Hairstory — Uniting Black Youth in Care

Submitted by Members of the YouthSAID Advisory Group

We were blessed with the opportunity to attend an astounding event for black youth. This event was of great importance as it established an interagency connection amongst our black youth. The Hairstory Project, in our mind, is akin to the YouthCAN events. Each event brings a voice to the voiceless, inspires creative learning and thinking and sets goals for a brighter future for Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) across Ontario. Hairstory provided us with an outlet for our concerns and contemplations to be spoken where those who can make the difference are there to hear us.

The event, as the name suggests, started with the need for black youth to voice the fact black hair was to be treated differently than white hair and that this was not respected. This seed grew some roots, finding more issues and concerns amongst black youth in care. Finally, this heralded a full-grown plan, giving birth to a multitude of programs to help our black youth feel more culturally accepted.

During the Hairstory event, they welcomed us into their community by giving us our Hairstory gear—made up of a sweater, toque and lanyard. Before dinner we attended a traditional drum beat and prayer. In the morning, after breakfast, we were invited to a prayer circle and got loud in every celebration where we had the chance.

As much as we learned along the way, some of the most important things taken away from this event are what it means to take care of your hair, appreciate ARTS (A Right To Speak) and how to live our day-to-day life following the event. ARTS is an initiative started by Hairstory to help black youth understand they have A Right To Speak. Hairstory managed to bring together a large number of youth into one space, making them feel free in an unimaginable way. For that, we are blessed to have experienced this program.

This event has tons of importance to us. It represents black youth and our struggles with being in a white-care system. It is beyond our hair though. Being a youth in care is hard, but when it comes to black youth, our needs are a bit different. Culturally, we need more support. Black youth have many different cultural backgrounds and many of these do not get recognized by CASs as much as they should. This event acknowledges that. It acknowledges black youth from ALL walks of life.