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Embracing who you are

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 12/5/2017, 8:55 p.m.
For many years I’ve been blessed by my friendship with Pamela Ferrell, one of the country’s leading experts on natural ...

With the “Black is beautiful” mantra that emerged in the 1960s, those attitudes slowly started to change. I was among many who proudly wore an “Afro.” Long, straight hairstyles were no longer the universal standard as more and more Black and multiracial women celebrated the individuality, creativity, beauty and diversity of their natural God-given textures. Pamela has been at the forefront of this movement since the beginning; her book Let’s Talk Hair is a classic for Black women dedicated to having healthy, natural hair, and her follow-up Kids Talk Hair, for which I had the privilege of writing the foreword, emphasized how important it is to teach all of our children to love their hair and themselves exactly as they are. But the fact that it wasn’t long ago since Ferrell was still being invited to appear before authorities just to affirm that natural Black hairstyles have a right to exist shows we still have a way to go.

Today, teaching Black children that they don’t have to have straight hair or look like anyone else or stop being who they are in order to be accepted is another way of reaffirming that they are already perfect exactly the way God made them. This is a critical message for Black children and parents, and at the same time it’s a message every child needs to hear. It’s a message about self-confidence, self-acceptance, tolerance and celebrating difference that is much bigger than choosing a hairstyle.

Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.