A little bit of work and a whole lotta love.
The producer list for Matthew A. Cherry‘s short film Hair Love is insane. Jordan Peele. Peter Ramsey. Gabourey Sidibe. Gabrielle Union. Dwayne Wade. And those are just the ones I recognize. With hundreds of Kickstarter backers and co-directors Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith also attached, the project would ultimately land at Sony, garner huge buzz online, and earn an Oscar nomination. That’s quite the journey for a children’s book that only dropped in May itself. With Vashti Harrison‘s playful yet detailed illustrations begging to be brought to life, however, it’s no surprise that it would find such massive success. The world needs positive representations of the Black experience and one focusing on natural hair, fathers and daughters, and confident beauty proves a perfect catalyst.
It starts with a little girl realizing today’s the day. We don’t know what her excitement is about, but the calendar has a heart and she couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the prospects. First things first, though: she must do her hair. A mess of curls and tangles unleashed from a bed cap, she’s calmly undeterred. Her cat conversely carries obvious skepticism, but the hope is that a YouTube channel’s assistance will solve the problem. Judging by her quizzical reaction and the shock of her father upon completion, however, that hope is squashed. Will he take up the challenge and be the hero his daughter needs? Or will he glance at his watch and simply put a hat on her head so they can rush to their destination?
You may not think the decision is that dire, but you’d be wrong considering the systemic prejudice our society places upon Black women’s hair. The decision to cover it up therefore holds weight beyond the notion that doing so could be dismissed as a casualty of laziness. And since the whole idea here is to show young Black girls that they are beautiful no matter what people might say, you better believe her Dad is going to do his damnedest to give her the hair style she desires. There’s more to it than that after revelations are uncovered, but this added context is about mirroring and complexity rather than shrouding the importance of what’s happening beneath potential tragedy. It’s about perseverance, love, uniqueness, and pride. It’s about identity.