Dr. Nadia Lopez Talks Upcoming Brooklyn ‘Hair Fest’ Designed For Youngsters

Dr. Nadia Lopez Talks Upcoming Brooklyn ‘Hair Fest’ Designed For Youngsters

Dr. Nadia Lopez, founder and former principal of Brooklyn’s Mott Hall Bridges Academy, is breaking more ground to the bridge to brilliance with “Hair Fest”

From global TED talks and college lectures to building a platform for educators, Lopez leads a legacy for being a disruptor of the education system and unapologetically advocating on behalf of educators and marginalized children. She is aware of the costs and yet she holds a superpower that incites love, wellness, and healing above all else. As an award-winning global thought leader, who is redefining education, Lopez wants to prepare our youngsters for life.

Today, the marathon continues.

On Saturday, June 3, Bridge to Brilliance, a non-profit organization created in 2020 by Lopez and Monique Achu, presents Hair Fest. Celebrate hair, culture, and community for free at PS 11,  The Purvis J. Behan Elementary School, located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Register here.

What began with a safe space for young girls to share the root of their pain spawned additional programs geared towards young boys and the public. Now, all genders from K-12 as well as the community can come through for a weekend activation.

Ahead of the event, Lopez told BLACK ENTERPRISE that Hair Fest is a labor of love for educators, students, and parents. Classrooms will be filled with opportunities to discover what’s possible for them in various fields, including leadership, entrepreneurship, wellness, storytelling, and art. Representation matters.

“Self-esteem dictates how they present themselves often times in our school,” Lopez explained to BE, adding that she would embrace students who “project their hurt about how they feel look to the world.”

“We need to teach our children advocacy. We need to teach them how to have a voice to stand up for the things that they believe in and how to be disruptors and game changers.”

Courtesy of Dr. Nadia Lopez

A celebration of crowns

From relaxers to black and blue color rinses, Lopez can recall exactly where her hair story begins.

“My cousins and I, for hours, would just love on each other doing each other’s hair. It would take all day. We did that for each other. We didn’t have haircare products that would really maintain your hair or your natural curl pattern. So we did what we could with what we had. And I just missed seeing that with young people. They’re by themselves trying to figure it out.”

In the spirit of sisterhood, the upcoming festival is not all about hair. As a principal, Lopez recalled what a difference it made by having black rubber bands in her desk or by understanding how bad hair days affected a student’s attitude.

“When I became a principal and I noticed that our girls couldn’t afford to do certain things but they weren’t leaning on each other to help each other out. It made me sit down with them so I could tell them the stories about what it was like for me and my cousins,” Lopez recounted.

A celebration of community

There is power in numbers. In fact, Lopez is proud to have leaned on an intentional community to kick off the festival she calls a love letter. Natural hair care brands and organizations have even stepped up to join and contribute through workshops, book donations and more generosity. Some of the participating brands include Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern, Kreyol Essence, Palmer’s, and more.

“We’re not one of the bigger names but we do have big impact,” Lopez said proudly.

Powerful trailblazers will also share their expertise while representing for the young girls and boys who aspire to follow their dreams. They include Natural hair “Master Pioneer” Diane Bailey, Ylorie Taylor, Vice President of Eden Bodyworks, Natasha Gaspard, founder of Mane Moves Media, Sabrina Boissiere, founder of Natural Partners in Crime, and former NYS Assmebly member Tremaine Wright, who spearheaded and co-sponsored the CROWN Act in getting passed in New York.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Nadia Lopez

A celebration of culture

Culture influences a child’s development from the moment they’re born. Parents and educators have the power to disrupt the school to prison pipeline. Hair Fest is just another opportunity to learn how to create much needed connections that are open, honest and inspiring for the purpose of educating youth of color the perseverance and resilience–overcoming obstacles of daily life.

“The suicide rate for our young people, especially boys and girls, who are Black have increased exponentially,” Lopez said. “It’s really because of how the media makes them feel like they are not worthy. We always see the images of us getting slayed, our curriculum not getting incorporated, us not getting represented.”

She added: “The rejection is often for your protection.”

Lopez challenges educators to actively engage in social and emotional learning because “everyone one of us is a bridge that could be a connection for our young people to manifest their brilliance.”

Hair Fest is also designed with families in mind because it aims to foster intergenerational conversations within the home. Lopez is a proud mom who loves sharing experiences with her daughter. She told BE that she has designs most of her programs with her daughter in mind and through the eyes of her inner child.