A natural Queen

By Yolanda T. Marshall



100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women 2022
Yolanda T. Marshall

Last Saturday, I sat amongst some of the most accomplished Black Women in Canada as a 2022 Honoree. Having the privilege of meeting the Honourable Dr Jean Augustine was the highlight of this congratulatory event. I was featured in a special book that documents, acknowledges, and supports the accomplishments of Black Canadian women.

Co-Authored by Hon. Dr Jean Augustine, Dauna E Jones-Simmonds and Dr Denise O’Neil Green.

The book 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women 2022 presents the stories with the intent to inspire and uplift.  It speaks to various audiences as it reflects and honours the achievements and contributions of these 100 women. We hope that this book will be used as an educational tool.” – 100 ABC Women.






Jean Augustine


On the topic of accomplished women, here is my recent interview with a natural Queen, Ndija Anderson-Yantha. She is one of the most accomplished women I know.

 What is the inspiration behind “What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?

Ndija Anderson

I have been natural my whole life. When I was young, my sister and I used to get teased for being natural, mainly because our mother would braid our hair into intricate traditional African cornrowed and threaded hairstyles. Our parents wanted us to love and accept our hair in its natural state, so much so that they had a rule that we could not get a perm until we were 16—a rule that, admittedly, I wouldn’t say I liked when I was in grade school and middle school—but by the time I got to 16, I decided that I loved my hair the way it was, and chose not to perm it. When I started my undergraduate studies in 2006 at Spelman College, a historically Black college for women, I was astounded by how few of my Spelman sisters were natural (I could count how many students were honest in my cohort on my two hands!) I ended up inspiring and then helping some of my classmates to transition their hair; I did their braids and taught them how to manage their various textures—some of them had never even felt the actual texture of their hair because they were so young when they first got their perms—and that really bothered me! So, when I was allowed to apply for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which would award recipients with a USD 25,000 grant to travel anywhere in the world for a year to pursue a passionate research project, I knew exactly what my proposal would be about: Black hair.


In 2006, I was selected as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, and my research project, “Braiding: Traditional Art, Esthetic Service, or Cultural Expression?” led me to travel to seven countries (Australia, Japan, India, Egypt, Senegal, Brazil, and Jamaica) to learn about the perception and significance of Black natural hairstyles (i.e., braids and locs) in both Black and non-Black societies. A large, traditional Canadian publisher approached me to write a children’s non-fiction book about braided styles, which I worked on during law school. Unfortunately, that publisher was bought out by a U.S. company; nevertheless, I knew that it was imperative for me to share my research for the sake of Black children (and Black people, for that matter), whose hair is continually being scrutinised and policed in our society.

What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair

When I found myself out of work in 2014, I decided to rewrite the book, and then I self-published it because when I tried to pitch the idea to other publishers, I was told that there “wasn’t a market” for the content, or that they “didn’t have the expertise” for the topic. Ironically, people fear what they don’t understand; and, in my book, I purposefully wanted to situate our hairstyles historically, geographically, and sociologically because I wanted Black children and other readers to learn why our hair is the way it is, why we wear it the way we do, why folks don’t like it, and why we shouldn’t care! I wrote the book I wish I had growing up—people were always asking me, “What are you going to do with that hair? Why don’t you perm it?”—and I grew tired of always having to defend my styling choices and, in essence, having to assert my right to celebrate my African heritage. I wanted Black children to know that our hair is different, but that’s what makes it so unique, and it’s something to be celebrated and not denigrated.

What message would you want to share with children and parents learning to embrace the beauty of their natural hair?

 As African descendants learn to embrace the beauty of our natural hair, I want us to truly apprehend that Black is indeed beautiful and that we should hold our heads up with pride, recognising that this kinky, coily hair is nothing short of divine!

Visit https://thenaturalhairadvocate.com/ to learn more about Ndija Anderson-Yantha.