Back-to-school time can put a lot of pressure on kids – not just to be their best, but to also look their best. For black girls confronted with conflicting standards of beauty, achieving a hairstyle that makes them feel confident can cause additional anxiety -- especially when there’s no money in the family budget for a salon visit.
That’s was the motivation behind Roanoke Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s “Dear Black Girl: A Love Your Hair Affair.” YAP’s Community Advisory Board, which brought the idea to life, was originally set to hold the event in the fall of 2018; but due to weather, they rescheduled it for Sat., July 20, 2019 as a pre-back-to-school event.
“Did you know that at times African-American girls actually don’t go to school when they experience what they consider a bad hair day? Barber shops in the Valley and across the country give back-to-school haircuts for boys – but I have never heard of anything similar for girls,” said event organizer, Roanoke YAP Program Coordinator Pamela D. Smith.
Dozens of moms, daughters, sisters, aunts and grandmothers came out to Roanoke’s Straight Street Ministries for the event. Stylists from Salon Noir took part in a question and answer session, offered styling tips, and talked about the importance of girls appreciating their natural hair. YAP also worked with stylists to give away hair care products for the girls to use at home.
For YAP Roanoke, the event was consistent with YAP’s belief that every aspect of an individual’s life matters. Dear Black Girl: A Love Your Hair Affair was an opportunity to extend YAP’s unique holistic community-based alternative youth prison/institution programs and services to the broader communities it serves. YAP taps into the strengths of those served, connecting each youth and each family with community-based health, nutritional, spiritual, financial, educational, job skills and other tools to help reinforce their foundation for years to come.
“YAP is effective because the model lets us serve the whole person and the whole family,” said YAP Regional Director, Virginia and West Virginia Valerie Koeppel. Working with our Roanoke Community Advisory Board to host Dear Black Girl: A Love Your Hair Affair, we were able to scale up a connection we might make for a few girls or a few families. We were able to extend an aspect of YAP’s holistic service model to benefit the entire Roanoke community.”
The event was covered in a couple of local media stories.
Pre-event news coverage
Day of event
Pamela Smith photographed with fellow event organizers:
Letitia Marshall (DJJ Probation Officer), Kaitlyn Collins (Roanoke City DSS and Advocate), and not pictured, Victoria Womack (Community Activist)