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Portrait of a beautiful African American teenager

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Social distancing has proven exceedingly difficult for those of us who love to keep our hair and nails done. As we’re now unable to keep our weekly, bi-weekly or monthly appointments, some Black women are freaking out, looking rough and there are some folks who are violating rules of social distancing, sneaking into people’s homes to have someone tend to our tresses.

But for those of us who don’t want to come out of quarantine looking an absolute mess—but also don’t want to break the rules, there’s an additional option for you.

You can take a class with Niani Barracks, from Detroit.

According to Blavity, Barracks is teaching a course called, “A Safe Space for Black Girls that Never Learned How to Braid.” Initially, the course was to be taught in person for women who wanted to learn how to style their child’s hair. But due to the spread of coronavirus , Barracks had to shift.

She told Blavity, “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. 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?’”

The title of the course speaks to the fact that there is often an assumption that Black women naturally know how to braid. Hence the reasons Barracks dubbed it a safe space.

“The idea of a ‘safe space’ is a very well-known concept and a place where people can go without being judged or hurt. In coming up with the name, 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.”

To teach her class, Barracks created a private Facebook group and started live streaming from there, though she was nervous the first time around.

“I only had about 30 registered students, and I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I was nervous because I have never done anything like this before. 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.”

Eventually her students grew from 30 to 500 across various regions of the country. Unlike her classes in person, students online are able to share their work and get immediate feedback. But in addition to learning a skill, students are also in community with their children and each other.

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. I have moms who said their children were almost grown but if they could pick up this skill and still have the chance to experience that connection with their child they would be forever grateful.”

Barracks said the meeting of these women has meant the world to her and has been life changing. She said, “I want to continue to offer this space and continue to watch, not only the space grow, but my students grow.”

Barracks classes meet twice a week on Thursday nights at 9 pm EST and 1 p.m. EST on Saturdays. You can sign up or donate to her cause, here.

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