Travel & Culture

TikTok Celebrates Black History Month With Zahra Hassan

February 7, 2024

To kick off its Black History Month programming, TikTok is featuring some amazing content creators as part of its 2024 #BlackTikTok Visionary Voices List, featuring honourees from industries across music, entertainment, beauty, fashion, health and wellness, education and more. We chatted with Visionary Voice Zahra Hassan, a creator from Toronto who combines her passion for teaching and fashion through her authentic teacher outfit videos. With her creative flair and dedication to education, she uses her platform to inspire fellow educators and students alike, demonstrating the power of self-expression through fashion in the classroom. Through her videos, she brings a unique blend of style and pedagogy, making learning a truly engaging experience for all. —Vita Daily

Please tell us a bit about yourself to start (first/last names, pronouns, some personal
background/details, etc.)!

I’m Zahra Hassan, and my pronouns are she/her. I come from a vibrant first-generation Canadian background, which has instilled in me a deep appreciation for diversity and cultural exchange. Professionally, I’m an educator with a passion for creating inclusive learning environments where every student can thrive. Outside of work, I indulge my love for fashion, exploring how it intersects with culture and self-expression. Overall, I’m committed to making a positive impact in both education and the fashion world, embracing the richness of my heritage along the way.

How did you achieve (and continue to grow) your TikTok audience?

I’ve found that the key to growing my TikTok audience has been staying true to myself and sharing my authentic journey. My TikTok page is like my digital diary, where I document and share the beautiful moments and challenges of my life as an educator. By being genuine and transparent, I’ve been able to connect with a wide audience who resonate with my experiences.

Moreover, I believe in the power of representation. Just by showing up every day as myself in my role as an educator, I provide a sense of visibility and representation for others who may have longed to see someone like them in this space. This authenticity and representation have fostered a strong sense of community on my TikTok page, allowing me to connect with other educators from around the world who share similar passions and challenges.

Ultimately, it’s about being consistent, genuine, and passionate about what I do. By continuing to share my journey and connect with others, I’m able to grow not just my TikTok audience, but also my impact as an educator and advocate for representation and inclusivity in education.

What do you like about TikTok as a platform, especially in terms of how you can use it to
influence and inspire those that follow you, and to create social change?

What I love about TikTok is its authenticity and inclusivity. Unlike other social media platforms where there’s pressure to curate a picture-perfect feed, TikTok allows creators to be themselves without worrying about aesthetics. It’s a space where you can organically post and showcase your personality, allowing for genuine connections with your audience.

One of the most powerful aspects of TikTok is its ability to amplify diverse voices and perspectives. I’ve learned so much about social change topics from different viewpoints, perspectives often overlooked by traditional news sources. TikTok provides a platform for marginalized voices to be heard and for important conversations to take place.

As a creator on TikTok, I aim to use my platform to influence and inspire positive change. By sharing my story and perspective authentically, I hope to encourage others to do the same. I believe in the importance of seeing all sides of an issue, especially those voices that have been silenced for far too long. Through TikTok, I strive to create a space where everyone’s voice is valued and heard, contributing to meaningful social change one video at a time.

What topics do you cover/share most? Where do your passions lie?

I cover a variety of topics on my platform, ranging from lessons and classroom resources to insights from classroom conversations and my passion for teaching. Additionally, I often share glimpses of my community work and highlight my unique teacher fashion style, which has garnered recognition from many.

However, what resonates with me the most and where my true passion lies is in sharing conversations from my students in the classroom. This aspect of my content creation journey is particularly meaningful to me because it underscores the idea that students are not passive learners but active participants in their education. By showcasing the diverse experiences and perspectives that my students bring into the classroom, I aim to amplify their voices and demonstrate that learning is a two-way street.

In essence, my passion lies in amplifying student voices throughout my curriculum and creating an inclusive learning environment where every student feels valued and heard. This commitment to centering student experiences shapes not only my content on TikTok but also my approach to teaching in the classroom. It’s a belief that learning is enriched when we embrace the diversity of voices and experiences within our educational communities.

Have you ever had to deal with haters/naysayers on social media? If so, what’s your approach?

Yes, unfortunately, I have encountered haters and naysayers on social media, particularly regarding my sense of style and identity. Some individuals have criticized my fashion choices, labeling them as “unprofessional” or disparagingly associating them with stereotypes of Black culture by using terms like “hood” or “ghetto.” They’ve suggested that such attire shouldn’t be deemed appropriate for the classroom.

In response to these criticisms, I choose to approach the situation with education and introspection. Instead of reacting defensively, I seek to understand the underlying reasons behind their hostility towards my appearance. I encourage them to examine the origins of their perceptions of professionalism and to question why certain styles are deemed acceptable while others are not.

It’s essential to recognize that the policing of Black identity and representation is a systemic issue rooted in historical biases and systemic racism. By challenging these norms and advocating for the acceptance of diverse expressions of identity, we can foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

This is precisely why I’ve chosen to start my social media page—to showcase that educators come from diverse backgrounds and appearances, and we are all capable of making a positive impact in our communities. By amplifying the voices and achievements of educators who look like me, I hope to inspire others and challenge harmful stereotypes. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to a more inclusive and accepting educational landscape where everyone’s identity is celebrated and valued.

What have been some of the highlights of being so prominent on TikTok been for you?

One of the most rewarding aspects of being prominent on TikTok has been the recognition and appreciation I’ve received, both locally and from my audience. Being recognized by local news outlets for the work I do has been incredibly validating and humbling, as it highlights the impact I’ve been able to make within my community.

However, perhaps the biggest highlight for me has been the heartfelt messages I receive from young girls who look like me. Hearing how much they love my page and how I’ve inspired them with my fashion choices fills me with immense joy and pride. As someone who longed for representation in the media while growing up, being able to provide that representation for others is a full circle moment for me.

These interactions remind me of the importance of visibility and representation. Knowing that I’m making a positive impact and serving as a source of inspiration for young girls who may have felt underrepresented or overlooked is incredibly meaningful to me. It reinforces my commitment to using my platform to uplift and empower others, especially those who share similar experiences and backgrounds.

Overall, the highlights of being prominent on TikTok go beyond recognition and validation—they lie in the connections I’ve forged and the lives I’ve touched. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, and I’m grateful for every moment of it.

February is Black History Month; what is the significance to you, and how are you using your voice to create change, establish community and help people in your community (and others) feel seen and understood?

Black History Month holds immense significance for me as an educator and advocate for social change. It’s an opportunity to not only honor the contributions of historical figures but also to celebrate Black excellence and resilience in the present day. As an educator, I see it as a crucial time to educate my students about the rich tapestry of Black history and culture, while also highlighting the achievements of Black individuals in various fields.

Using my voice during Black History Month extends beyond simply celebrating visual representations of Blackness. I strive to showcase my work with community organizations, share valuable resources, and tell my own story in spaces that welcome me with open arms. By doing so, I aim to amplify the diversity of the Black experience and challenge the notion of a monolithic narrative.

Moreover, I believe in the power of individual stories to create change and establish community. By sharing personal anecdotes and experiences, I hope to foster understanding and empathy among people from all walks of life. It’s about humanizing the Black experience and illustrating that it’s not a collective story but a mosaic of individual journeys, each worthy of recognition and respect.

Ultimately, my goal during Black History Month and beyond is to help people in my community and beyond feel seen, understood, and valued. It’s about using my platform to uplift voices that have been historically marginalized and to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society. Through education, storytelling, and community engagement, I strive to create positive change and establish connections that transcend boundaries of race and identity.

With so many people following you on TikTok, who are some of YOUR favourite accounts to follow?

Some of my favourite accounts to follow include: @by.regiina, @theSandyLion, @itsgivingguidance, and @heymissdomingo.


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