A Care Package for Tiana: Locs of LOVE

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Photo Credit: Sabriya Simon

Black women’s hair has made the news again. In the same week that Sheryl Underwood, comedian and co-host of The Talk (CBS) referred to “afro hair” as “curly, nappy, beaded…nasty,” a 7-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma was sent home from her African-American led charter school because according to school officials and school policy, her dreadlocks are “unacceptable.”

When I first heard this story (sans the video), I, like so many others, became angry. But when I watched the news story, and saw little Tiana in tears, head hung low, I became saddened. Had I not seen the story come to life in that way, I would have likely kept my focus on the school, its administrators, and its offensive, anti-Black policy. But seeing that precious little brown girl break down and cry in front of news cameras, seemingly a day or so at least after the incident occurred, I became instantly focused on her. And her spirit. And her self-reflection. And I wanted to do something for her.

Here is that something. A care package of sorts. A digital book of photos and messages from 111 women and girls from all over the country and all over the world, all of whom wear their hair in locs, all of whom want Tiana to know that she and her hair are PERFECT.

Of course, I will send this care package to Tiana’s father and ask that he give it to her on our behalf, but I’m also going to send it to administrators at Deborah Brown Community School, as well as administrators at Langston University, a historically Black university under which the school is chartered.

I also ask that you share this with your networks because as much as this is for Tiana, it is not just about Tiana. Tiana’s story is the one that made the news. 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.

UPDATE: So many women and girls have reached out to me since I shared the care package asking to be included. For now, the care package is all wrapped up. We’ll see what the Universe has in store for this project, but in the meantime, PLEASE share your photos and messages of love with the growing Facebook community We Love Tiana & her Hair. 

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.

As I did back in December, as I do almost every day, I’m calling on EVERYONE to join me in “singing a Black girl’s song,” not only for Tiana, but for all the little girls who could benefit from the affirmation of their beauty and their value. An intimate weaving of past and present, memory and contemporary, their stories are our stories. Perhaps if they know that we truly understand, they can be encouraged to see themselves through our eyes; perhaps they will soon be able to see themselves for what they are – Pretty Brown Girls.

Not matter her hair texture, length, color, or style, please, in some way, tell a little Black girl that she is beautiful today. And every day.

And here’s a video from a beautiful group of sisters in Antigua. NUFF LOVE to photographer, Zahra Airall, for sharing this with us so that we might share it with Tiana.

84 Replies to “A Care Package for Tiana: Locs of LOVE”

  1. A friend just emailed me the articals about this story. I’m a mother of four and my whole beautiful family has locks. We would love to be part in anyway possible. Love from South Africa. Danielle

  2. This is so beautiful!

    I just saw Les Nubians perform their AfroDance song here in Alexandria, VA last night.

    Today I thought about Tiana & wondered how to invite women and girls to hear this song. Then see a retweet about your amazing Locs of Love Care Package. I had to stop & search to see if Les Nubians had a video.

    I just flipped through your book listening to their song & the joy is just overwhelming! http://youtu.be/SqoAjRjaI6k

    Don’t you think it’s a perfect match?!

    Our body parts are constantly objectified sexualized and even demonized.

    Yes! It’s time we celebrate, sing a love song & dance with our hair!

    Thank you for the love & yes this is also a vivid full color coffee table book with some wonderful powerful people I know & looks ready to publish. Anything I can do to help, please reach out.

    Thank you Dr. Yaba Blay

  3. Very well done Sis! Sparked major interest in my baby girl’s thoughts, and great conversation from a 9year old who loves her locs.

  4. Dear Dr. Blay,
    This story is both sad and inspiring. I read it on my friend’s blog and am still in disbelief. I am white and have never been teased or shamed about my hair, so I don’t know how it feels to have that happen…. but I was bullied and beat for years by other kids for being painfully shy and so I do know how much it hurts to be singled out… of course it’s not the same, but I could not help relating to this girl’s pain… I still don’t know how our culture can move forward to broaden the definition of what it beautiful, except one by one, like what happened here with this amazing care package… and hopefully advertisers will get their heads out and start celebrating locs and rows and braids and every possible way hair can look…

    I am trying to be part of conversations about tolerance and racism and love and hope and girls (I have a daughter), and hope my input is accepted even though I am not a black woman… I am willing to risk being unpopular with other whites and anyone who might object but I am a human first, and I do have very strong feelings about injustice and racism and love and hate and tolerance and feel the need to add my voice. I am trying to educate myself in any way I can so I am part of the solution too… Thank you for providing the forum for me to do so… and thank you for your elegant and inspiring piece and for adding love and hope to this scenario. best wishes

  5. I read every letter and looked at every picture in Tiana’s book, and just WOW. It is a perfect gift for such a beautiful little girl. I hope it lifts her spirits and gives her a new appreciation for her natural beauty. Thank you and the beautiful ladies who contributed to this book.

  6. I cried along with Tiana because I know what that’s like to be told that you aren’t beautiful just the way you are. I sent an e-mail to the school letting them know that I am a proud teacher with locs and I’m glad I am a role model for our children, ESPECIALLY our girls because I wear my hair natural and loced. This book is so beautiful, thank you for creating it. I would also love to purchase it if you ever decide to print it! Thank you!

  7. Yes, tell brown girls they’re beautiful. But also tell them they’re smart and capable. And also model your appreciation of your own beauty/body/hair.

  8. What a beautiful thing you have done for this young girl. Everyone has a moment they most remember, good and bad. You turned her bad into good. As a parent of a girl, you have touched me, as a woman you have sung to my soul. May we all look to change negatives in to positives in such a beautiful way.

  9. Thank you for sharing all of this beautiful love.I live in Tulsa, Ok. My daughter attended the Deborah Brown Community School for 3 years. Years later when I first heard of the “no locs” policy I was a little shocked, as the principal herself had been a loc wearer. Why the founder of this school, who prides herself on teaching little brown boys and girls the history of our people would take this type of stance
    is beyond my comprehension. Thank you again so very much for reaching out to Tiana.

  10. I work at a charter school in Philadelphia. One of the students has a Mohawk, another has sister locks and I wear locs. I’d love to have a copy of the book to share with the class or maybe you’d like to be my guest and come in and talk about it! I’ll find you through Tarana…

  11. I had to comment because this really got to me. Seeing her cry broke my heart.

    The amount of policing girls when it comes to their appearance and dress–particularly young girls of color–is shameful and deplorable. A little girl should NOT be made to cry like that just because some adult on a power trip doesn’t think her hairstyle is appropriate. That is point blank bullying, among other things. Her hair was perfectly fine! Why should a 7-year-old have to use a chemical relaxer so she fits into the “dress code?”

    It was wonderful that so many women who wear locs and braids contributed to the ebook for her. She is a lovely, brilliant little girl, and I’m so glad so many women stepped up to help her remember that.

  12. I’m am beaming with pride, and crying tears of joy, right now! I really couldn’t get through every slide, because I’m so overwhelmed. I know the pain of not being accepted–as a child it is startling…unfathomable, at times. Hatred is only a word, until you experience it. I felt her pain–and now I feel her comfort…I pray she takes these gems (that you all have gifted her), and give them a home in her heart and mind, for life…If only I knew (as a little girl)…If only someone had told me, My life would be totally different…God bless you all! Blessing and Hugs to Tiana:-)

  13. As the white mother of 2 beautiful brown girls I am so touched by this story and by this amazing response. Thank you so much for finding such a beautiful way to support Tiana and send such a positive message to all our girls!

  14. Oh my, all of this brought tears to my eyes. And how beautiful your
    writing! You have an deep spirit and love for others. What a blessing that you are here on this earth!!!!

  15. This is so very beautiful. So very proud of your marvelous effort. What a love letter for a lovely little princess. More power to all you do.

  16. “I like to say “Thank-You” for what you’ve done”

    Little Sistahs like Tiana needs encouragement.. Especially in her growing years.

    It’s sad sometimes when even in your own “backyard” some of your own “sistas” (i.e., Sheryl Underwood) would say something negative (but later apologized) about natural hair. (afros, puffs, etc.)

    But for a school to reject a little girl because of her locs (“And to find out that the school is an AFRICAN AMERICAN SCHOOL!!”) Just made me shake my head and say: “Damn!”

    Putting this care package together for Tiana is just the thing she needs to identify, verify, as well as solidify, for who she is: A beautiful, young, intelligent, soulful sister of color..

    Peace to You.. Ashe~

  17. I just read the blog and flipped through the book – what a wonderful and beautiful gift for this little girl – and other young children who will struggle to be despite living in racist, intolerant communities. As a multi-ethnic woman who has proudly rocked by locks for 15 years – I am excited to see so many pictures of strong beautiful women in this picture book – I love how community can come together in an instant to support a hurting child!!

    I hope that soon this book can be available to purchase – I can think of many other young people I would like to share it with. Even though it is personalized for Tiana – I think her story and this gift would be helpful to other youth.

    Marg – Toronto, Canada

  18. This is such a wonderful gift to give to Tiana. Seeing all the beautiful sisters with locs is inspiring. I twist, but I do not loc, my hair. You may be helping to convince me.

  19. This care package is absolutely gorgeous. It lifted me up as I turned each page. Umph umph umph. I recognize some of those sistas in those pics, “Hey now!”. I’m astounded, this project came together in 24 hours? Geez, just imagine what can happen if we put that much effort and passion in each day. My goodness, I have no words, I am encouraged. Hugs little one! 🙂

  20. Thank you! You have initiated and coordinated such a loving, powerful collective act.

    You led by example and I am so proud of you and all of the women who contributed to this gift.
    This little girl will grow up strong, self confident and full of love and respect for her beautiful, natural hair, thanks to this positive response to an ugly matter.

    Sisterhood is powerful when we use it for good!

  21. I cried from the first slide to the last. Beautiful is such an understatement for this great act of love.

    Thank you, Tiana for having the courage to share your story.

    Thank you to her parents who validated her beauty by not giving in.

    Thank you Dr. Blay for your labor of love, for such a precious idea.

    Thank you! Thank You! Thank you! to each and every women and young girl who covered her with inspiration, hope, love and pride – who truly showed that we have her back. Thank you for all of the beautiful pictures of locs in their wonderful diversity: short, long, twisted, colored, pulled up, back to the side. EVERYONE is sooo amazingly stunning!

    I’m not locked, but natural, and I (like so many other African American women) am so proud of Tiana and of all of you!

  22. Speaking as a Nurse and a Human Being, I am astounded that this kind of racism/oppression still rears it’s ugly head in America. People need to get a grip concerning what is important in our world, like the acceptance of each other without regard to color, hair, or ethnicity. I always tell my nursing students that there is only one race, The Human Race! I think you have shown all of us what can happen when one person starts the ball rolling. I think that child will be OK now that she sees the world is full of hope and support. Best, John J Brennan MSN, RN

  23. Dr. Blay,

    THANK YOU for putting together this special care package for Tiana! It inspired me and I am sure it will encourage her for years to come. I am 30 and have had locs for five and a half years and know the sting of negative comments and looks. I will look into ordering a print of this project from the issuu website (I would love to have it on my coffee table), and will be more mindful to tell those who wear natural styles how beautiful they are.

    Thank you again,

  24. I don’t have dreads but there is nothing wrong with it just as long as we keep it clean. I have been growing my own hair out with all my own natural curly hair with the help of leave in conditioners and hair moisturizers, no shampoo as it dries it out. And, there is no such thing as nappy hair just dried out hair from not taking care of it right. Shame on you’ll, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle all situations. Don’t worry, don’t feel bad, don’t let what happen get you down, don’t let it hurt your feelings, and so on. Sending you love from Norway, I’m American though. Soft & Beautiful leaving in braid conditioner and their conditioner and a nice soft brush a do the trick. You are loved 🙂

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