If you needed another example of why representation matters, meet Denver special education teacher: Analise Harris. In addition to her day job, Harris is the founder of Curls On The Block, a non-profit organization that uses the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) and combines it with beauty practices to give young girls an opportunity to develop a healthy understanding of self and their capabilities.
"Initially, the program focused on self-esteem from the curly haired girl’s perspective and needs. I realized that all of my activities and discussions could be enhanced by incorporating specific and explicit content connecting to science, tech, engineering, art or math," Harris said to 303 Magazine.
The program is designed for elementary school aged girls up to high school aged young ladies. Harris wanted to create this safe space for girls of color because over the years, as a teacher, she has witnessed circumstances which she believes could have been prevented if "cultural relevance and understanding" were put into play.
In addition to Curls On The Block semester or year-long programming that could be contracted by schools, a huge component of the organization is their Miss Curly Self-eSTEAM pageant.
"I believe that the pageant is ideal in order to accomplish all the goals of COTB and help raise funding. The pageant has three segments — cultural appreciation, healthy/active lifestyles and the STEAM connection where the contestants describe their idea, product or service addressing the needs of the curly hair community. Participation in the pageant requires a great deal of confidence and self-esteem which is precisely what the curriculum is created to increase," Harris shared.
The pageant was created to "provide an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the beauty of culture, kinks, curls and even frizz." It includes four segments: Cultural Appreciation, Healthy and Active Lifestyles, Talent and STEAM Connection. The divisions for the pageant range from ages 5 to 26+ and create engagement in fields where women, specifically women of color, are underrepresented.
PHOTO: 303 Magazine
Curls On the Block will be participating in the Natural Hair Expo on October 20-21 with community partners to allow contestants a chance to display their projects the day before they compete in the pageant. Harris describes the experience as "participants (having) a science fair project and curly pageant rolled into one."
To learn more about the program and how you could participate, click here to visit their site.
Ready. Set. Boss. Our daily email is pouring out inspiration with the latest #BlackGirlBossUp moments, tips on hair, beauty and lifestyle to get you on track to a better you! Sign up today.