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The significance of World Afro Day

World Afro Day was started in 2017 as a way of celebrating the variety of Afro hair textures and hairstyles unique to Black culture and recognising its significance as part of people’s heritage and identity.

WORLD Afro Day encourages people to embrace Afro hair, a hair type that grows out in coils, with a wide range of types and textures.  The day was started by Michelle De Leon to motivate children to learn about and feel positive about their hair types. In 2022, World Afro Day will be celebrating its fifth anniversary – it is celebrated each year on September 15. Afro hair holds a great deal of cultural significance and history. The purpose of this day is to celebrate the beauty and significance of Afro hair and eradicate the biases that have formed around this particular hair type over time.

History of World Afro Day

World Afro Day was started in 2017 as a way of celebrating the variety of Afro hair textures and hairstyles that are unique to Black culture and recognising its significance as part of peoples’ heritage and identity. The various hairstyles that have emerged from the Black community trace back to early African civilisations where African people used hairstyles to signify social messages such as their family background, their heritage or their social status within their communities. Over the years, however, there have been negative biases tied to Afro hair and its texture due to racial prejudices and the vilification of Afrocentric features.

September 15 is significant as a state in the United States that made it illegal on the day for companies to deny jobs to people with dreadlocks – a common hairstyle amongst people with Afro hair. The founder of World Afro Day, Michelle De Leon, believed that this global celebration day was an effective way of changing the narrative around Afro hair and encouraging people of African or Caribbean descent to embrace and celebrate their natural hair.

ALSO READ: How to care for your afro

Since its creation in 2017, World Afro Day has garnered a lot of attention. De Leon herself has received a lot of praise for founding the event. In fact, she has even been asked to speak at the United Nations in Geneva because of the significance of her work in celebrating the beauty of Afro hair.

World Afro Day originally began in America but has since spread throughout the rest of the world. This day is celebrated in many different countries every year as a way of destigmatising negative attitudes towards Afro hair.

What is the significance of the Afro?

The history of the Afro begins in Africa, where there were many different and beautiful ways to style Afro hair. Afro hair can be worn loose or in braids, dreadlocks, knots, twists and many other hairstyles. Not only was Afro a way to showcase a person’s status in African civilisations, but the creation of these hairstyles was a means of socialising for women and men as gatherings took place.

The Afro is a hairstyle in which tightly curled hair is styled in a rounded shape. It became increasingly popular in the 1950s in America, which was a time when the beauty standard dictated that hair should be pin-straight – due to the fact that Eurocentric features were glorified and Afrocentric features were demonised.

Since becoming widely popular in modern history, the Afro has been closely linked to the Civil Rights Movement, as young Black women and men viewed it as a way of expressing their racial pride. The hairstyle began taking off among young Black female students around the 1960s. However, the hairstyle was met with opposition from dangerous racist individuals and extremist groups. Fortunately, this did not stop the style from continuing to grow in popularity. Men also started sporting Afros more often, which they would make larger using wide-toothed combs known as Afro picks.

The Afro hit its peak in modern-day popularity around the late 1960s to early 1970s, and it was viewed as a clear way of demonstrating racial pride, celebrating Black beauty, and challenging Eurocentric beauty standards. The style also acted as a mark of unity within the Black community in standing up against racial injustice.

How do people celebrate World Afro Day?

Whether you want to celebrate the day with your students in school or your kids at home, there are tons of ways to get involved.

Here are some examples of how you can celebrate World Afro Day in 2022:

ALSO READ: The ultimate five-step curly hair care routine

Sponsor World Afro Day in schools

The first step in getting people to celebrate World Afro Day is spreading the word about it. While it is a recognised day of celebration in many countries around the world, World Afro Day is not yet celebrated in every school. This is a great opportunity for teachers and parents to do their bit for World Afro Day.

If you work in a school that does not celebrate World Afro Day or have a child that goes to a school that does not celebrate it, you can offer to organise an event for the day. In doing so, you can speak about the importance of the day, and why it is so important that the school celebrates it this year and in the years to come. If you are struggling to think of an event to host, the official World Afro Day organisation has you sorted. Every year, the official World Afro Day organisation hosts an online event called ‘Big Hair Assembly’. This is an educational event in which people from a variety of different backgrounds come together specifically to celebrate Afro hair, identity and equality. One of the biggest goals of this event is to change society’s perception of Afro hair by increasing the positive representation of it around the world.

The official World Afro Day organisation also has a range of free digital resource packs on their website that you can use to celebrate the event.

Embrace people’s differences

Another way to celebrate World Afro Day is to educate your children on the unique features, aspects and qualities associated with different ethnicities and cultures. You can teach your kids about the significance of these things and how they relate to the history of that culture. Once they have this foundation of knowledge and understanding, kids are much more likely to be accepting of the differences between their culture and others.

Celebrate people with Afro hair

People with Afro hair will obviously have a special interest in this event. Culturally speaking, it is not always easy to have Afro hair, and those with the hairstyle are likely to have come up against discrimination and opposition as a result of it. One way to celebrate World Afro Day is to hear from those who have Afro hair, giving them a platform to discuss their various experiences.

You can also use this day as an opportunity to encourage children to wear their natural hair and spread positivity towards different hairstyles by complimenting people’s hair. This small act of kindness and appreciation brings society one step closer to celebrating people’s differences.

While often learning is practical and includes resources, it is notable that people’s hair should be respected much like any other body part. Sensitivity and appropriateness should be considered in both conversations around and practically touching hair. In the majority of cases, it is not appropriate to touch someone’s hair or to ask to. Children’s hair should not be used as a resource to demonstrate hair type.

Make use of the World Afro Day resources

The official World Afro Day organisation makes it easy to celebrate World Afro Day, as they have lots of free materials and resources for you to use on their website. For instance, you can check out their podcast called, Turning Heads & Teachers, which is hosted by the event’s founder, Michelle De Leon. In this podcast, you can listen to De Leon’s interesting and eye-opening conversations with various heads, principals and teachers on the subject of embracing Afro hair and ending discrimination in education.

You can also check out World Afro Day’s newsletter, read the latest articles published on their website, and more. Visit https://www.worldafroday.com/ for more information.

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