September 15th, 2020 marks the fourth annual World Afro Day. A day which celebrates Afro hair, culture and identity, whilst drawing attention to problems such as hair discrimination and inequality. The key aims of World Afro Day are to spotlight Afro excellence, raise awareness and create normalisation and relating to Afro hair and the education of wider society about Afro Hair.
Westernised beauty standards dictate that straight hair is the essence of not only beauty but also success. This is evident within; fairy tales, films, television, social media, consumer products and advertising etc. Whilst Afro hair for centuries has often been the subject of disdain and ridicule. As a result of their natural hair, Black people have and are currently facing microaggressions and overt racism, they are often told it is ‘dirty’ or ‘unprofessional’ and even excluded from school or even fired from their jobs.
This year World Afro Day’s mission focuses on the eradication of any discrimination around Afro hair within schools. Whilst there have been major changes in the America such as the CROWN Act which prevent and protect Afro hair from discrimination, the World Afro Day organisation believe that there is a way to go in the UK.
Michelle De Leon, founder of World Afro Day notes that ‘95% of people with Afro hair in the UK, want policies that punish our children to be removed from schools’ and as such World Afro Day 2020 is the start of a 30-day call to schools and headteachers to comply with the Equality Act and eradicate any discrimination around Afro hair. Michelle adds that ‘‘This is not fashion, it’s more fundamental than that – school hair policies harass and harm our children. This about equality and justice and the time for action is now.’
World Afro Day 2020 will celebrate the beauty of Afro hair through a series of online events and celebrations. In addition, councils such as Hackney have introduced a range of books celebrating Afro Hair to libraries across the borough to celebrate World Afro Day for the first time. Importantly, today marks an important step in the journey towards ensuring the protection of Afro Hair through law in the UK.