This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, February 2022.

When Danielle Townshend moved from Tennessee to California, she discovered that her children were the only Black students in their classroom. Seeing a need for community and culturally relevant lessons, she devised a solution. As a former beautician with a passion to nurture community, she put her talents to work to create programming that increases the confidence of Black girls inside and outside of the classroom.

Curls, Coils & Crowns (CCC) offers a 15-lesson culture-based curriculum that concentrates on five pillars. Girls who complete the program’s entirety receive a beauty pageant quality crown at the end of the course.

Throughout the coursework, girls explore historical and present-day women in their culture, reminding them that they are all queens. They are taught to take pride in and cherish their identity while learning conflict resolution, peer counseling and how to thrive while facing modern-day challenges. Natural beauty is a key component of the programming, teaching girls how to care for their skin, hair, and health.

“Black girls live in a world that tells them that they are already less than,” Townshend said. “There are certain nuances that are overlooked because they don’t have someone in front of them telling them they will be successful.”

CCC provides programming in school and after school in the San Bernardino and Rialto Unified School Districts. Sessions last for one hour once a week for 6 to 30 weeks, depending on the needs of the students. Community workshops are also available throughout the Inland Empire and are tailored to the age and needs of the participants.

According to Townshend, Black girls are six times more likely to be expelled from school, three times more likely to be suspended, and four times more likely to be arrested. Less than 10% of the population in the Inland Empire is Black, and a lack of representation can make it difficult for girls to relate, she said.

Something that seems as simple as hair styling can keep girls out of school. One young lady who was helped by the program was consistently absent every other Monday. CCC discovered that these Mondays followed the weekend the girl stayed with a noncustodial guardian who did not know how to style her hair. The organization was able to give her a “survival pack” that included products that made it easier to style her hair and have the confidence to come to class.

Much of the organization’s work is contracted through the school districts. Townshend encourages parents who have girls in school to be more involved and attend meetings where they can vote on the funds spent on programming.

“A lot of times they have lost faith in their school programs,” Townshend said. “When the school brings a program in that is specifically for their little girl, they become more engaged in the school.”

Recently CCC received a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation to support its operations. This allowed CCC to add more staff to increase the organization’s capacity, partner with and learn from other organizations and create stronger systems.

CCC depends on donations to provide “survival packs,” incentives to keep girls engaged, and program supplies.

On Feb 27, from 3 PM to 7 PM, the organization will be holding “Embracing the New in 2022,” a fundraiser in Redlands. This social event for Black women will include live entertainment, food and beverages, and a Queens Panel featuring Dr. J Harrell-Sims, Annyette Royale, and DJ Niara Nuru. Tickets are available for $45.

CCC also welcomes volunteers, particularly Black women willing to share their stories to mentor and inspire girls.

More information: https://www.curlscoilscrowns.com/  or (909) 454-0102

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