World Afro Day: how to get involved with The Big Hair Assembly

The Big Hair Assembly logo Credit: World Afro Day

Organisers of World Afro Day 2021 are encouraging pupils across the UK to take part in an interactive worldwide educational event that promotes natural hair.

"The Big Hair Assembly" launches today as part of the fifth anniversary of World Afro Day - where Afro hair, identity and equality are celebrated.

Pupils and teachers from all backgrounds across the UK are being encouraged to sign up for the gathering, that will be held in September in London. It will be live-streamed to schools and students across the world.

A previous Big Hair Assembly event, celebrated by students from all backgrounds Credit: World Afro Day

Pantene research has recently revealed:

  • at least 93% of black people have experienced micro-aggressions related to their hair

And World Afro Day's Hair Equality Report has shown:

  • a 67% rise in negative Afro hair policies at school

What can I do at The Big Hair Assembly in September ?

Pupils and teachers will be able to log onto the interactive virtual event, and take part in a number of activities. There will be prizes for schools and individuals, guests, live interaction, spoken word, international Youth Panel contributors, news and discussion.

A special student film competition will also launch in May and the winning compilation will be shown at the assembly in September.

The Big Hair Assembly is backed by the following education unions, as part of a drive to educate students on the topic from an early age:

  • ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders)

  • NAHT (voice of school leaders)

  • NASUWT (trade union representing teachers, including headteachers)

  • NEU (National Education Union)

  • UNISON

  • Voice Community (union for education professionals)

Meet the international women from taking part in World Afro Day celebrations Credit: World Afro Day

Who is involved with this year's celebrations ?

YolanDa Brown (UK host)

YolanDa is a double MOBO-award winning saxophonist in the UK, known for her fusion of reggae, jazz and soul. She's also an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster. YolanDa was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the University of East London and was also invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She's also the Chair of Youth Music, the largest music education charity in the UK.

Image of YolanDa Brown Credit: World Afro Day

Hair plays such a big part in our identity, from its vibrant colours to unique textures and everything in between. The ability to wear our hair with pride, in any style or pattern, should always be our choice and no one else's. My hair brings me so much joy and I teach my 2 young daughters to love their afro hair and embrace their identity....

... I absolutely leapt at the opportunity to present the Big Hair Assembly and be involved in the wider World Afro Day celebrations. It’s going to be an hair-raising experience, see what I did there!

YolanDa Brown, UK host of The Big Hair Assembly 2021

Tashara Parker (USA host)

Tashara Parker is a host for News 8 Daybreak Anchor in the USA. She wore her natural hair to work in a bun last year, and her social media post on the issue was seen nearly two hundred thousand times. In it, she asked " Why does my crown offend you?"

Tashara Parker is hosting the celebrations in the USA Credit: World Afro Day

It was important to get involved with World Afro Day because young boys and girls need to know that their natural tresses are beautiful. They need to see representation on full display daily. My careers affords me the opportunity to showcase our natural curls and it’s time for the world to embrace them too, while normalizing our Afros in all career fields.

Tashara Parker

Tais Vinolo, ballerina

Tais Vinolo has starred in an advert for Amazon Credit: World Afro Day/YouTube Amazon

I am a French Pre Professional ballerina. Ballet is my number one passion, but I also really enjoy fashion, creating, acting, and expressing myself through different hairstyles. I am currently a student at one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world, located in NYC.

... This opportunity allows me to be based in between NY, France and also California, where my more professional ballet career started. My ultimate goal is to dance in the biggest roles in a professional ballet company and to eventually be able to combine ballet and acting. I want to use my platform and experiences as a way to contribute to changing stereotypes in the ballet industry and beyond.

.. I was given the chance to be at the forefront of that change in my last and biggest production so far, the global 2020 Amazon Holiday Ad “The Show Must Go On,” which I am incredibly grateful for.

Tais Vinolo, ballerina
Tais Vinolo Credit: World Afro Day

Being a part of the World Afro Day is important to me because by sharing my story with my generation and younger children with Afro hair, I can bring attention to what it’s like to grow up with the lack of representation and/or sometimes the wrong representation of Afro hair. Other people's opinions, judgements, clichés or just remarks can impact how we view ourselves.

For me, growing up without seeing a lot of individuals who looked like me, affected my self-confidence as well as made me feel uncomfortable in public. But today I’m proud to say my hair is my strength.

Tais Vinolo, ballerina
2019 event:

11,500 pupils signed up from eight countries

The first Big Hair Assembly launched in 2019 with 11,500 pupils signing up from eight countries.

For 2021, organisers are hoping for a bigger global reach, and say feedback from earlier assemblies has been encouraging, with people from all backgrounds taking something away from the events.

Helen, the Theatre Manager at the Langley Park School for Boys, speaking about an earlier assembly, said “I did the Big Hair Assembly this morning, which is fantastic and taught me no end. I honestly didn’t realise there was a problem with Afro hair at all. And I’ve worked in theatres in Catford and Lewisham etc for many, many years. Afro hair it’s beautiful, really, really beautiful". Charlotte, who attended the Big Hair Assembly in 2019 said "This is such an empowering event that teaches everyone about Afro hair and is super fun to be part of. I feel more confident about my hair now and will wear it with P R I D E".

Key dates:

  • May 2021 - launch of special student film competition - the winning entry will be shown at the assembly in September

  • 15th September 2021 - World Afro Day for schools, including The Big Hair Assembly

More on The Big Hair Assembly and World Afro Day 2021

Why campaigners are still fighting against hair discrimination