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The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education released a campaign video directed at youth that shattered harmful attitudes surrounding “pelo bueno, pelo malo” — the idea that thin, straight hair is beautiful and afro-textured coils aren’t.

“In the Ministry of Education, no little girl, little boy or grown adult should be discriminated because of their physical appearance. We are committed to guaranteeing the equality in identity,” Marianela Pinales, then director of Gender Equality and Development at the Ministry of Education on the island, said in the video, as young Black and brown boys and girls send similar messages about loving their hair as it is.

The 52-second PSA is long-overdue in the Dominican Republic, one of many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that has held tightly to the white supremacist belief that skin and hair texture that aligns closer to European standards of beauty are both more attractive and deserving of better treatment than those with hues and locks that are darker and thicker.

For that, many on the island and diaspora celebrated the video, including Edith Febles, a respected journalist and natural hair advocate, who aired it on her show, La cosa como es. However, just after the video debut, Febles said Pinales was discharged.

While the Ministry of Education said that Pinales was fired because she missed several recent events — a claim the educator denies — and not because of the video, which some have considered controversial, many find the timing around her termination questionable.

“The timing is very *very* suspicious to say the least,” Amanda Alcántara, the digital media editor at Futuro Media Group, wrote in an article for Latino Rebels.  “Much like the roots of anti-blackness in the country itself, the people in power seem to stop at no cost to maintain white supremacy. This confirms that even as consciousness grows, the problem is systemic.”

On social media, many others have shared similar sentiments.

The campaign, however, is reaching audiences in and outside of the Dominican Republic, where it has the power to challenge beauty ideals and young people’s relationships with their hair.

Read: 6 Afro-Latinas Open Up About What Headwraps Mean To Them

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Study: Police In The Dominican Republic Are Abusing Women Sex Workers With Impunity

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Study: Police In The Dominican Republic Are Abusing Women Sex Workers With Impunity

Sex workers in the Dominican Republic, where the profession is illegal, are vulnerable to violence, but many don’t feel safe reporting these crimes to law enforcement because, in many cases, it’s police officers who are responsible for their abuse.

This month, Amnesty International released a report detailing how law enforcement in the Caribbean country rape and torture women sex workers. The study, harrowingly titled “If They Can Have Her, Why Can’t We,” includes interviews with 46 cis and trans sex workers who discuss the abuse they experienced at the hands of local police.

According to the report, of the 24 cis women interviewed, at least 10 had been raped by law enforcement, several at gunpoint. Similarly, many trans women disclosed being violently mistreated, some even tortured, by officers.

“The interviews reveal how a deeply engrained culture of machismo within the National Police, coupled with intense societal stigma and discrimination and conservative religious values, embolden law enforcement officials to unlawfully abuse their powers and punish women who engage in sex work as a form of social control,” reads the report.

One woman shared her account of being gang-raped by three policemen. In October 2017,  the woman was pulled over by an officer who spotted her waiting for clients when he forced her to enter his police van. There, he and two other patrols started groping the woman and ripping off her clothes.

“I was afraid. I was alone. I couldn’t defend myself. I had to let them do what they wanted with me,” she told Amnesty International. “They threatened me, that if I wasn’t with them they would kill me. They (said) that I was a whore, and so why not with them?”

The woman, whose shocking account influenced the title of the report, said that the officers called her a “bitch,” among other expletives, adding: “They saw me, I guess, and they thought ‘Well, if they (clients) can have her, why can’t we?’”

This mentality isn’t uncommon. The report notes that the government, and society at large, often views sex workers as less than human and are thus “deserving” of the violence they experience.

“The harrowing testimonies that Amnesty International has gathered from the Dominican Republic reveal that police routinely target and inflict sexual abuse and humiliation on women who sell sex with the purpose of punishing and discriminating against them,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said. “Under international law, such treatment can amount to gender-based torture and other ill-treatment.”

While this particular study looked at the problem in the Dominican Republic, Guevara-Rosas says police violence against sex workers isn’t unique to the region but rather follows a pattern of gender-based violence across Latin America and the Caribbean. She calls it an “epidemic” and notes that marginalized women, like sex workers, are at increased risk because of fear arrest.

Read: Mothers, Students And Teachers Protested — And Were Attacked By Police — At Puerto Rico’s May Day March

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11 Ways To Make Your Rizos Grow In The New Year

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11 Ways To Make Your Rizos Grow In The New Year

Now that the holidays are in full swing and we inch closer to the New Year, we can’t help but think of January as a chance at a fresh start. And like every other year before this one, we know we’re going to look back at the past year and roll our eyes the bad decisions we made. And we’ll be the first to admit–some of the worst decisions we’ve made in the past year have definitely been hair-related. To over-heating, over-coloring, and falling back into bad habits (some shampoos with sulfates smell so good!), we definitely acknowledge that our hair care routine has some room for improvement.

So in 2019, commit to treating your hair with the kindness that it deserves! In order to help with that commitment, we’ve provided a list of 11 better ways to treat your hair in the New Year. Check them out below!

1. Commit to Less Heat

We know you’re tired of hearing it, but this age-old piece of advice is worth repeating: cut back on heat styling. It’s the number one step you can take if you really want to improve the appearance and overall health of your hair. Now we know cutting out heat styling altogether is unrealistic for many, so instead, pledge to at least cut back in the New Year. Create a plan to wash your hair on the weekend so you don’t have to explain your blow dryer ban on weekday mornings. You can also opt to style your hair in ways that look just as great with wet hair, like braids, buns, and twist-outs. Heat-styling may be a tough habit to break, but we promise, your hair will thank you in 2019.

2. Trim every 6-8 weeks

If you’re Afro-Latina, it’s possible that you grew up being fed the idea that cutting your hair was a big no-no. I remember my mother forbidding me to get haircuts throughout elementary school, as she was afraid it “wouldn’t grow”. We now know that this old wives’ tale couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, when you trim your ends, you preemptively remove the most delicate part of your strands (the ends), and leave in its place the newer, stronger part of the strand. By cutting away your brittle ends, you can prevent your ends from splitting further up the shaft. And contrary to popular belief, end breakage is actually the primary culprit behind your lagging length gains.

3. Protect Your Hair While You Sleep


It may seem like overkill, but there’s a reason that sleeping on satin, whether it be hair bonnets or pillowcases, has suddenly become all the rage. The reason behind this is that traditional cotton pillowcases cause friction between the hair shaft and the pillow. And repeated friction = breakage. Satin pillowcases and bonnets are a great alternative because, unlike cotton pillowcases, satin texture isn’t as rough and isn’t as absorbent. That means satin sucks less moisture from your hair during sleep. If, like me, you can’t stand snoozing with anything other than your own hair on your head, go with a satin pillowcase. It’s less annoying and just as effective!

4. Use Leave-In Conditioner Every Day


That’s right: Every. Day. Many women of color–and Afro-Latinas especially–struggle with retaining moisture at their ends due to the curlier pattern of their hair texture. And although weekly deep-conditioning is a great way to give your hair a one-time mega-dose of moisture, it’s the daily upkeep that will keep it consistently hydrated. A daily leave-in conditioner can be exactly the extra step you need to keep your hair soft and strong. Remember when using a leave-in conditioner to pay special attention to the very ends of your strands, as they’re the part of your hair that’s most in need of moisture.

5. Use At-Home Hair Masks


Yes, they’re fun to whip up in the cocina, but DIY hair masks also work! Raid your kitchen cabinet for everything from avocado to coconut oil to offer your hair a little extra love before wash day. Not only are homemade hair masks effective, but they’re usually inexpensive, making it easier for you to commit to a New Year’s resolution of pampering your strands. Look to the internet (or your madre) for the perfect recipe for your hair pattern and texture.

6. Experiment with Protective Styling


Although we live for wash ‘n go’s and the occasional silk press, we know that once in a while, our hair needs an extended rest from the daily wear and tear. In the past, we’ve avoided protective styles because they can sometimes be pricey, and all too often, they’re too time-consuming for our busy schedules. But in 2019, we vow to let our hair get some much-need R&R under Senegalese twists, box braids, micro-braids, and faux locs once every few months.

7. Deep-Condition Every Wash

As young Latina women, our schedules are packed and sometimes it seems that deep-conditioning our hair is just one more thing we need to worry about in an already busy day. Yes, it’s more time-consuming than a quick wash-and-rinse with shampoo and conditioner, but it really makes a difference. Unlike regular conditioners, a proper deep conditioner attaches itself to the hair fiber to provide longer-lasting moisture. And not only does deep-conditioning replenish the lost moisture, but it works to prevent future damage too. And since hydrated hair is equal to healthy hair, it’s essential that you use any chance you get to replenish its moisture.

8. Use Protein Treatments

If your bathroom counter looks like a graveyard for split ends, it may be time to start incorporating protein treatments into your hair care routine. Protein treatments are different from regular deep conditioning because they contain essential amino acids that bind to the hair shaft, making it stronger and less prone to breakage. These treatments are especially effective for Latinas with high-porous strands (i.e. heat and color-damaged). Opt for a protein treatment once a month, but be careful of over-treating. Too many protein treatments can make hair brittle!

9. De-tangle with Care


How many of us have memories of standing in front of the mirror before school while our mothers roughly dragged a hairbrush through our tender little heads? Well, turns out, that method of detangling is a big no-no. Not only can it cause breakage to your ends, but it can pull out perfectly healthy strands from the root. The best way to detangle is to use a wide-tooth comb and either hair oil or a leave-in conditioner. In the shower after shampooing, saturate your hair with conditioner and detangle again with a wide-toothed comb. After you shower, apply a leave-in conditioner first and wait until your hair is semi-dry before detangling again. This method ensures that your hair is always lubricated when you detangle, thus preventing breakage.

10. Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo

When the natural hair movement really took off a few years ago, the number one advice the natural hair community was touting on the internet was this: stay away from sulfate-filled shampoos. There’s a reason for that–sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent that works to strip the hair completely of its natural oils. And while this may be nice for that squeaky-clean feeling after you shower, over time it zaps all moisture out of your hair, leaving dry and frazzled strands. Stick to sulfate-free shampoos most of the time. But, if your hair is feeling cakey and volume-less, go ahead and opt for a shampoo with sulfates once a month as a clarifying treatment.

11. Pamper Your Scalp

If you’re properly moisturizing and hydrating your hair, chances are, you’re going to experience heavy strands sometime in the near future. Moisturizing products can coat the hair and leave stubborn residue. This residue can build up in the scalp, clogging hair follicles and pores and preventing speedy hair growth. You can combat build up by treating yourself to an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse. Known for its clarifying properties, ACV also acts as a mild exfoliant and pH balancer. And if you want to spoil your scalp further, treat yourself to daily scalp massages. Scalp massages increase blood flow and aid in lymphatic drainage, both of which promote hair growth.

Read: Michelle Obama Keeps It Real About ‘Leaning In’ Saying It ‘Doesn’t Work All The Time’

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