A well-groomed child may become more confident and eager to walk through the doors of a school on the first day, but adults who feel the economic sting of inflation may struggle to budget for a student’s haircuts and hairstyles. Covering the expense may be even more challenging, especially for low-income families.
Diesha Contee is an Annapolitan who understands that hair styling may not appear on a class supply list, but it is a school-related cost that often sparks budgetary concerns for parents. Contee is an active community volunteer who is helping fellow Annapolitans worry a little less about issues like these during the pandemic.
“I was thinking of ways that I can help with what would be beneficial to the children, so I thought of a braidathon because a lot of people weren’t able to send their kids back with their hair done, so that’s what really made me go that route. Now I added the barbers in for the little boys,” Contee said. “Last year we were able to service 85 children.”
This year, braiders are volunteering to braid hair for youth at the event, or at another scheduled time in a home setting. Most braiders hail from Annapolis. A few barbers will be traveling from Baltimore to lend a hand.
“I have 27 braiders, two locticians, and I should have two or three barbers,” Contee said, referring to the next braidathon event.
Contee even thought of approaching businesses she patronizes to thank volunteer braiders with gifts of gratitude last year, such as a free massage or facial. Boys and girls who were waiting for their hair braiding appointment could also engage in activities, or eat, in addition to adults who provided their generous gifts of talent, time, and desire to give back by helping children prepare for school.
The idea to bringing the hair grooming resource to Annapolis arose because Contee noticed that some individuals in Baltimore hosted braiding events at any time. She felt that hosting a back-to-school braidathon event would be beneficial, so she implemented her idea with a twist.
On August 28, 2022, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., a second Braid-A-Thon will be held at the American Legion, located 1707 Forest Dr., in Annapolis, Md., for first to twelfth graders. Participating children must arrive with washed and blow-dried hair, upon arrival. Braiders will provide free cornrow and feed-in styles. Barbers will assist boys with grooming needs by providing their haircuts. All students who want their hair braided or cut must be signed up in advance. Attendees must wear masks at the event.
Contee has a passion to help other families and individuals during holidays and throughout the year. She cooks, provides holiday baskets, hosts Easter egg events, and has provided other school-related events in the past.
“I’m from Annapolis, so I really care about [people] here,” Contee said. “It’s so many people have children, but they don’t have the capacity to really pour into the kids to nurture them, and just be there or do things with them on a physical level.”
Contee, who is a mother herself, stays busy working multiple jobs for several organizations as a community navigator and caring for son. It does not deter her from giving back and mobilizing others to get things done.
Curtis Jones, Post Commander of the American Legion Cook-Pinkney Post 141, has supported Contee by providing event space there. Contee credits him with “welcoming her with open arms” and “never asking for a dollar from her.”
Jemia Jamison is a fellow parent who has been assisting Contee with on-site event set up and donations. The mother also began helping Contee. She mentioned that some braiders attempt to accommodate the kind of preferred style a child likes. As a result, youth often leave the event feeling satisfied.
“I thought it [ the braidathon ] was a very good idea because a lot of people in the Black community struggle as far as getting their kid’s hair done on time because of financial issues,” Jamison said.
Donated supplies such as hair mousse; rattail combs; large hair clips; beads; rubber bands; pre-stretched braiding hair; sandwiches; and other items are being accepted. Volunteers are needed to help separate braiding hair. Contact Contee by sending a message on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/public/Diesha-Contee or via [email protected] Parents who would like to sign children up for a free braiding or barbering service should promptly contact Contee by using the information provided above.