Detroit hairstylist Niani Barracks has a digital cure for Black girls who don’t know how to braid.
"A Safe Space for Black Girls that Never Learned How to Braid" was originally designed to be an in-person class for parents who want to learn how to style their children’s hair.
“With the spreading of COVID-19, the schools closed down and I knew that working in the salon was not going to be a possibility for me anymore because I have two children,” she told Blavity.
“This was a major loss of income for me, and anxiety began kicking in. I needed to come up with something fast while still doing something that I love, so I thought ‘why not teach the class online?'”
She knew there is a stigma against Black women who can’t braid hair so she was determined to create a judgment-free zone &“A Safe Space for Black Girls that Never Learned How to Braid” was born.
“The idea of a ‘safe space’ is a very well-known concept and a place where people can go without being judged or hurt,” Barracks explained.
“I thought about the fact that many Black women may feel shame or embarrassment for not knowing how to braid, so I wanted to offer them a place they could come where they could learn.”
Barracks created a private Facebook group & began to livestream in the space. She was admittedly nervous about the first session, but those jitters disappeared after she spotted some familiar faces.
“Once I started the live video and saw that some of the students were friends and clients, it helped build my confidence and eased my nerves.”
The number soon ballooned to 500 students throughout multiple time zones. Ironically, Barracks’ digital classes are more hands-on than her in-person classes.
Her students excitedly share their work in the group and interact with each other. Barracks’ classes aren’t solely for skills — they filled a hole in the community.
“I have a lot of students who are mothers who wanted to share the experience of doing their child’s hair. It’s a special bond, and so many women yearned for this connection,” the mother-of-two said.