Scadding Court Community Centre
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    707 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 2W6

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Our Stories: Hopey

Our Stories: Deborah

Our Stories: Shejuanah Assumptions


For Black folks all around the world, hair has been the centre of our cultures and communities. Black people have many different textures of hair ranging from curly to kinky, short to long, natural or processed. In mainstream media and in Canadian culture, Black hair that has not been straightened in some way is seen as “bad hair”. The opinion that hair with tight curls or a kinky texture is bad stems from Anti-Black Racism. Over the last few years, Black people have been encouraging our communities not to straighten our hair, to learn more about the history behind our hair and to celebrate it. In the lessons regarding Black hair, it is important to understand and respect the historical and cultural significance of Black hair and all the different ways Black people from all different cultural backgrounds do their hair.


  • Colonialism – a system where settlers occupy land and benefit from it.
  • Racism – a system that discriminates and deems races, other than White, as inferior.
  • Anti-Black Racism – Negative attitudes and discrimination against Black people and Black cultures.
  • Cultural Appropriation – The action of taking parts of a culture that you do not belong to and making it your own without permission or without an understanding of its cultural importance.


  • Due to anti-Black perceptions about hair, Black folks often face policies or rules in work and school that target wearing their hair natural or expressing themselves with certain hairstyles. These rules unfairly force some Black individuals out of jobs and or humiliate students at school, creating less access to education and/or employment.
  • Although Black hair is beautiful, taking care of kinky, natural hair can be very expensive and a lot of work. Some Black folks may experience feeling overwhelmed or not beautiful by society’s standards if they are not able to keep their hair the way that they want. When the ways Black people wear their hair is not celebrated, it can manifest as internalized hatred and limit Black folks’ willingness to understanding different parts of their culture.
  • What is extremely offensive and hurtful to Black communities is the appropriation of Black hairstyles in mainstream media by non-Black and white people. Appropriation gives non-Black and white people access to a cultural history that does not belong to them. It is wrong for non-Black and white people to be seen as trendy for trying to wear styles like cornrows, braids, or locs, when Black people are deemed as unacceptable by society’s standards for wearing the same styles.


When talking about Black hair, it is important to not single out, call attention to, or expect Black students to talk about their own experiences with their hair. Every Black person has their own unique experience with their hair. Here are some tips on how to create a safe environment to discuss and celebrate Black hair:

  • Do not touch people’s hair without asking.
  • It is okay to compliment people without asking invasive questions. Telling someone you really like their hairstyle is okay. Asking them how often they wash their hair is not.
  • Do not offer suggestions about how Black people should wear their hair.
  • It might be safest to refer to Black hair as “afro hair” rather than saying “kinky” or “nappy”. These words still carry negative connotations and may still negatively affect some Black folks.


The Politics of Women’s Hair by Althea Prince
A Discussion of Black Hair Styles (Unmaking Things)
13 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Hair by Black Authors (
Happy to By Nappy by Bell Hooks (Read by Mary J. Blige)


Approx. 40-60 minutes


Identify main and counter culture representations in media.


Anti-Black Racism, Anti-Colonialism, Sexism, Bullying, Self-Care.

PREPARATION- Load Hopey’s Our Stories Video;
- Load Deborah’s Our Stories Video;
- Make copies of the Main Vs. Counter-Culture Chart;
- Gather fashion magazines.
5 mins
REVIEW- Check-in with your participants;
- Review your foundations;
- Encourage participants to take notes;
- Emotionally prepare your participants.
5-10 mins
VIEWING- Watch Hopey and Deborah's video as a group;
- Remember your "During Each Lesson" tips.
8-12 mins
DISCUSSION- Did you identify any Systems, Barriers and Access in Deborah and Hopey's stories?
- Where do our ideas about "good hair" come from?
- How do these ideas about "good hair" impact Black folk? Why is Counter-Culture important?
- Can you relate to Deborah or Hopey’s story?
10 mins
ACTIVITY- Divide participants into groups;
- Provide each group with a Main Vs. Counter-Culture Chart and a magazine;
- Ask each group to tally the amount of visibly white vs. visibly not-white folks they see in the pages of the magazine;
- Groups can trade magazines and continue their tallying until they feel as if they’ve developed a clear picture;
- Go around the room and allow each group to share their findings.
10-15 mins
DEBRIEF- Refer to "After Each Lesson" for specifics.5 mins



Not White


Approx. 30-40 minutes


Engage with a dramatized scenario on assumptions.


Fatphobia, Racism, Anti-Black Racism.

PREPARATION- Load Shejuanah's Our Stories Video.1 min
REVIEW- Check-in with your participants;
- Review your foundations;
- Encourage participants to take notes;
- Emotionally prepare your participants.
5-10 mins
VIEWING- Watch Shejuanah's video as a group;
- Remember your "During Each Lesson" tips;
- Pause after each questions comes up on the screen and allow for discussion:
• Why do the three girls assume Lola is unhealthy?
• Why do people assume Julie is rich?
• Why do people assume Caterina is poor and will steal?
• Is the waitress making assumptions about their order?
10 mins
DISCUSSION- Did you identify any Systems, Barriers and Access in Shejuanah's story?
- What assumptions in the video were harmful?
- What assumptions were not necessarily harmful?
- Were some of these assumptions both helpful and harmful?
- Can you identify with this scenario?
- Have you ever made a harmful assumption?
10-15 mins
DEBRIEF- Refer to "After Each Lesson" for specifics.5 mins