For this month’s JustChange grantee, her introduction to activism hit very close to home: with her own hair. Questioning why she hadn’t felt comfortable wearing her hair naturally, Asma realized the beauty standards we all internalize keep many people from embracing themselves as they naturally are.

Because it’s about hair, but it isn’t just about hair: it’s about the subtle, systematic messages black youth internalize about what is considered beautiful, and the consequences of those messages can be significant. Living in Ottawa, it’s easy to assume our community has no need to engage in discussion on racism; that we’ve moved beyond it. But that kind of thinking can unintentionally silence people’s experiences. Asma wants to shine a light on the issue by giving black youth a chance to hear the stories of those who know first-hand how they feel.

Black Hair: A Documentary is bringing together Asma’s experience as an amateur videographer with what she sees as a need to open a dialogue for and with young black people, who have often internalized negative feelings toward their hair without realizing the underlying causes and consequences of that self-hatred. She’ll be sharing the stories of a diverse group of black Ottawans’ experiences surrounding their hair in an upbeat, colourful, joyful documentary to be shared on YouTube. After seeing the amazing exemplary video she’s made to date, we can’t wait to see the finished product!

Black Hair is just the first step for Asma: she wants to create a virtual community black youth can access to engage further in issues that matter to them and make more documentaries on issues at the intersection of race and beauty, such as colorism, as well as on other social justice issues. Over time, she wants to see Black Hair: A Documentary become a tool supporting self-acceptance for young black students. As a former student and volunteer at Ottawa’s Pathways to Education, Asma hopes to work with such organizations that are already supporting youth.

Our $1,000 grant will support filming of Black Hair and future documentaries through equipment that will increase production values and give Asma greater freedom to explore more filming possibilities.

We invite you to join us in celebrating Asma and her documentary project at our June JustDrinks event, taking place at the Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs at 1013 Wellington St W from 7:00pm-9:00pm. To connect with Asma directly about Black Hair, you can find her on Twitter @_ahamedia and on Instagram @aha_ok3.