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Students reveal challenges associated with their natural hair at campus book event

Author St. Clair Detrick-Jones discusses natural hair representation and her new children’s book “My Hair is Like the Sun” at an event organized by Mothers of Mecca addressing the importance of Black self-love as it relates to hair and diversity in children’s books.

Right to left: St. Clair Derrick-Jules, Dr. Nicole Jenkins,  Lisette Orellana Engel and Shemia Dillard posing for a photo. (Camiryn Stepteau/The Hilltop)

Students gathered in the Louis Stokes Health Science Library last week to discuss embracing their natural hair. The discussion was framed around the release of a new children’s book celebrating the various young Black hair types. 

St. Clair Detrick-Jules, author of “My Hair is Like the Sun,” and Justice and Joy National Collaborative led a group conversation on young motherhood and the importance of natural hair representation. The Sept. 7 event was organized by Mothers of the Mecca (MOM), a research initiative and student-led organization. 

The twofold organization, launched in 2022 by Howard University and The Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership, according to their website, focuses on supporting students, faculty and staff who are young parents. The organization also takes heed of the communal needs of these young parents through research initiatives while hosting various events much like this one.

“How many people at some point had issues with their hair?” Detrick-Jules asked a room of 12 women. Attendees all around the room raised their hands in unison.

Derick-Jules, a biracial Afro-Caribbean woman, recalled having similar troubles and insecurities about her hair also when she was younger. 

“It took me a long time, not until I got to college, really, to start loving my curls,” she said. “And even though I have a looser curl pattern than my sister and you know, my other siblings, I still just wanted straight hair.”

Detrick-Jules shared that her 10-year-old sister, Khloe began experiencing similar discontentment with her hair at the age of four due to bullying at her predominantly white school in Europe.

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“And they told her that her hair was ugly, and they told her that it looked like little pieces of shrimp and they were calling names,” she said. “And so she became really self-conscious about that.”

Detrick-Jules said she didn’t want her sister to go through the same thing which inspired her to create her new children’s book, “My Hair is Like The Sun.” 

Detrick-Jules (right) and Guilandia Aristilde (left) talking after the event. (Camiryn Stepteau/The Hilltop)

Set to be published on Tuesday, students who attended were able to purchase early copies of the book and speak with Detrick-Jules on the subject of natural hair.

Guilandia Aristilde, a first-year social work graduate student from Broward County, Florida, expressed her joy about seeing natural hair representation for young readers.

“Being able to be in a space where we’re honestly talking about hair and children and the impact that it’s having on our kids right now,” Aristilde said. “I think that I see myself in that little girl when I saw that photo.” 

Senior political science major from Minneapolis and MOM intern, Weslyn Harmon, shared that she thinks that books like “My Hair is Like The Sun” are helpful when considering how to teach kids self-love. 

“I think it’s really important that we have that perspective and also just be able to advocate when we become parents on how to train and how to make sure that our kids love their natural hair,” Harmon said. 

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Justice and Joy National Collaborative, formerly known as National Crittenton, is an advocacy organization founded in 1883 that focuses on the visibility of all cis and trans young women through the approaches of national organization, research, policy and advocacy.

The organization announced the launch of its national alliance “Invincible Mamas Pushing For Action and Change Together (IMPACT),” developed by nine young moms ranging from the age of 20 to 31. 

The platform was created to highlight concerns within the communities of the young mothers all while working to “innovate and transform failing systems by identifying existing policies, practices, and programs that work for young mamas to build and replicate them,” according to a handout passed out at the event. 

Detrick-Jules shared that she is in the process of creating a second children’s book called “My Hair is Like Yours,” which will showcase kids with their family members who have similar natural hairstyles as well as another project that explores immigration as she will be interviewing people from various African and Caribbean countries. 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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