Raised in a predominately Spanish community in the Bronx, I encountered a series of events in which the term “pelo malo” (meaning bad hair) was used too loosely and irresponsibly to describe the natural (not chemically treated) hair of Black girls and girls of Afro decent without thinking about the damage it inflicts on their self-esteem.
When I became a mom, it was important for me to instill in my daughters the values of love, beauty, intelligence, empowerment and consideration for the feelings of others. I became indignant with the term “pelo malo” because it was now being used against my daughters, contrary to all the values I taught at home.
When our caregiver used the coloquial term "pelo malo" to describe my then 3 years old daughter's hair. I was hurt. I respectufully stated that "Bad Hair Does Not Exist" and proceeded with alternative terminology to describe various types of hair. Additionally, I requested we work together to eliminate the term “bad hair” and work as equal partners to elevate the self-esteem of all the children under her care. I am grateful to her for responding in such a positive way. This exchange, forced me to teach my eldest daughter, Suleni Tisani, ways to describe her hair so that she would learn to stand up for herself, her sister and respectfully educate others in the process.
I also made the decision to share these tools with you dear reader and all girls so they too would be equipped to educate and protect one other.