In 2016, while working at a youth shelter, social worker Breanna Phillip noticed their donation closet did not have products for Black hair care. “We got a lot of donations for hygiene products, and our closet was full of shampoos and conditioners, but the shampoos were not healthy for Black hair. There were never any products for braiding hair, nor leave-in conditioners, oils, alcohol-free gels, twisting creams, and other products that Black youth need.”
“The issue of Black youth not having access to appropriate hair care products or services became more apparent when the shelter hosted a prom in June 2019,” Breanna explained. “Hairstylists came in to help youth get dolled up, but none of the hairstylists were Black or knowledgeable in Black hair care/styling.” This frustrated both the youth and Breanna, who thought Black youth deserved better.
Breanna said she brought in her own products to help Black youth with their hair. “Prom was a day that really sunk deep into my heart. It was also when I became aware of just how anti-Black it is to offer services and products for non-Black youth through donations and program planning and have Black youth fend for themselves. It’s othering, it perpetuates whiteness as the default, and it reiterates the damaging message that Black youth don’t deserve to have their needs met.”
With the interests of underserved Black youth in mind, Breanna did two things. She created Curlz and Convos, a platform for Black youth to talk about their hair and how to take care of it. She described it as a ‘virtual space dedicated to supporting Black women as they love, embrace and care for their natural hair.’ “As a Black woman, I understand fully that Black individuals do not have the privilege of hair being ‘just hair.’ Black hair is political, and others’ perception of our hair has resulted in a great deal of oppression and injustice.”
Breanna also started a GoFundMe, to raise $1,000. The proceeds went to buying Black hair products from Black hair stores. She said people from all demographics donated to the fundraiser and dropped off products. “We had donation drop-off days at various malls throughout the GTA so that people could meet up with us in person.”
Breanna, along with friend and Toronto hairstylist Adaeze Ohuabunwa, decided to partner with Eva’s Initiatives. She was aware of Eva’s because she often referred Black youth to their programs. “I know the history behind Eva Smith and her intentionality around serving Black youth. One of the main reasons we chose Eva’s was that we knew they were intentional about serving Black youth.”
In the end, Breanna and Adaeze donated hundreds of items to Eva’s and surpassed their GoFundMe goal within three days. Thank you to all those who generously donated to support this important initiative.
Looking to set up a community event in support of Eva’s?
Please contact Cara Williams, Director of Development, at [email protected].