We often talk about the influence that the media and the outside world has on today’s children, but what about what they see at home and in their own lives? This year mother-of-two, Heather Burris, is taking an obstacle every mother raising a Black daughter faces, and turning it into a teachable moment for everyone.
In a Eurocentric world with Eurocentric standards of beauty, one of the common themes is that straight hair is beautiful. It’s everywhere – the actresses have it, the models have it, the cartoons have it – and if you’re paying attention like four-year-old Autumn Burris is, it’s the common denominator between “princess hair” and her mother’s.
After watching Autumn fuss with brushes in her own hair trying to emulate Burris’s grooming, Burris realized she had some very close eyes on her.
“So for a long time I just did twist sets, and twist outs and I wasn’t really liking them…and with Autumn just watching me it felt like more of an urgency and a priority. So I said I’m going to cut it, and I scheduled an appointment. The first available was May 10th, or something like that, and so I went and then i realized, ‘Oh, this is Mother’s Day!”’ said Burris, “And after the fact, I was thinking…‘That’s what motherhood is really about,’” said Burris.
She later went on to share the story with friends and family on her Facebook page saying that she would do anything for her daughter, including cutting her hair.
“And if I could say a post of mine went viral, that might have been the one,” said Burris. The showers of likes and love also came with praises and the suggestion that this would make for a good book. And thus, Just Like Me, was born. Just Like Me is a children’s book, promoting a positive self-image, while providing representation for young girls through telling her own story.
For illustrations, Burris reached out to a local woman from her church, Ariel Mendez. Mendez had just completed a kickstarter for her first book, Fear and A Friend, available on Amazon.
“She approached me and asked me about my experience with illustrating books, Kickstarter, publishing, and if I could help her with that process,” said Mendez. “She had been following my art since 2016.” The two have been friends since 2012, and have since shared two pregnancies together.
They started a Kickstarter for the children’s book three weeks ago, and have received an overwhelming amount of support – exceeding their goal with a total of 92 backers and counting. Backers pledging $50, $25, and $10 will receive two signed copies, one signed copy, and an eBook respectively.
With the book’s attention rapidly growing, it’s possible the book could go beyond its original purpose – empowering young Black girls to see their own beauty, to inspiring mothers to also be personal figures of natural beauty.
“I’m excited about what could come, and if this does turn into a movement, then sure. But what I’m happy about is that it’s putting more messages out about being an example to children – not just teaching them to be an example but being the example, living the example,” said Burris, “I never imagined I’d be an author and so dreaming big for this is completely new to me…so imagining inspiring a movement is so grandiose right now to me.”
Burris would recommend other mothers do the big chop, too, not just for their little ones, but for themselves.
“We put so much confidence in our hair. It was really freeing to me to know that regardless I’m beautiful – as a person, in my spirit, in my face, with hair, without hair,” said Burris. And as for Autumn, “She was really excited about my hair. And periodically she makes comments about her hair looking like me, like, ‘Mommy, we look alike,” or ‘Mommy, that’s my hair.
In just these few short months since her first haircut, Burris has already begun to see the changes in her daughter, “She doesn’t talk about princess hair anymore. Which is good in one way, because part of what I wrote in the book is recognizing that princess hair looks different and anybody can have princess hair,” said Burris.
Supporters have quickly taken to Burris and her story.
“Self-love is something that we are taught, and learn from watching those around us. This book exemplifies the importance of that impact of that lesson,” said supporter, Brenna Hariston.
Kickstarter backers are scheduled to receive their copies around the 2018 Holiday Season. The Kickstarter, Just Like Me – A Natural Hair and Beauty Story for Children,” will be accepting backers through September 30, 2018.