World Afro Day®
World Afro Day is a global day of change that educates about and celebrates Afro hair, culture, and identity. Founder Michelle de Leon has stated that the vision for the day is "to create a platform to celebrate and educate people about Afro hair," and that "through annual events and a worldwide educational network, we will unite people globally in raising Afro hair to world class status through positive awareness and academic excellence." Historically, there has been bias against Afro hair in society, which has increased exclusion and feelings of inferiority and caused lasting effects on health and economic opportunity. Conversely, straight hair has been associated with success and beauty. As Afro hair is not regularly celebrated, especially on a global scale, the aim of World Afro Day is to change this.
After hearing her daughter sing about her natural hair, de Leon decided to start the day, because she wanted all children of African descent to feel positively about their hair like her daughter did. Once the mission of the day was established, a date had to be chosen. On September 15, 2016, a federal court ruled on a case in Alabama, deciding that companies could deny people employment if they had dreadlocks. Essentially, it ruled against Afro hair. De Leon, who is from London, England, decided that the first World Afro Day should be held on September 15, 2017, "to mark this dreadful law." During that first year, the day was endorsed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it hosted a World Hair Education Lesson with 400 children and teachers taking part, and notables such as Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber and celebrity hairstylist Vernon François took part.
Each year, awards and events are held on the day, and lessons are available. The World Afro Day Awards are "the annual awards celebrating Afro excellence in all areas of society; encouraging normalisation and aspiration towards Afro hair, culture, and identity." Various awards are given out as part of The World Afro Day Awards. Some of these include the Afro Pioneer Award, which "salutes the early leaders in the natural hair industry, who have worked with Afro hair for over twenty years"; the Social Impact Award, which "recognises individuals, who are showcasing Afro textured hair for the community and wider society;" the TV Advert Award, which "aims to celebrate the adverts, that set a positive standard for African representation"; and the TV Presenter of the Year Award, which "recognises on screen talent, that have achieved success as presenters, contributors or experts on television," who "also positively identify with wearing their Afro textured hair or African hairstyles as part of their on screen persona."
Yearly events have included the Big Hair Assembly and the Top Ten Model Competition. The Big Hair Assembly links schools around the world into one big assembly. Children come together to celebrate hair, identity, and equality. It has the goal of shifting negative attitudes about Afro hair into positive ones of inclusion. World Afro Day Lessons help educate young people that Afro hair is normal, valuable, and beautiful. Free World Afro Day Lessons are made available for download.
How to Observe
There are a number of ways to participate in the day:
- Take part in the Big Hair Assembly. Go to the day's website for more information. Parents and guardians can ask schools to take part, schools can sign up, and teachers and school staff can register and receive free resource packs.
- Learn about the nominees and winners of the World Afro Day Awards. Some of the categories include the Afro Pioneer Award, the TV Advert of the Year Award, the TV Presenter of the Year Award, and the Social Impact Award.
- Explore the World Afro Day Lessons. These lessons are approved by education experts and are available for download.
- Take part in the Top Ten Model Competition.
- Volunteer to support the day.
- Become a sponsor of the day.
- Donate to support the day.
- Pick up some World Afro Day merchandise.
- Explore the day's social media pages, such as its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram pages.
- Read a book or article or children's book about Afro hair, or watch a feature film or documentary that focuses on Afro hair.