Madison teacher raising money to purchase hair products, services for students of color

Madison teacher raising money to purchase hair products, services for students of color

A special education teacher at O’Keeffe Middle School is raising money to raise confidence in students of color.

Pricila Ortiz said when her students have bad hair days, they tend to be more shy, often wearing their hoods all day. Ortiz wanted to do something that would give students the confidence to take the hoods off.

“I know when my hair doesn’t look good, I don’t want to see anyone,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for hair care products and services to provide for students on campus.

Eighth-grader Kadjata Bah said this effort by Ortiz will help her gain confidence.

“When I have a bad hair day, it’s just this internal feeling of like, ‘Man, I’m really not at my best,'” Bah said.

Bah wears a hijab, so no one is able to see her hair. Despite this, she says having a good hair day, even if it is underneath the hijab, can make all the difference in her confidence at school.

“People might not see that because I cover my hair,” Bah said. “Even now, after I observe the hijab, my hair is such a big part of me.”

Bah’s classmate, Yani Thoronka, knows the feeling.

“On a day where my hair is looking good, I feel so confident. I feel so amazing,” Thoronka said. “When my hair is not looking good, I really want to be a turtle.”

Both Bah and Thoronka say their hair is part of their identity.

Ortiz recognized this and wanted to do something about it.

“It’s just important to me to make sure our students of color feel like they have the resources they need,” Ortiz said. “I am the only staff member of color in this building so it is very apparent to me what gaps there are as far as resources for our students.”

While she originally started the GoFundMe to help students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, it developed into something more, especially after learning how expensive hair care products can be for anyone.

Bah and Thoronka said they’ve purchased shampoo and conditioner made specifically for black hair that cost $80.

Products not made for black hair are much cheaper in stores. Bah and Thoronka attributed that to society not wanting to recognize the beauty in black hair.

“Black hair is unprofessional, black hair is ugly. All of these things, I reject them every day, even when people don’t see my hair,” Bah said.

“Even when you see black people on the cover of magazines, you’ll see they have this straight hair. It doesn’t make you love yourself and who you are and what you were born with and how to embrace that,” Thoronka said.

Ortiz is aiming to change that and her students don’t let their appreciation for her going above and beyond go unnoticed.

“I love Ms. Ortiz so much and I think it’s really cool that someone can think about that and look at it through another lens instead of maybe another teacher who is like, ‘Oh, they can buy it themselves,'” said Thoronka.

“Having a teacher now who is doing that for students, who often don’t even think about having the privilege of doing that, it’s amazing,” Bah said. “Especially that she’s not black, or doesn’t have black hair, knowing there is another person out there advocating for us, it’s amazing. I’m going to rock this now and it’s just going to be 100 percent me.”

If you would like to help the students reach their goal to put hair products in school, you can donate here.

A Madison teacher is raising money to buy hair care products and services for students of color. She said hair is part of their identity, and can be very expensive for the specific products they need. #News3Now

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) March 14, 2019

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