News Brief

Pretoria High School Caves Under Pressure—Suspends Racist Rules on Students’ Natural Hair

“For instance, some educators tell them they look like monkeys, or have nests on their heads.”

Who ever said protesting is a tired practice? I may have been guilty of doubt, but news that the provincial education minister Panyaza Lesufi has ordered the suspension of rules that allegedly discriminate against natural hairstyles at Pretoria High School for Girls in the administrative capital of South Africa gives me renewed hope—at least in social media’s capacity to amplify protest.


A quick bit of background: The school was founded in 1902 for whites-only and continued that way through the apartheid era. It has since become integrated; however African students have alleged teachers at the school have demeaned their natural hairstyles, and banned them from speaking indigenous languages on the campus. That’s why outraged students organized a silent march in protest at the school’s annual Spring Fair on Saturday, which drew armed police response and quickly boiled over to social media under #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh by Monday. The protest even inspired South African renaissance man Modise Sekgothe to pen a poem in their honor, and elicited a tweet from South Africa’s arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa.

And black students at a second school in South Africa, Lawson Brown High, raised their voice in protest for similar discriminatory hair rules.

In response, Gauteng Department of Education released a statement Tuesday, saying it had learned of the black students’ allegations regarding wearing Afros and speaking in African languages after Lesufi visited the school and has called for a formal, independent investigation and review of the Code of Conduct—which by the way, doesn’t prohibit natural hairstyles explicitly, although it outlines details regarding length. This suggests the teachers may have pulled these “rules” out of thin air or at least applied them arbitrarily. Smdh.

The department states on Facebook, “The learners feel that educators use abusive and demeaning language when they address them regarding their hairstyles. For instance, some educators tell them they look like monkeys, or have nests on their heads.” Ridiculous.

A statement on the school’s website adds that the school’s governing body has agreed to work with the department to “resolve the issues which were raised.”

And they had better because this new generation of black girls aren’t playing with racist policies or police—they’re fearless, vocal and magic.

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Photo courtesy of Chontudas.

This Black Hairstyle Collective Is Embracing the Beauty of Natural Hair in Colombia

Chontudas wants to strengthen natural hair knowledge among young black girls in Colombia.

In 2012, a champeta duo from Santa Marta, a Caribbean town in Colombia, dedicated their song "Pelo Malo" to all women that have a "bad," "weird" or "disorganized" hair. The song suggested that all these women have to use "liser" – a product to straighten their hair to make it look cool. The song neatly illustrates the stigma of wearing natural hair in Afro-Colombian communities. But these offensive categories don't represent the growing movement of Afro-Colombian women who are embracing their natural hair and all of its beautiful complexity.

During the American Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the 60s and 70s, there was a revolt in favor of wearing natural hair. The second wave of the natural hair movement has reached a global audience through social media and Colombia is not an exception. It's been five years since Mallé Beleño, an educator, and other black women created a hair collective called Chontudas—the name refers to a kind of palm tree whose presence evokes the hair of black women. The group was initially founded to discuss how to wear natural black hairstyles as well as to spread ancestral traditional hair knowledge.

This collective came to life as a Facebook group with 70 black women in 2014. Since then, it has become a place to share the experiences of making the transition to natural hair, and a place to showcase a more diverse standard of beauty as well as a place to trade hair care advice.

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Photo still via YouTube.

This Dominican Ministry of Education Director Was Fired Hours After Her PSA Promoting Natural Hair Was Released

Marianela Pinales' dismissal from her position the same day the motivational campaign was released raises questions on the true motive behind the ministry's decision.

It pays to encourage every young, impressionable black child to accept themselves for who they are—even when it comes down to loving their natural hair.

Marianela Pinales did so through a new campaign she helmed on behalf of the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Education, entitled 'Ni Pelo Bueno, Ni Pelo Malo,' which translates to 'No Good Hair, No Bad Hair,' Latino Rebels reports.

The PSA celebrates all hair textures in an effort to counter the stigmatization of black hair people face in the Dominican Republic. In the video, you'll see young students with diverse, gorgeous hair stand firm in what's theirs. "Vive tu vida, y suelta mi cabello en banda (live your live and leave my hair alone)" one young girl says in the video.

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Keith Roper/Flickr Creative Commons

Kais Saied is Set to Become Tunisia's Next President

While official results have not been published, the retired academic reportedly secured 76 percent of the votes according to the exit polls.

Last week, Tunisia held its legislative elections, according to reports by Aljazeera. The Ennahda Movement obtained 52 seats in the 217-member parliament while the Karoui's Heart of Tunisia party came second, with 38 seats. While the presidential elections were only scheduled to take place in November, they were pushed forward after the country's first democratically-elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, passed away in July. Two independent candidates, media mogul Nabil Karoui and retired law professor Kais Saied, have been facing off in the presidential runoff. However, recent exit polls suggest that Saied secured between 72 and 77 percent of the vote.

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Illustration by Simone Martin-Newberry

A 15-Year-Old Nigerian Student Lends Her Voice to the Fight Against Boko Haram With Graphic Novel

Aisha Mustapha's graphic novel about her experiences under Boko Haram was published today for International Day of the Girl.

Aisha Mustapha, is a 15-year-old student from Nigeria, using her voice to tell her own story. The young writer recently penned a graphic novel about her experience fleeing Boko Haram, locating her family and trying to further her education. It's a heavy subject, obviously, but with her graphic novel, she offers a voice for young people directly affected by the crisis in Northern Nigeria.

The book was published today to mark the International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations in 2011 to "highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."

Aisha's talent for storytelling has previously been highlighted in Assembly, a by-girls-for-girls publication by the Malala Fund that brought Aisha's graphic novel to life, premiering it today in conjunction with International Day of the GIrl. Tess Thomas, Assembly's editor, elaborated on the purpose of the publication saying, "We believe in the power of girls' voices to generate change. Our publication provides girls with a platform so their opinions and experiences can inform decisions about their futures."

Aisha's words were illustrated by artist Simone Martin-Newberry, who had this to say about the process of creating the visuals for the graphic novel: "I was very moved by Aisha's story, and really wanted to treat it sensitively and do it justice with my illustrations. My aim was to capture the real emotions and actions of the story, but also keep my artwork bright and colorful and full of pattern, to help reflect Aisha's amazing youthful spirit."

Check out some excerpts from the piece below and head here to read it in full.
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