Aug 112022
My Beads and Me: Freedom Eyes!

Have you ever seen a girl with beads running, laughing, jumping and click-clacking in her joy? That’s My Beads and Me by Amber T. Bogan, illustrated by Karla Bivens. It’s a jubilant book that follows a girl and her love affair with her hair. She adores her beaded styles and lets them take her from her living room to adventures all over the world. It’s a perfect read for kids from 3 to 7, even if they’ve never had braids because of the opportunity to share in the protagonist’s exuberant self-love.

Because our hair has often been a focal point for conflict and control, there are a lot of children’s books celebrating Black kids and their hair. California’s CROWN Act allows Black workers to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads to work. Again, it took a whole law for Black workers to be able to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads to work. In 2019. We wrote about it here.

My oldest daughter loves her hair. LOVES IT. She says so all the time. She loves it in a tight afro, in a frizzy lion’s mane, in box braids, twists, puffs, cornrows, bantu knots and pressed. She and I share the same texture hair and even though I focused hard on making sure she loves her hair, I still find myself looking at her hair and mine with colonized eyes. I was brought up with colonized eyes that see beauty in its proximity to Whiteness: the hair must be smooth and tamed, or sport loose curls or waves. But not my child, she looks at herself and her hair with FREEDOM EYES. She exults in all the things her hair can do and her confidence astounds me, inspires me. So y’all, let’s get ourselves some FREEDOM EYES

We are going to live in our joy today. We are going to love our curly/straight/long/short/big/bushy hair; we are going to strut in our patkas and hijabs. We are going to be FREE!!

Some other books that can help you and your kids develop your Freedom Eyes are: 

Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence in African-American and biracial children, this beautifully illustrated picture book encourages children of African descent to feel good about their hair, no matter how different it may be from other kids. Main character Lola has really big curly hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Although her big hair often causes kids to stare and sometimes her big curls cause her to lose at hide and seek, that doesn’t stop her from telling anyone who will listen just how much she LOVES her hair!
Harpreet Singh has a different color for every mood and occasion, from happy sunny yellow to courageous red. He especially takes care with his patkahis turban–making sure it always matches his outfit. But when Harpreet’s mom finds a new job in a snowy city and they have to move, everything just feels gray. Can he find a way to make life bright again?
A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school–and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab–by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad. With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.
This lovely book from the author of Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns invites readers to understand and appreciate the hijab and the Muslim women who decide to wear it. Grandma’s hijab clasps under her chin. Auntie pins hers up with a whimsical brooch. Jenna puts a sun hat over hers when she hikes. Iman wears a sports hijab for tae kwon do. As a young girl observes the women in her life and how each covers her hair a different way, she dreams of the possibilities in her own future and how she might express her personality through her hijab.

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