Tennessee mom of two Brittany Starks knows firsthand the added stress that comes with being a single parent during back-to-school time. To ease the burden, she offered to braid kids' hair for free in her community.

Advertisement
An image of Brittany Starks and her daughter's hair that she has braided.
Credit: Courtesy of Brittany Starks.

Black parents know that starting the school year with their kids' hair in a braided style goes well beyond cutting down the time it takes to get ready for school in the morning. Brittany Starks, a single mom of two in Antioch, Tennessee, wanted "what will I do with the children's hair" to be one less question and cost on the list of back-to-school worries for her fellow single moms.

Like many parents, Brittany Starks was uncertain about adjusting to an in-person school year during the pandemic. Starks works three jobs and has experienced housing insecurity. She knows firsthand that back-to-school season brings relief but also overwhelm. 

When a family friend surprised her by providing school clothes and supplies for her children, she realized just how small, unexpected acts of kindness can have a huge impact. Because quality braids cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars and can take several hours, she decided that donating her braiding skills would be her way of giving back.

Her struggles were common. Her willingness to get to work helping others was extraordinary.  

"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," she posted on August 4th, in a local Hip Antioch community support group on Facebook. Starks' evenings and weekends filled quickly — and until they overflowed.  

"I thought it was going to be five to seven kids, but it ended up being 35 kids," she told NPR, saying she's lost count of how many children's hair she's braided since that post. 

Starks noted how after getting their hair braided, the children smiled more and seemed happier compared to when they arrived. "When your hair is cute, I just feel like you feel so much better about everything," she continued. "[If] your hair is done, you feel confident, you go into school with a fresh start — even though COVID-19's bringing everybody down."

Of course, braiding is hard work, and supplies ain't cheap. She realized that to support as many children in the community as possible, she'd have to ask for the community's support. Starks' Gofundme has raised more than 16,000 from 462 donors. The campaign, with contribution amounts ranging from as little as $5 to as much as $500, further illustrates her belief that no good deed is too small to make an impact. Some folks helped financially; others donated their time. 

Starks and her team of volunteers have done hair in many places, including churches, braiding shops, and in people's homes. Their efforts are the most recent of a long history of Black mothers stepping up to support the larger community as they navigate their own stressors. Supporting the Antioch community through braiding doesn't just help children. Starks knows that through braiding, she's solving several problems at once. She's providing peace of mind by saving parents time and money in an uncertain world. 

For many kids, a cute, braided style is the only thing that feels normal during a pandemic. Starks and the volunteers plan to dedicate one Saturday each month to braiding to continue supporting families in her community. Her biggest hope, however, is that she has inspired others to keep the kindness going.