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Photo: Alex Robinson/Unsplash.
A single mom in Nashville offered her hair-braiding skills for free to families that couldn’t afford it. Braids can last for one to two months.

What goes ’round, comes ’round. When a family friend of Brittany Starks spontaneously provided her kids with school supplies and clothes, Starks was moved to use her skills to help other single mothers.

Sydney Page has the story at the Washington Post, “Yulanda Norton was in a bind. Her youngest daughter asked to get her hair braided before the start of school, but Norton couldn’t afford it.

“Norton, who is a nursing assistant in Nashville, lost her job during the coronavirus pandemic, and has been out of work for months. She didn’t have the skills herself to create the hair style, which often costs hundreds of dollars at a salon. But she hoped to have her daughter’s hair braided, as it can last for months and is a huge timesaver in the mornings. …

“Her daughter Janae, 12, who just started sixth grade, yearned for the confidence boost the braids would provide. … Fortunately for Norton, she stumbled upon a Facebook post in a local group from a woman she did not know, offering to braid children’s hair free.

“ ‘Anyone know single parents who can’t afford to get their child’s hair done for school? I will braid it for free! Please DM me,’ Brittany Starks wrote on Aug. 4

“Starks, 29, is familiar with the financial strain of being a single mother. She works three jobs to support her two children, Cayden, 7 and Ceniyah, 9.

“She was compelled to offer her hair braiding services after a family friend spontaneously delivered backpacks full of school supplies, clothing and shoes for Cayden and Ceniyah in early August. …

“The unexpected gift made a big difference to Starks and her children, and it propelled her to pay it forward. Starks, who works two receptionist jobs, also braids hair part-time. Knowing how expensive the service can be — and that it dramatically reduces styling time — she decided to offer her skills to single mothers who were struggling to get their children primed for school. …

“When she wrote the Facebook post, she assumed only a handful of people would reach out, but before she knew it, she had 35 appointments booked. … Her Facebook inbox was suddenly full of messages from single parents, whose stories of hardship and financial challenges mirrored her own.

“ ‘I could really relate to a lot of the women who reached out, and it made me realize that what I was doing was truly important,’ said Starks, who has struggled with homelessness and health challenges.

“Given the overwhelming demand, Starks knew she needed to enlist help.

“Hair braiding takes four to six hours per child, she said, and since there was less than two weeks before the start of school, Starks decided to recruit volunteers to ensure that all 35 children could get their hair done in time for the first day of classes.

“She updated her original Facebook post to ask for helpers. When Donna Garcia, 32, saw Starks’s plea, she immediately offered to assist.

“ ‘She can’t do it alone, she’s only got two hands,’ said Garcia, a mother of four who also braids hair professionally. ‘I let her know I’m willing to help.’ …

‘I like to give back to anyone that needs help,’ Garcia said. When a child gets their hair done, ‘they just feel like a brand-new person, which makes me feel good inside.’ …

“The hair-braiding process involves washing, blow-drying, detangling and finally dividing the hair into small sections and braiding it, Starks explained. The results last one to two months.

“Braiding hair is ‘not an easy task,’ Starks said, adding that it also requires numerous supplies — including combs, brushes, shampoo and conditioner, detangler, mousse, hair jam and additional pieces of hair to weave in — which she paid for out of pocket. …

“When Janae Norton’s hair was finally braided and she looked in the mirror, ‘I felt cute,’ she said. …

“On a recent afternoon, ‘my daughter just yelled out: “Mommy, I’m so proud of you,” ‘ Starks said. ‘The tears were just pouring down. Those words meant everything to me.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Image: India Marshall; iStock; Lily illustration
She woke up from a surgery with her hair perfectly braided. Her black male doctor braids his daughters’ hair; the surprise he gave his patient touched her heart.

The Washington Post has a newsletter called the Optimist that I’m really enjoying. This story about a surgeon who understood what a patient’s hair might mean to her is something the newsletter shared recently. Some folks might find the doctor’s act uncomfortably personal, but the point is his patient didn’t.

Soo Youn writes at the Lily, “For the past couple of years, India Marshall has been contemplating getting another surgery to have bone growths in her head removed. She had already undergone one operation when she was about 20 years old.

“Now 29, and working as a manager in a primary care clinic, Marshall was experiencing more growth from her osteomas. While not dangerous, they can be painful. Several had started to grow on her forehead and between her eyes, making it uncomfortable and annoying when she wore her glasses. She met with a few surgeons about getting them removed. …

“Jewel Greywoode, an ear, nose and throat physician who specializes in cosmetic and functional facial plastic surgery [was] the only surgeon who mentioned going though Marshall’s nose so she wouldn’t be left with scars on her face. The other doctors told her she would need an ear-to-ear incision on her head, and hair might not grow back over the scar. Marshall underwent a successful surgery on June 9. …

“For the first couple days after the surgery, she went in and out of consciousness, her head wrapped. But when her mother and husband took off the bandages to clean the incisions, Marshall noticed that she had more braids in her hair. She went in with two loose braids, but woke up with four or five smaller ones.

‘I remember waking up and there were two black nurses helping me get myself together, helping me get my clothes on to go and I just assumed they did it. I was like, “Who else would have known how to braid?” …

” ‘I loved that whoever did it had thought of it because it was very easy to get to the incisions and clean. My hair wasn’t matted or in the way, and it was just easier for the recovery process,’ Marshall said. …

“On Wednesday, she went in for her last post-op appointment. As Greywoode removed her staples, Marshall says he noticed that she had redone her hair with smaller braids and commented, ‘Oh your braids are better than mine. I hope I didn’t do too bad,’ she recounted. …

“Greywoode told her he has two little girls and he braids and twists their hair. That he participates in the maintenance required for his daughters’ natural hair really moved Marshall.

“ ‘Natural hair is a lot of work,’ she said. … ‘To be honest there are not a lot of dads that [can] help with hair. … It was a very nice gesture and it just spoke to my bigger point of having black doctors and them being able to identify with patients.’

“Greywoode also told Marshall that he chose to staple the opening over suturing, because when you remove stitches, you often have to cut the surrounding hair. … ‘That was another part that showed me that he gets it.’ ”

What Marshall wrote on Twitter @IndiaDionna: “thinking about this black man braiding my hair to prepare to cut my head open is hilarious and endearing at the same time. also the fact that he’s that active in helping his wife with their girls, I love it. moral of the story: find black doctors.”

More here.

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