Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Natural mystic! - Ardenne queens embrace their unprocessed hair in non-traditional club

Published:Sunday | June 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Grade 13 student, Nedrieka Mullings.
Chrisann Francis with one of her products.
Embracing their natural hair are Ardenne teachers who lead the school’s Embrace Your Roots Club, (from left) Stacy-Anne Rowe, Jascenth Campbell and Devorie Smith.
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Bombarded daily with images of what the 'ideal' young female should look like, some students at the Corporate Area-based Ardenne High School have moved to redefine those stereotypes.

The students, with the support of teachers, are riding a wave of natural hair at the school, with at least 17 nationalities and as many religious denominations involved.

Last year, the school introduced the Embrace Your Roots Club and it has already have copped the best school club award. It's the only one of its kind in Jamaica's secondary school system and its reputation has already induced contact from other Corporate Area schools.

The club's motto is 'Embrace what grows from your scalp. Our revolution will not be texturised,' and it has more than 100 natural hair disciples.

Stacy-Anne Rowe is a literature teacher at the school, and before she begins classes with the subject she calls 'life' she always talks to the girls about embracing their natural beauty.

"It started with just a talk with all the grades that I taught and especially during my form time as well. Then I realised I can't do this in my class time. I need to start a club so that the girls would be able to share their experience, about the challenges that we are having, and how to take care of their hair," said Rowe, who rocks long, black, beautiful natural hair.

 

MOTIVATION FOR THE CLUB

 

The push to do something came as she saw some students fawning over the naturally long, and sometimes straight, hair of their Cuban classmates.

According to Rowe, it was easy to transition from the talk to presenting the proposal, to getting the club up and running. "The students were super excited about it," she said.

Another teacher, Devorie Smith, said the enthusiasm of the girls propelled the club's advancement.

"Ardenne is one of the first schools that I have ever been to where, as far as the eyes can see, you see Afros of every size shape and structure," said Smith.

She added that the large population of girls wearing natural hair fuelled the momentum of the club.

Chrisann Francis is the club's president and an entrepreneur in her own right. She sells several cold-press coconut oil-based products, infused with neem, garlic, carrot, onion, ginger and aloe vera, for hair, and skincare.

"I do my products in the kitchen. They are organic infused, natural hair products. I did the big chop two years ago, and I realised that the price for natural haircare products was high. I couldn't afford it so I researched what I could do to care for my hair," Chrisann told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I use organic products only. It decrease the breakage, because what the artificial products do is that they grow your hair for a certain time, then it takes it back and pushes you to buy more," added Chrisann.

Several of the Ardenne students swear by her products, and according to Aliyah Peart, on a daily basis, someone sticks their hand in her hair and comments on its softness.

For grade 13 student Nedrieka Mullings, the club has pushed her to embrace herself.

"I have had a passion for natural hair since grade eight and now I am in grade 13. One time I wanted to lock my hair and my father said not in his house," said Nadrieka with a laugh.

"But Mrs Rowe has always been talking about natural hair, and encouraging us to watch videos about how to care for natural hair. With the start of the club, I said hey, now is my time to shine, to be confident, and be the queen that I am," added Nadrieka.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com