Every struggle or movement will always have a leader or icon.

Zulaikha Patel is one of these icons, who we will remember for advocating the natural hair movement in high schools. The 13-year-old gripped the hearts of South Africans, gaining worldwide attention late last year, when she stood up against hair discrimination in Pretoria Girls High. Many dubbed her as the millennial symbol of black consciousness, who acted against white supremacy.

Patel was among the many young girls who refused to abide by unjust rules that penalised students for their natural hair, as it was deemed untidy. A rule that has been adhered to by many high schools around South Africa. Refusal to remove the rule transformed into a fight against “systematic racism” that other pupils in different schools began to take part in.

Now, the young Patel finds herself as a symbol of struggle against systematic racism, even outside the borders of South Africa. She has since been celebrated on many platforms, a noteworthy feature of her being in a mural in Brooklyn, New York by artist Lexi Bella.

Patel’s mural was created in February as it is Black History Month, which celebrates African American History. In an Instagram post, the artist Bella said Patel is “an amazing young activist who gives me hope,” as she captioned her Instagram post.

@zulaikha.patel.with.thee.afro my #ZulaikhaPatel still giving us hope on #Flushing @thebushwickcollective

A post shared by Lexi Bella (@lexibellaart) on

Patel has been celebrated by artists as she continue to be a symbol of hope.

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