AFH Photo // St. Cyere, Tabrina
In American society, African-American girls have been led to believe that straight, fine hair is “exceptional.” This idea plays a significant role in the way many young black girls feel about their hair. They have grown up seeing straight, fine hair in their favorite TV shows and magazines. Not having hair as seen on TV can lead black girls to feel insecure.  
Recently natural hair, often referred to as “nappy hair,” has gained momentum as a movement across the country to help young women embrace their hair. Before pro-natural hair awareness spread, many teenage girls were fighting battles when it came to loving their natural hair. 

“Making the transition from relaxed hair to natural hair wasn't always easy. It was very tempting to use perm on my hair again especially when I saw how easy it was for my other friends to detangle their soft, fine hair. Though my transition was full of ups and down and insecurities, it made me realize how beautiful the diversity of hair is. I've allowed my hair to be a part of my growth as an individual. My hair has made me learn so much about myself in the past year. I'm so glad I made the decision to keep my natural hair.” -- Samantha Roger, 17, junior at Milton Academy 
The “Good Hair Study” conducted by the Perception Institute surveyed over 4,000 participants and found that black women suffer more hair-related anxiety than white women. It also found that a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias toward women of color based on their hair. Many women experience this, like how some companies do not allow their employees to wear natural hair or dreadlocks.  
However, the “Good Hair Study” concluded that millennials of all races are more accepting to natural, textured hair.  

“Growing up, being the only African-American girl in an all Irish-American household, my mother and grandmother had a hard time taking care of my hair because it is completely different from their hair. One day when I was six, my mother booked an appointment for me at a local hair salon. Due to the fact that I was so young and not aware of what was going on, I left the salon that day very confused with the result of my hair. It was now bone straight and very thin. This was the day I transitioned from a full head of natural hair to thin and fine relaxed hair. This event was the reason for the breakage and dryness of my hair. Now that I am older I am able to make my own decision of going natural.” -- Jayda Brown, 15, Dorchester 
In 2014, the Boston Globe reported that sales of hair relaxer dropped from $206 million in 2008 to $152 million in 2013. The demand for a wider selection of natural hair products has also been on the rise.  
While mainstream media and pop culture still show a preference toward straight hair, black women with natural hair have slowly been making their way onto television shows. Actresses Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi and Marsai Martin have frequently appeared on their hit show Black-ish embracing their natural hair.  
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It was my last day in Jordan. I spent my time saying goodbye to friends and playing around. “You're going to America?” my friend questioned with sarcasm, so I ignored him. 
As night came, our house was empty. All of our belongings were packed into six suitcases by the door, two backpacks on top. 
 On the bus to the airport, I could hear my mom sob and couldn't tell if it was from satisfaction or sorrow. I could see the tremendous smile on my father’s face though. He was so happy we were leaving Jordan to go to America. 
After flying over the Atlantic Ocean for hours, we landed in a place everyone called heaven back home: The United States of America. I quickly realized why; it was a hundred times better looking than my country, with clean, even streets and amazing views. It was a beautiful day and the smell was something I’d never known. I looked at my mother and had never seen her this relieved. I could see my father happily standing with my brother, both smiling. 
We moved into our house in Boston. “They're lying right? All this for us?” my mother wondered. She was as happy as a person who just won the jackpot. It felt as big as a football field to us. My mother sounded like she wanted to break into tears. 
“Life just got better,” I thought to myself. 
Now, it was 2012. When we got a TV, my sister and I spent hours watching cartoons. I began to see the words “Muslims” and “terrorists” together a lot. I was nervous. My dad's friend came over and told us that Americans were saying that Muslims are terrorists and are being blamed for a ‘Twin Tower attack.’ This was the first I’d heard of it and didn't know what it was, but it seemed tragic. 
Fast forward two years. My mom was sitting by the TV one day.  
“MOHAMMED!” she yelled. I thought something had happened to her. 
“What does it say?” she asked. 
“ISIS is taking hostages and bombing European countries,” I said, shaking. 
“Oh God,” my mom replied, scared. We spent the whole day by the TV watching the world burn and Muslims being blamed for it. At that moment, I thought of what my grandma had said before we left Jordan: “Be careful, stay out of trouble.” 
It was 2016. After four years in America, we’d seen ISIS cause more problems and got used to being blamed. We worried about hate crimes, but knew there were organizations that supported Muslims in America that we could seek help from. 
During election time,  Donald Trump talked about ISIS and deporting immigrants. Even though we were legal immigrants, we were scared. The fear of four years ago came back. Trump was actively encouraging hate against Muslims. 
Was he mad because of ISIS? Was he anti-Muslim? Are we going to be victims of hate crimes? 
When he was elected president on November 8, 2016, I was in disbelief. Was this really the country that we wanted to come to so badly? Was this really the country that my mom cried out of happiness to come to? We all felt depressed, we all felt fear in our hearts. That night, even the good food, maqluba, which my mom had made tasted horrible. 
“Back to Jordan?” My dad asked sarcastically. 
“The embarrassment,” my mom replied. 
 Even though we had food on the table, she was staring down at the floor, as if the world was too heavy for her shoulders. 
At this moment, I knew I had no choice but to stay out of trouble to survive. I remember saying, “this is heaven,” when we got to America but looking back now, it's not. It's a place where small minded, uneducated and racist people live. In order to make my mom happy and proud, I should never get in trouble. 
It is 2017. We are more scared now than ever. 
“God will be on our side,” my mom told me. To this day, we are afraid. We have an untold future ahead of us. 
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When people hear the United States of America, they usually think about freedom. However, I feel like “freedom” in the U.S. is overstated. Americans may have more rights than people in other countries, but do we really have as much as some say? 
I thought America symbolized a country of rights, freedom and opportunities. I thought America was a country like no other; a powerful country, full of wonderful people who came from many different countries around the world. I thought of myself as an American even though last year, when I first arrived, I didn’t even know how to ask, “how are you?”  
Something happened to make me change my thinking about America. It was last year at JFK airport in New York, the first time I stepped foot on U.S. territory. I felt very joyous because I thought I was free! My uncle picked me up from the airport since I came by myself because my father could not come with me.  
Before we got out of the airport, I saw something that wasn't fair: a man tried to pull off the hijab of a Muslim woman in front of me. I stood there in shock. He was yelling at her like she was inferior, “Pull off that thing, you are free here, in a free country, so why keep covering yourself?” 
He kept talking, “If you want to do that go back to your f>>king country!” The woman started to cry. She was terrorized and responded with more tears. Crying, she exclaimed, “Leave me alone! I’ve done nothing to you!”  
After I observed this horrible scene, I was completely devastated because this man attacked an innocent woman. Never shall I forget the face of this woman, never shall I forget the fact that I saw an injustice and did nothing.  
My uncle, who was with me while that horrific situation happened, didn’t feel good either. He told me, “Abou, you thought everything was positive in the United States, right? I have spent eight years in this country and see those situations every day!” This surprised me.  
He continued, “Anyway, now you can see with your own eyes! This is a part of the reality of the United States.” When he was done talking I just shook my head. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing an injustice in front of you, and you did nothing? It's painful, it makes your heart cold, in fear of yourself.   
Even though America has a lot of faults, it can positively impact the life of many people, as it did my own. Without America, I could not have learned English, learned to be be more mature, or met new people like my ESL teacher, Miss Assiraj, who always pushes me forward.  
America has really impacted my education and my life in a good way. There is so much I can accomplish today. I talk without stress or fear. I can make a speech in public.  
Now that I’m a part of the United States, my responsibility is to stand up against injustice.  
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Never shall I forget the moment my mother stood up for our family during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It happened in 2003 when I was five-years-old.  
The war was between two tribes: Hema, our tribe, and Lendu. My mom told me that before the war, most people in our tribe were cattle keepers and Lendu were farmers. The Lendu tribe complained that our cows were destroying their plantations. We were rich and we had everything, and they were telling us, “Please don’t let your cows destroy our plantation.” The Hema people disregarded the Lendu people. But then, they started to steal our cows. Next, they started to kill people at night from other states.  
We thought it would not happen in our state, but one night the Lendu attacked us. When they were almost at our home my mom, dad and brothers heard the neighbors screaming. My parents and brother ran outside and saw the house of our neighbor burning and people sobbing because people were burning in their houses.  
After seeing all of these things my mom said, “I can’t leave my daughter here.” 
She returned to the house and called me, “My daughter, wake up! We are going to die!” she screamed.  
“What? Mom? What happened?” I responded, still sleeping. 
“Wake up,” she said.  
I was frightened and woke up quickly in my bed. 
When I looked at her, I saw the tears on her face and I also started to cry.  
“Stop crying, my daughter” she said. “Let’s go.”  
She took my hand and we ran. 
“Where are we going, Mom?” I asked her.  
“We are going to hide in the forest until morning and we are going to search for your dad and brothers, I don’t know where they are my daughter,” my mom said.  
“Are the animals going to eat us Mom?” I asked.  
“Don’t worry my daughter, God will protect us. We will not see any animals here,” she said.  
Very early in the morning we saw my dad and brothers who were also searching for us. I was overjoyed and hugged them and my mom, too. We thanked God for saving us all because many people lost their family, but we were still alive, even though they took all of our resources.  
After one week, we moved to Uganda and started new lives as refugees. That changed my life by having new friends, learning new languages and working hard. Still, living in a new country made my life difficult.  
Remember, God never leaves His believers, and He protected us in that situation. Mom, I want to tell you: you are strongest woman and I want to thank you for the wonderful job you did for me. Let God keep you forever and ever, Mom.
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Never shall I forget the moment when the doctors in Santo Domingo told me I needed a complicated operation on my heart as soon as possible. They ran some tests and found something very dangerous in my heart. My grandmother started crying, so I started crying, too. I thought  I could die or something terrible would happen to me. But, I was more worried about my grandmother because she looked so upset, I thought something could happen to her, too.   
My grandmother was sad because she thought I was going to suffer and she could not do anything about it. She felt like a bystander who didn’t know how to help me. She came close to me, sobbing, and said, “Oh my nieto, everything will be okay. I swear God will help us. Don't worry, I'm here with you.” 
“I am so scared about this, what if something bad happens during the operation,” I said.  
“I told you that everything will be okay. Don't worry and cree en dios, that He will help us,” my grandmother said. 
“Did you have an operation like this before?” I asked her. 
“No,” she answered. “But I believe in God, and the doctor says everything will be okay.” 
The doctor told us that the operation would be in five days and that we could go back home. I moved in with my grandmother so that she could give me homeopathic medicine from her mother, and also pray to God every day and every night. She made me an unpleasant medication that was thick, brown and smelled disgusting. 
I saw how my grandmother cares about me and does her best just to help me. The day after we prayed to God, my grandmother looked at me and said, “I love you so much, you are everything in my life.” 
Finally the day of the operation came. I was nervous. Some of my family was there, but just my grandmother and my mom were in the hospital room with me. They tried to calm me down. My grandmother held my hands very tightly. The doctor came to give me the last test. A few minutes later the he came back and said a miracle had happened. 
“You, Victor Tejada, don't need an operation,” the doctor said. 
“But how did this happen, doctor? We don't understand,” my mom said.  
“I know, I'm surprised too, because the problem you had in your heart disappeared. It is a miracle,” the doctor said.  
My grandmother and I were in shock. We didn't say anything. I looked at her and she looked at me. We still said nothing. I gave her a hug and said, “I love you. Thank God for giving me this beautiful family that I love.” 
It was like this that my grandmother saved me.  
From this moment, I learned that the people who love you are the only ones you need to be happy in your life, and also health. There are many people and children in the world that do not have family, so I need to say thank God for my family and for the people who love me. 
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