KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — What started as an idea to connect Black women together on the campus of Kalamazoo College has grown into much more.
Udochi Okorie started Sister Circle when she was a sophomore at K College. She’s now a rising senior and says the group has grown into much more than she could have imagined.
“When COVID happened I didn’t want [Sister Circle] to end because we had such a good response so we moved to online meetings which we still had a good outcome there so that’s when we started to try to find ways that we can impact you know, Kalamazoo College and the community,” Okorie said.
She said one of her biggest dreams was to host something for young Black girls to help them love and respect their own beauty and not look at other beauty standards.
“All of these thoughts and feelings around our hair starts very young because the reason is that we aren’t taught the differences between why my hair looks like this and someone else’s hair looks like that and why people are more to tell you that your hair looks beautiful when it’s straight than when it’s in its natural way.”
Sister Circle began reaching out to Kalamazoo area schools in the spring about a Love Your Natural Hair program for K through 12 students. El Sol and Woodward were the first to jump on the opportunity, coordinating panels that other schools could also take part in. The virtual conversations focused on different hair types, styles, products and how social media impacts our idea of beauty.
“It was amazing. The students were engaged, the parents were engaged, and the teachers were engaged. Everyone was very actively learning and asking questions and trying to understand the difference between their hair type and other people’s hair type. It was really overwhelming in a positive way because it was the outcome I was looking for and it just let me know that this was necessary, and this was needed.”
Okorie believes that although this conversation is growing, it’s not being talked about enough in schools.
“I didn’t have that, most of the women that I talk to didn’t have this either so that means it’s not being talked about,” she said. “It’s crucial to self-love and self-esteem in a young Black woman and in order for them to be able to not have to conform themselves when they want to go to a professional environment which can lead to a lot of other problems of self-identity issues.”
Okorie hopes to host more sessions in the future. The overarching goal of Sister Circle, she says, is to push through generational traumas, so looking to the future her goal is to work with area high schoolers and host conversations about the importance of mental health.