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Celebrating World Afro Day: Honoring History, Culture, and Identity

World Afro Day is a global celebration that embraces the beauty and significance of Afro-textured hair. This annual event, observed on September 15th, is not just about hairstyles; it's a day dedicated to recognising the history, culture, and identity associated with Afro hair. In this blog post, we'll delve into the rich history of World Afro Day, exploring its origins and the meaningful impact it has on communities worldwide.

The Origins of World Afro Day

World Afro Day was founded by Michelle De Leon, a British hairstylist and entrepreneur, in 2017. Her motivation to create this special day arose from her personal experiences and the desire to address issues related to Afro hair. De Leon's vision was to promote self-acceptance, challenge stereotypes, and encourage positive conversations surrounding Afro-textured hair.

De Leon chose September 15th as the date for World Afro Day for a specific reason. On this day in 2016, the UK Parliament debated a petition calling for the acceptance of Afro hair in schools. This debate marked a significant step towards addressing the discrimination and biases that people with Afro-textured hair often face.

Historical Roots of Afro Hair

The origins of Afro hair can be traced back to Africa, where it has been celebrated for centuries. In African cultures, hair has held spiritual, cultural, and social significance. Elaborate hairstyles often convey one's age, marital status, social standing, and even their tribal affiliation. Intricate braiding techniques and the use of natural oils were common practices to maintain and style Afro-textured hair.

During the transatlantic slave trade, millions of Africans were forcibly taken from their homelands to various parts of the world, including the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. This period marked the beginning of a complex relationship between Afro hair and oppression, as enslaved individuals were stripped of their cultural practices, including traditional haircare and styling. By the 1700s, Black hair was viewed as “nappy”, “wooly”, and “ugly” and this perception continued into modern day.

Despite the negative connotation surrounding natural hair, the Black community began to reclaim the Afro and in the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, natural Afro hairstyles emerged as a symbol of Black pride and resistance. Civil rights activists, such as Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael, embraced their natural hair as a political statement, rejecting Eurocentric beauty standards and affirming their identity. While the Afro became a symbolise of power and resistance within the Black community it was still perceived negatively outside of the community. Unfortunately, the negative perception of Black hair still permeates the Black community as some Black people have internalised these ideologies and actively discourage others from wearing their natural hair.

Despite its cultural significance, Afro hair has faced discrimination and bias. Historically, discriminatory grooming policies and workplace norms often targeted natural Black hairstyles, leading to inequality and bias in various spheres of life. Earlier this year, Jerelle Jules faced discrimination from the Ritz hotel in London after interviewing for the position as a dining reservations supervisor. When Jerelle reached the final rounds of interviews, he was sent the company’s employee grooming policy, dated 2021, said ‘unusual hairstyles’ such as ‘spiky hair, afro styles’ were not allowed.

In a statement from the Ritz, they claim that Jerelle was sent an out of date and incorrect grooming policy adding that it offered an ‘unreserved apology for this error’. This incident is an example of the many ways that Afro and natural Black hairstyles are discriminated against. There is an existing ideology that natural Black hairstyles are unprofessional because of the underlying perception that Black hair is ‘ugly’, ‘messy’ and ‘primitive’.

It is important to point out that in the Equality and Human Right’s Commission guidance on hair discrimination that uniform and appearance policies that ban certain hairstyles, without the possibility for exceptions to be made on racial grounds, are likely to be unlawful. Race is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, which means a person must not be discriminated against because of their hair or hairstyle if it is associated with their race or ethnicity. This includes natural Afro hairstyles, braids, cornrows, plaits and head coverings, amongst other styles.

Despite the examples of work and school discrimination against Afro and natural hair. Over the past couple of years many Black people have embraced their natural hair as the afro and natural hair movement has been popular. The celebration of Black hair is its ability to be diverse and worn in a range of beautiful styles such as locs, braids, weaves and wigs.

The importance of World Afro Day

World Afro Day is not only Global Day of Celebration and liberation for Afro hair and identity. But a campaign to encourage Black people to embrace and reclaim their natural Afro hair and dispels societal pressures to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. Moreover, World Afro Day is of paramount importance as it sheds light on the beauty and significance of Afro-textured hair. This annual celebration serves as a platform to challenge stereotypes, promote self-acceptance, and raise awareness about the historical and cultural context of Afro hair. It empowers individuals to embrace their natural beauty, fostering self-confidence and pride in their unique identity. Moreover, World Afro Day addresses discrimination and biases faced by people with Afro-textured hair, advocating for equal rights and opportunities. By acknowledging the importance of World Afro Day, we contribute to a more inclusive and accepting world, where diversity is celebrated and respected.

What can you do to support World Afro Day

1.Education and Training

Invest in diversity and inclusion training for your employees and HR staff. Make sure they understand the impact of hair discrimination and are equipped to address and prevent it. Here is a great video that explores the history and importance of Black hair

2. Review Workplace Policies

Examine your company's grooming and appearance policies to ensure they do not discriminate against Afro-textured hair or any other natural hairstyles. Revise them if necessary to align with inclusivity.

3. Create Safe Spaces

Ensure that employees have a platform to report incidents of hair discrimination without fear of retaliation. Establish a zero-tolerance policy against such discrimination. The Halo Code provides a proactive framework for employers to adopt to protect employees who come to work with natural and protective hairstyles associated with their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities.

4. Advocate for Change

Join the movement to end hair discrimination by supporting legislative efforts and awareness campaigns. Engage with industry associations and organisations committed to this cause such as the Halo Collective and Dove.

5. Raise Awareness

Use your company's platform and resources to raise awareness about World Afro Day and the importance of ending hair discrimination. Encourage open discussions on this issue within your workplace.


Afro hair is not just hair; it carries the weight of history, culture, and identity. World Afro Day is a powerful movement that has made significant strides in promoting diversity, inclusivity, and self-love. By recognising the historical and cultural significance of Afro-textured hair, this annual celebration empowers individuals to embrace their natural beauty and fosters a more inclusive society where everyone can be proud of their unique identity. As we celebrate World Afro Day, let us continue to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and work towards a world where Afro-textured hair is celebrated, respected, and protected.


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