Downtown Miami

Natural-hair lovers celebrate International Keep It Kinky Day

Yannick Brackenridge-Jackson, center, co-owner of BlackNaturalHairstyles.org, is animated as she responds to an audience question during International Keep it Kinky Day on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.
Yannick Brackenridge-Jackson, center, co-owner of BlackNaturalHairstyles.org, is animated as she responds to an audience question during International Keep it Kinky Day on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Braids, afros, dreadlocks and blow-outs were among the hairstyles worn by girls at the International Keep it Kinky Day meet up — an event encouraging young girls to celebrate their natural hair.

“My hair in general: I hate it but I also love it. I hate it because it’s kind of tangled, and I like it ’cause it’s poufy,” said third-grader Kaliyah with a smile, sporting a high afro-puff.

Kaliyah, along with other girls and their parents, attended the Florida meet-up of International Keep it Kinky Hair Day held at the nonprofit outreach center Touching Miami with Love, 711 NW Sixth Ave., on Saturday.

The event kicked off the all-day celebration of natural hair.

“International Keep it Kinky Hair Day is to celebrate natural hair. To say, ‘Hey ladies, wear your hair in its most natural state,’ ” said Yannick Brackenridge-Jackson.

Brackenridge-Jackson and Tiffani Knowles, co-owners of Brackenson & Knowles Enterprises, launched the first International Keep it Kinky Hair Day with meet-ups in cities across the United States, in Scandinavia and in Jamaica.

The hour-long forum held in Miami was punctuated with video clips such as the Sesame Street music video, “I Love My Hair,” and Dove’s “Love Your Hair” campaign video that featured an 11-year-old explaining how she wished that she could rip out her curly hair.

“I get a little emotional every time I watch that,” Brackenridge-Jackson said to the audience at the end of the clip. “Anyone else got emotional watching that?”

The hands of parents slowly rose.

Mothers shared their experiences and struggles with wearing their hair natural in professional settings — one woman recounting how she was forced to put on a wig or risk losing her job.

Youth therapist Niketa Newell shared her internal apprehension of wearing her natural hair in professional settings.

“Sometimes I get nervous and think, ‘Is this professional enough? Will people look at me? Is this ghetto?’ ” said Newell, who wears multicolored dreadlocks.

Parent Jamilah Kennedy shared how friends advised her that to get a job she should relax (permanently straighten) her hair.

“I was natural, but I got a perm,” Kennedy said, who has since returned to being natural. “It’s one thing to be comfortable with your hair in your position but it’s another thing to be looking for a job.”

Kennedy’s daughter, Imani, has her own story of peer pressure. At school, other students tease Imani because of her natural hair.

But the ninth grader with the curly afro said she doesn’t let it get to her.

“I don’t really care what they say. When I hear comments, I just ignore it because it really doesn’t matter. The friends I do have support me,” Imani said.

Imani’s attitude is one that Brackenridge-Jackson hopes can spread to other girls.

“If we show girls that we love our hair and who we are, they will be more willing to follow suit,” Brackenridge-Jackson said.

In fact, Dove — in a recent global study — found that little girls are more likely to love their curls if people around them do.

The event wrapped up with swapping healthy hair tips and with Brackenridge-Jackson directing girls and parents to the hair-care website BlackNaturalHairstyles.org.

The site features tips and hairstyles for different lengths of natural hair and healthy holistic solutions for hair growth. Brackenridge-Jackson and Knowles compiled the information while on their own natural hair journeys.

“It was frustrating because we had to go to so many outlets to get information,” Brackenridge-Jackson said. “So we said, ‘Let’s establish a site that we know is helpful for us’ and we found it would be helpful for others.”

The International Keep it Kinky Day continued with events throughout Miami, and closed with a panel discussion at the Portraitic Perspectives art exhibit Sunday in Fort Lauderdale’s Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts.

For Kennedy, the first event of the day was a success.

“I’m definitely happy I came,” Kennedy said. “I thought this would be something that could be uplifting and make [my girls] feel good about their choices, and it was.”

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