“Am I a beautiful girl?” I asked the Grade 1 class. (These are six-year-old children). The response may surprise you. The occasion was my first visit to XYZ school, after the students received reading books on an education project that I was managing.
So…..I excitedly announced to Grade 1 that my favorite book among those they received was the one with the girl and the ‘big hair’ on the cover. You see, I have similar hair and could relate to the story.
So, I held the book high above my head and asked, “Isn’t this a beautiful girl?”
“No Miss,” the class answered.
Surprised? Yes, I was surprised. So, I asked another question. “Am I a beautiful girl?” I asked.
“No Miss,” the class shouted.
“Is my hair beautiful?” I asked.
“No Miss,” the class responded.
I had to admit that I was making no progress to get some affirmation regarding my hair, and my beauty. You see, I looked like the girl on the book cover. We both had big, curly, frizzy, kinky, beautiful hair. However, to this Grade 1 class, our hair was not beautiful. So, I continued to ask more questions.
“So, who is a beautiful girl?” I asked. “Show me a beautiful girl,” I demanded.
In the blink of an eye the class turned around and the girls pointed to the girl with the less dark hue, ‘not-so-brown’ girl in the class and said, “She, Miss.”
(Please notice my struggle to describe the shades because all I knew before I started the conversation is that this was a Grade 1 of black girls and boys).
Surprised? Yes, I was surprised. I realized that I had some work to do in this Grade 1 classroom.
I called three girls to join me at the front of the classroom and I declared that all four of us were beautiful girls. Afterwards, I invited the ‘not-so-brown’ girl to join us, and I declared that we were all beautiful girls.
So… I asked my famous question another time. “Is my hair beautiful?” The class reluctantly responded in the affirmative.
For the remaining minutes spent in a Grade 1 classroom at XYZ school, I spoke about ‘loving self’. I asked the students to tell me why they thought they were not beautiful. Who made them believe that lie?
They were honest. Parents did. Teachers did. Many significant adults did.
I left the Grade 1 classroom at XYZ school hoping that maybe, just maybe, the day would come when those children remembered our conversation about ‘being beautiful’ and I hoped that they never attempt any experiments change ‘that hair’ or that skin in order to gain acceptance. The children were all beautiful.
Talk soon……. Claire Spence