In recent years, stories of African-American girls, boys and even adults experiencing discrimination for wearing their natural hair have gained international attention. Adults are often called “unprofessional” for wearing their curls or locks, simply because they don’t conform to traditional and archaic standards of beauty and professionalism. Kids are accused of “violating the dress code.”
When 11-year-old Nemiah Young in Denver, CO, was kicked off of her cheer squad after being told she couldn’t wear her natural hair during competitions, her mom had had enough.
Niemah had agreed to wear a hair piece over her hair to look more uniform with the other girls on the squad, which ultimately made her lightheaded. Niemah’s mom, Tiyana, had complained to the coach of Diamond Elite Allstar Cheerleading, Stephanie Trujillo, saying her daughter’s naturally curly hair already takes time to get ready without the extra hair piece.
“It is easily a two-hour process,” Tiyana told CBS Denver. “I know it hurts her because I have to literally use a hard brush and pull her hair back into the tightest ponytail I can get it into.”
After an entire season of Niemah wearing the hair piece, Stephanie saw the toll it was taking on her and told her she didn’t have to wear it. Tiyana, an administrative assistant, reached an agreement with Stephanie on a hairstyle that would work for Niemah that wouldn’t involve wearing a painful hair piece.
Not long after, Stephanie messaged Tiyana letting her know that she needed to make the uniform hair style mandatory for everyone to avoid conflict with other members. So Niemah would have to wear her hair straight or wear the hair piece, which would be an additional $20 that she’d need “ASAP.”
To make matters worse, Tiyana says Stephanie had pulled Niemah out of practice and asked the rest of the girls on the team how they felt about her being able to wear her natural hair. Tiyana expressed her frustration about Stephanie going back on her word and posted their conversation to Facebook.
“How am I going to explain to my 11-year-old that her curly hair is just as beautiful as straight hair but coaches don’t want you wearing your natural hair?” Tiyana wrote to Stephanie in the messages.
After Tiyana made comments on Facebook that Stephanie had “crossed the wrong mother,” Diamond Elite Allstar Cheerleading terminated Niemah’s membership on the team and issued a statement saying that threats wouldn’t be tolerated.
“Whether they are White, Black, Asian, curly hair, straight hair, no hair, I think all girls should feel supported,” Tiyana told CBS Denver.
The fact that Niemah was so excited to wear her natural hair, and was denied, is heartbreaking. After being kicked off of the team, we can only imagine how hurt she felt. All girls and boys should feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin—and hair.