Dominican Educator Fired After Premiering PSA Celebrating Natural Hair

Haina, Dominican Republic - 04MAY10 - Beauty class: women style their classmates' hair. Women take vocational classes for beauty, sewing, cooking and candle making at Fundacion Centro Nuestra Esperanza, Center of Our Hope, run by nuns. The center was started to help prostitutes learn skills so they could get out of their business. Now other low-income women also attend the school. PHOTO:  Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor.

Dominican Educator Fired After Premiering PSA Celebrating Natural Hair

The director of the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education is reported to have been discharged for celebrating Blackness and natural hair.

Published March 27, 2019

A brilliant campaign video on behalf of the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education was released via YouTube on Tuesday (March 26). The 52-second PSA centered on young Black and brown boys and girls, with hair that runs the spectrum of 2A to 4C.

“In the Ministry of Education, no little girl, little boy or grown adult should be discriminated because of their physical appearance,” said Marianela Pinales, then director of Gender Equality and Development at the Ministry of Education on the island. “We are committed to guaranteeing the equality in identity.”

“I want to wear my hair in braids or as an afro,” said one youth in the video boasting a low fade, while another suggested naysayers should “live your life and leave my hair alone,” as she whipped her long twists.

According to local journalist Edith Febles, at 5:30 p.m. on the day the campaign was released, Pinales was fired. Febles, an advocate of natural hair and critic in identity politics, later cited “orders from higher ups” as the reason Pinales was discharged.

The PSA, which aimed to destigmatize the good hair vs. bad hair complex – a perpetual myth in places like the Dominican Republic that says straight hair is better or more beautiful than coarse/kinky hair – resonated deeply with many around the Dominican sphere. 

And while Blackness is intrinsic to the whole of Dominican culture and visible in the majority of the island, the eastern side of “Hispaniola” – a shared nation with Haiti – has long fought to undo a history deeply entrenched in the genius of white supremacy and institutionalized racism.

Albeit the Ministry of Education (MineRD) alleges Pinales’ campaign had nothing to do with why she was let go, the flagrantly suspicious timing (as Amanda Alcántara of Latino Rebels suggested) only points at the historical struggle Dominicans have had to endure coming to face with and honoring one's Blackness, all while fighting for the very validation of their existence.

Written by Marjua Estevez

(Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)


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