Naturally Beautiful

Sisters can be many things—mentors, tormentors, unknowing provider of clothes you’re not supposed to borrow. For St. Clair Detrick-Jules, her sister, Khloe, was an inspiration. After learning that Khloe was being mocked at school for her natural hair, Detrick-Jules became an author. The result was My Beautiful Black Hair, a book of photographs celebrating all types of Black hair.

“You never want to see anyone you love cry,” Detrick-Jules, who is also a filmmaker, photographer, and activist, said in a virtual session arranged by the Sidwell Friends Black Girls Society on April 13. “But I knew what it was like for so many Black women—looking in the mirror and wishing there was another reflection looking back at us.” Now she is celebrating that reflection. Detrick-Jules wants Black women to embrace their hair as a gift from their ancestors—“something that no amount of colonization or slavery can take away from us,” she said. To that end, My Beautiful Black Hair features interviews and photographs of 101 different Black women who share what they love and what they have learned about their hair.

And the book is resonating with Black girls and women. “When I was little, a lot of my classmates with straight hair would touch mine, like it was a toy or almost like an alien,” said Avery ’29, a member of the Black Girls Society who introduced Detrick-Jules. “Now I’ve learned more about my hair—that it’s beautiful, and it’s not weird, and it’s not a toy.”

For Avery, being able to discuss her experience as a Black girl in her Sidwell Friends affinity group and in other Black spaces, like the discussion that followed the session with Detrick-Jules, is a vital part of learning about herself. “Sometimes it helps just knowing that other people know what you’re going through, and this isn’t some weird journey,” she said. “Whenever someone tries to make you feel bad about yourself, you have people who are like you and can tell you: ‘No, you’re great. You’re amazing!’”

Now Detrick-Jules’s sister, Khloe, who once cried because classmates told her that her Afro looked like “little pieces of shrimp,” carries herself and her hair with pride. That’s something, Avery said, that comes from having people who are like you celebrate who you are. “It’s important to have these types of books and spaces that affirm your identity,” Avery said. “So you can build pride and love for yourself, and know that you have a community when you’re feeling down about yourself.”
 

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