THUNDER BAY – Youth from Thunder Bay’s Caribbean African Multicultural Association were in Toronto last weekend for ‘Hairstory’. This is a program from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth run by the Ontario government.
Michelle Lander, the Local Immigration Partnership Co-ordinator for the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association took the four local teens who experienced the program.
Today at Youth Centres Thunder Bay, the CAMAC youth hosted “Hair Art”. The youth shared their experiences from last weekend’s visit to Toronto, and discussed what they would like to see for Thunder Bay black youth in the next phase of the project.
Lander commented, “It was a great experience for the kids to participate. They got to share their story in Toronto at the panel discussion about life as a black youth in Thunder Bay. During the workshop with the other panelists they discovered that many of their experiences were shared by youth from Toronto”.
“What they discovered is that many of the issues faced by youth in Toronto are the same ones they face in Thunder Bay. Getting their hair done at a professional salon was an added bonus, since there is no official black hair salon in Thunder Bay.” Thunder bay youth rely on moms,dads, auntie and uncles to help with getting their hair did.
Lander commented, “All black hair is different. Some curls are tighter than others, some hair types are silkier, some are frizzier, and youth face pressures as their hairstyle is different than others. In Thunder Bay where youth are not only the sole black youth in their class, or in the school in some cases, there is peer pressure to conform with the same hair styles as other students”.
In Toronto the youth had the experience of being followed by a documentary team, professional hair make overs and professional photo shoot which was displayed at final night panel. The added experience of different speakers added knowledge an many opportunity to ask many question, the many different hair styles that other youth and adults had, gave our youth some pride to embrace their own hair style.
It might sound like a small thing, but for many youth looking good, and feeling good about themselves is a key component for success in life.
Thunder Bay Multicultural Association Youth Director Pierre Mapeso stated, “This is a great opportunity for youth to provide a cross cultural exchange with the Canadian youth. This program provides newcomer youth with opportunities to experience a piece of their home culture, take pride in that, and blend that with their Canadian life experience. We hope that it will ultimately give them a sense of self-confidence that will propel to them to a fruitful future.”
The Advocate’s Office is working on an exciting youth outreach and engagement initiative that was launched during Black History Month. This new initiative is entitled, Hairstory-Understanding Culture and Community for Black Youth in Ontario’s Systems of Care an newcomer youth.
The goal of Hairstory is to bring together black youth, who have lived in care, live in care presently, or are involved with the Youth Justice System, Mental Health Services and/or Shelter System, to dialogue with other young people and prominent community leaders about culture and community and the barriers black youth face within Ontario’s systems of care.
For more information visit The Provincial Advocate for Youth and Children website