us believe that our natural hair is “ugly” and “nasty,” that it is they who have a problem – not our girls. Not us.
Indeed. Though Dr. Blay is no longer accepting admissions, she is asking that more women and mothers share photos and messages of love with the celebratory Facebook community We Love Tiana & her Hair.
In the meantime, Langston University, the Tulsa institution that sponsors the Deborah Brown Community School released a statement to Fox23 saying that after a discussion between Langston University President Kent Smith and the superintendent of the school, Ms. Deborah Brown, “it was mutually agreed that the policy in question should be changed.” Brown was slated to propose a policy change to the school’s board today, a move Smith said would better reflect “an important value at Langston University to respect the individuality of students.”
Nowhere in that statement, though, was there an apology to Tiana for making her cry, sending her home for looking “unpresentable,” and creating an atmosphere that impeded her ability to learn, forcing her parents to withdraw her from Dorothy Brown Community School. Tiana is now at another school where no one sees her hair as a threat or problem. In the meantime, Tiana’s father, Terrance Parker, detailed his daughter’s ordeal at Ebony.com, and said he would like to see the policy change so that no other child has to endure what his daughter endured.
Check out the brilliant Melissa Harris-Perry’s letter to Tiana below, and be sure to check out “Locs of Love” with your babies so that they know what Tiana surely now knows to be true: natural hair, in all of its manifestations, is beautiful.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.