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Nonprofit does photo shoot for 6-year-old who couldn't wear locs at Avondale school

WCPO_Asten_photoshoot.jpg
Posted at 3:32 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 17:39:29-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — A nonprofit celebrated a Colerain Township family who chose to take their son out of an Avondale school that wouldn’t allow him to wear his hair in locs.

Nate and Tina Johnson's 6-year-old son, Asten, had been enrolled at Zion Temple Christian Academy for the past three years with no issue – but when they reached out to enroll their 3-year-old, they were told both boys were not allowed to have locs.

The Art of Confidence Project celebrated Asten and his locs on Tuesday with a photo shoot at Studio 821 in Newport.

Jermaine Horton, president of the Art of Confidence Project, said the group’s mission is to empower young people.

“We want to restore this amazing young man's confidence and let him know that his hair is beautiful as it is and that he should not be judged by it,” Horton said.

Last month, the Johnsons decided to remove Asten from Zion Temple Christian Academy after the school sent out an email saying "hair must be cut one inch short” and that braids and design cuts for boys are also banned.

Tina Johnson said she made the call because she doesn’t want her son to feel like he has to fit into a certain mold.

“Everything his dad does, he wants to be like him,” she said. “He wants to emulate him in many ways, and the hair is just one of those ways. So, for me to teach him now that he has to change to fit into an environment is not something I’m willing to teach him at six.”

Horton said the Art of Confidence Project heard Asten’s story and wanted to do something special for him.

“It's unfortunate that this is a predominately Black school that ultimately tells our children … ‘Hey, that’s a little bit too Black,’ or they are not even understanding the culture of their parents and the reason why they grow their dreads,” Horton said.

The group has traveled around the country taking photos for young people who have experienced some type of adversity.

“They are the next generation of change, so if we can get their confidence where it needs to be, and have them feel that they can be empowered, and they can do anything, and that they matter, then they are going to be the ones who lead our country to where it needs to be,” Horton said.

WCPO reached out to Zion Temple Christian Academy for comment.