y documentary, Black Hair, started as a class project for journalism school but it quickly turned into a passion project. I became obsessed with creating a film that truly captured the emotional, psychological and social effects that came with having afro-textured hair.

I wanted to tell more than just a story, I wanted to shed light on a painful reality that doesn’t get talked about. 

Some of the characters in the documentary have been forced to leave their after-school clubs because of their afro hair. As a result, they internalize the hate their hair receives from people around them and are still in the un-learning process.

So, when I was given the opportunity to work with black men and women in our city and hear their own journey, I felt that their stories deserved to be told.

Blackhair2Abena Oteng is one of the five characters in Black Hair. Oteng shares her battle with her afro-textured hair in the documentary. Photo by Badria Abubaker

Going in, I had no expectations as to what would happen once I finished producing the film, I just knew I wanted this project to hold value.

When the Treaty 7 Film Collective wanted to collaborate and host a screening, I was gratified by the opportunity. I did not think my documentary screening would draw the amount of traffic it did. I was surprised by the amount of media attention it received and the reaction it got from different communities in Calgary on social media. It completely exceeded my expectations.

I had only dreamed that conversations about the racial controversies of afro-textured hair would spring from a documentary I produced.

When one screening turned into five screenings — three of which were screened in honour of Black History Month — I realized how impactful my film had become. People were wanting to learn about the issue and black men and women were able to resonate with the film through their own experiences.

Sharing my documentary and receiving the positive response it did was a humbling experience as a student journalist. I plan to continue to create projects that spark conversation, allow for perspective and most importantly, create change.

Editor Tawnya Plain Eagle | tplaineagle@cjournal.ca

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