Last week, students were told by a Bahamian high school principal that their hair was not appropriate for school. The young women were wearing their hair in what is now known as a puff – an afro with a headband around it. Further investigation revealed that the principal takes issue with natural hair, and believes girls put a band around their hair without bothering to comb it, and she called it ungroomed, unkempt, and unprofessional. News of this, shared by one student’s mother, set off a social media firestorm. Women of all ages, hair textures, hair lengths, professions, and backgrounds posted pictures of themselves with natural hair in support of the girls, using the hashtags #SupportThePuff and #FreeThePuff. This act of solidarity has caught the attention of international media, and the critical eye of Bahamians who do not understand how this is an issue of national concern, deserving of this kind of attention.
Our Director wrote an article in her column – Generational – on The Bahamas Weekly to address these issues.
Mothers are fighting for their daughters. They are intervening and advocating for their daughters’ rights to exist as black people, unashamed of roots, from historical to follicle.
Young women are holding fast to their identities, rights, and truths as citizens, students, and members of the African diaspora. They are unapologetic about the texture, length, height, and natural state of their hair, even in the face of subjective policies and discriminatory interpretations of them. #FreeThePuff is one of the fastest movements to be built, spreading across the nation in a matter of hours, across gender, generational, class, and religious lines, uniting black Bahamians who recognize the power of natural hair and the threat to its existence that necessitates this dialogue and this movement.
Hollaback! Bahamas is in full support of the #FreeThePuff movement. We #SupportThePuff, and we denounce the harassment these girls face at school. They deserve to access education, unencumbered by the insecurities carried by school administrators, and free of the binds of systemic racism. They can wear their natural hair, in all its coily, upward and outward growing glory, regardless of the personal style or opinions of others.