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#HairLove: A Short Story

Matthew A. Cherry’s heartwarming story addresses natural hair acceptance and the bond between a Black father and daughter. Video from Sony Pictures Animation via YouTube.

Sony Picture Animations released a short film title “Hair Love” Dec. 6. The 6 minute short chronicles the relationship between an African American father, Stephen, who learns how to style his daughter’s, Zuri, hair.

The short film is an adaptation of Matthew A. Cherry’s “Hair Love,” and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. He created the story because he noticed “lack of representation in mainstream animated projects, and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color.” However, this story in particular chronicles how a Black father and daughter bond over hair and to teach young Black girls to love their natural hair.

The film begins with Zuri waking up and rushing to the bathroom to style her natural hair. It is implied she is preparing for a big event later in the day. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.) To prepare for this day, Zuri decides to browse her mom’s natural hair vlog and attempt a style herself. However, it does not end too well. Zuri’s father walks in and decides to help her. He almost gives up after a few failed attempts; but Stephen starts watching a video of the style Zuri wants for the day. Both father and daughter decide to try the style again and succeed, creating a beautiful style.

The total post volume was 68,000 with 99.9 percent of post coming from Twitter. About 97.1 percent of post had a positive sentiment score since the top words were “touching,” “learning,” “beautiful,” “normalizing,” “#hairlove,” “love” and “supported. Interestingly, only 50.2 percent of post came from the U.S.

This lovely short sheds-light on an issue that has become more prominent in media and society, the acceptance of Black people’s natural hair, especially young Black girls and women. From films such as “Good Hair” (2009) to “Nappily Ever After” (2019), these films address the stigma surrounding Black women’s natural hair.

The former is a documentary produced by Chris Rock, who was inspired after his daughter asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” Rock goes on a journey exploring the world of African American styles, the toxic chemicals women use to straighten their hair, the economics surround selling weave, and the debate between natural hair and relaxed (straight and sleek) hair. The latter is a Netflix adaptation of Trisha R. Thomas novel, which follows how a Black woman’s, Sanaa Lathan, evolves into loving her natural hair and the issues involving this acceptance.

All three films provide different perspectives into natural hair, but all have a central focus. In “Good Hair” for example, there is the idea that wearing one’s natural hair contradicts the values and norms people have been condition to accept. For a Black woman or girl to wear their natural hair, it is considered an act of freedom, revolution and rebellion.

While natural hair is becoming more acceptable in society, there is still pushback because of the idea that only White European standards of beauty (long, sleek, blonde or lightly colored hair) are the ultimate goal to achieve to be considered beautiful. These false standards have caused racial discrimination against young Black girls and women. Black women and girls have been kicked of schools, fired from jobs, and discriminated against TSA for wearing the hair they were born with, just like everybody else.

As a form of resistance, politicians are fighting back against natural hair discrimination. According to Good Morning America, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (and presidential candidate) is introducing a new bill to ban “discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.” They also stated Rep, Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. are supporting the bill, but also introduced the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act or the CROWN Act. Booker’s bill is in an addition to the CROWN Act. So far, California and New York have banned natural hair discrimination.

However, change is not only in the legislation, but also society’s mindset. In order to change this, society needs to understand that there is no such thing as “good hair” because hair is hair. All textures and types of hair should be accepted into society.