Tennessee girl’s request leads app to add Black hairstyles

Freckle, an education platform, says it used Morgan Bugg's illustrations for guidance after she shared her experiences with the app maker

An educational app has responded to the request of a 7-year-old Tennessee student by adding hairstyle options for Black girls to its avatars, The Tennessean reported.

Last month, Morgan Bugg, of Brentwood, was using the Freckle app as a part of her online, first-grade curriculum. The app gives students the opportunity to win coins while completing math and reading activities. But when Morgan went to redeem her coins and create her own avatar, she saw no hairstyle options for Black female students like her.

“I felt kind of sad and jealous that there wasn’t any girl hair for me,” Morgan told the newspaper. “So then I just got off the store, and I was really mad.”

(Adobe Stock Image)

Teacher Kelley Anne Joyner noticed Morgan’s frustration and asked what was wrong.

“She had some heartfelt tears,” Joyner said. “She then said that it’s not fair that they have one Black boy hair, but they don’t have any Black girl hair.”

Joyner asked her, “What can we do to fix it?”

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Morgan suggested they ask Freckle to add Black girl hair options and drew a picture with several examples. Joyner sent Morgan’s illustrations and a message requesting more hair options to Freckle’s support team. At first she just received an automated reply, but a month later she got a response that Freckle had added Black girl hairstyles to the app, saying it used Morgan’s illustrations for guidance.

Joyner, Morgan and Morgan’s twin sister, Ellie, celebrated with the rest of their class and discussed the fact that it only takes one person raising their voice to create change. Renaissance, the creator of the Freckle app, says on its website that it works with over 900,000 teachers across 50 states.

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Morgan and Ellie’s mother, Maya Bugg, said she hopes Freckle and others see that “representation matters,” whether it be in a game, an educational platform, or the teams creating them.

“You need to make sure that all students feel welcomed,” she said, “and, it seems like something small, but if children are using a program and it’s mandatory to use that program, they should be able to see themselves represented.”

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