By Lynzee Mychael | Michigan Chronicle | Word In Black

This post was originally published on Michigan Chronicle

Photograph courtesy of Hair Braiding Camp.

(WIB) – In a world that often imposes narrow standards of beauty and societal norms, it is essential to empower young girls, particularly those from marginalized communities, to embrace their cultural heritage and develop self-confidence. The Hair Braiding Camp is a transformative initiative that not only celebrates the art of hair-braiding but also instills crucial skills in entrepreneurship and self-love. By combining cultural pride, business insight and confidence-building, this camp seeks to equip young Black girls with the necessary tools to embrace their identity, pursue their dreams and make meaningful contributions to their communities. 

Pashun Barnes, a devoted special education teacher, made a conscious choice to dedicate her summer to empowering young Black girls, guiding them in embracing their natural hair, and fostering a positive and essential understanding of Black culture. 

“All hair is good hair. Because a lot of times we know that society told them about colorism and light-skinned versus dark-skinned, long hair versus short hair, straight hair versus curly hair. I’m trying to empower them to understand that all hair and Black culture is good hair. And you can do so many different things with your hair. Embrace your hair,” said Barnes. 

In the wake of the Crown Act’s implementation, the celebration of natural beauty has emerged as an imperative subject. We are now witness to a growing representation of natural hairstyles in various spheres, including workplaces, television and even on prestigious red-carpet events. As beauty standards undergo a transformative shift to embrace traditions cherished by Black women, it becomes vital to impart these positive practices to the younger generation. Equipping young girls with the knowledge and skills needed to manage their hair not only fosters better understanding and acceptance but also promotes unity among diverse communities. 

For centuries, hair braiding has held profound cultural significance in the lives of Black communities worldwide. From intricate patterns to familial bonding experiences, hair braiding has been a cherished art form passed down through generations. Unfortunately, mainstream beauty standards have often overlooked or undervalued the cultural significance of these hairstyles, leading to a sense of insecurity among young Black girls about their natural hair and styles. 

The Hair Braiding Camp aims to counter this narrative by celebrating the art of hair braiding as an empowering form of self-expression and cultural heritage. Through hands-on workshops led by experienced braiders and stylists, the girls learn about the history and significance of various braiding styles, connecting them to their roots and fostering a sense of pride in their cultural identity. 

“Enslaved people used it to send messages and to create paths. For them it’s the same thing. What message are you sending? I’m strong. I’m beautiful. I’m confident. Even being able to do their own hair. Some parents aren’t available. Some can’t afford it. Braids are expensive, very expensive. So with that, it’s just on the competence of them being able to do their own hair, embrace that they are able to do it themselves and giving courage to other young girls in the process,” said Barnes. 

Barnes has been a skilled hair braider since she was just 10 years old — coincidentally, the same age as the students attending her camp. This camp is open to young students from sixth to 12th grades, offering them a valuable opportunity to learn and refine their hair braiding skills under her guidance. 

This summer the program ran 4 sessions from June until July, ranging from beginner to advanced styles. The classes focused on popular styles such as feed-in and knotless braids and taught the girls about parting and perfecting their sections. 

During the four-day camp, each student was equipped with all the essential materials necessary to become an expert braider. For a fee of $300 each, they received a comprehensive kit containing hair products, combs, clips, a stand and a mannequin head. These tools empower the students to practice and refine their braiding techniques, setting them on the path towards mastering this art form. 

With this phase of the training camp now completed, Barnes is filled with excitement over the overwhelmingly positive reaction the class received from the public. However, what truly leaves her amazed and inspired is the incredible progress and talent displayed by her students. Their enthusiasm and dedication have fueled her passion, motivating her to offer the camp once again, eager to continue empowering and nurturing the potential of young talents. 

To learn more about upcoming classes, Barnes can be contacted at