In celebration of Black History Month, the Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute (LCVI) has taken the initiative to host the first-ever Limestone District School Board (LDSB) one-day workshop for students s identifying with Blacks. The event, which takes place on Thursday. February 24, 2022, will be filled with “engaging in-person workshops, speakers, demonstrations and resources specifically designed for Black students in grades 7-12 to explore race, culture and belonging through learning and discussing skin and skin on a daily basis. textured hair care with industry experts and other adult panelists from the community,” according to the local high school.
The idea for the workshop was championed by Urban Student Administrator Tanesha Duncan-Zulu, Student Sekai Chikodzi, Hair Academy Professor Brooke DeLong, and Creative Arts Professor Lauren McEwen . In a telephone interview, LCVI Deputy Principal Suchetan James said: “[DeLong, McEwen, and the students] were talking about wanting to incorporate a little more of those conversations into [their] programs. And so, that’s how we came up with the idea of maybe having these conversations for black students, to create a space for students to talk about race and culture and belonging, what they feel at school and [in] Kingston – using something very unique to them, namely their hair and skin.
Create a space for conversation and connection
According to the 2016 census, 11,596 Kingston residents identify as a visible minority, of which 1,775 identify as Black. Moreover, according to the LDSB Student Census 2020, about 4% of Limestone students identify as black, compared to 86% who identify as white. “Within our board, even just within our own school, we have perhaps more black students than anywhere else in [the region]”, said James. “Even in these spaces, [Black-identifying students] don’t necessarily connect with each other and talk about these things, even though they have these questions rolling around in their brains about how they’re experiencing school…and the challenges that are unique to black students.
“Hair can be a very sore subject,” DeLong said. “People always seem to want to have textured hair or people always want to touch it. Of course it’s not okay to touch someone’s hair [without consent].” DeLong said she hopes the conversation from the workshops will be centered around “not just…respect, but helping members of the student body feel included and having these conversations about ‘what’s their hair.’ mean to them? “”
Living in Kingston poses a unique problem for those with textured hair, DeLong explained. “In this town, there are two licensed hairdressers who are trained to be able to offer textured hair services. There are only two places where you can buy goods in our town, and this market is completely untouched. It’s saturated in Toronto and Ottawa, and some people have to go get hotel rooms or days off once a month to get their hair done because it’s just not offered here. And we are trying to change that.
The event, which is open to all students in grades 7-12 who identify as Black within the LDSB, will include two 90-minute workshops. The first is on hair care, which will include an appearance from licensed hairstylist Rosanna Guanzon. The second session will focus on skincare and will include a presentation from makeup artist MK (@mk.antoinette on Instagram), as well as a gift of skin care products for students of Dear Mother owner Aba Mortley. All participants will enjoy a lunch prepared by Sally’s Roti Shopand the Queen’s University Black Graduate Caucus is also involved in the event in various ways behind the scenes.
“Celebrating all that is beautiful”
Both James and DeLong expressed hope that this day will be one where students can feel comfortable and celebrated in their own skin, in their school and beyond. It’s not just about hair and skin care, but about nurturing students’ full identity as black individuals and building a sense of community by bridging the gaps between students and between the schools.
“The overall goal is for post-secondary mentors and role models, community members, businesses and educators…to create space for Black students and Black bodies to be centered [and] celebrated…to discuss issues unique to people in the black community and to learn lifelong skills and guidance around healthy skin and healthy hair care,” DeLong said.
The presentations will not be a ‘do this and don’t do that’ approach, but rather provide a platform for open discussions for students to voice concerns or share tips and tricks. DeLong explained that the Guanzon hairstylist approach will ask students what issues they have with their hair and what questions they have about styling, maintenance, and more. “We don’t really do it in terms of ‘this is the style you should be doing,’ but just having this open conversation,” she said, noting that she was also excited about the skincare presentation. MK’s Skin, who will discuss what it’s like to be in your skin and how to find the right shade for your skin tone. “In terms of makeup, how can we enhance our beauty that we already have right now — that sort of thing,” DeLong said.
“I see myself here; I am included
DeLong said that if students walk away from the event saying “I see myself here” or “I can feel included,” or they were able to answer or ask questions they maybe didn’t feel not comfortable chatting before, the day will have been a success. “I think [this event is] a really good way to start a discussion, and this discussion is the one we will continue to have… I think it’s important, because there are all kinds of great things happening in this building, [and] we want it to be inclusive.