By Joanna Reid
On Feb. 20 the Black Students United (BSU) organization held an event entitled, “'Don't Touch My Hairrrr' Care!” It was led by treasurer Abby Edwards, a junior nursing major who put together the presentation all about Black hair care. About 25 people were in attendance.
Edwards began the presentation by discussing the long and arduous process of doing Black hair. Many students related to her experience and shared their own about the hair care process. Some said it can take days for them to fully complete a new hairstyle.
Edwards went on to list Black-owned hair care brands versus Black-founded hair care brands. Businesses are considered Black-owned when more than half of the shareholders are owned by Black people. For example, some Black-owned hair care companies are The Doux and Camille Rose. Businesses are considered Black-founded when the company was created by a
Black leader and is still maintained by a Black leader. Related companies mentioned were EDEN Bodyworks and the Madam CJ Walker brand. Unfortunately as Edwards showed in her presentation, many black-owned businesses are being taken over by non-Black stockholders, making them no longer black owned.
Edwards also highlighted the cultural appropriation of Black hairstyles to which numerous students expressed their opinions. It was agreed that the cultural appropriation of Black hairstyles is particularly problematic because Black people are often treated differently due to their hair. Participants said that white people do not have to face the discrimination that comes along with their hairstyle even when they wear a traditionally Black hairstyle. One student in particular mentioned that non-Black people often describe Black hair as “unkempt” and when at work or applying for a job white managers frequently assume that they did not make an effort to look presentable, despite the fact that hairstyles like dreadlocks or braids can take hours. These styles are deeply rooted in culture and tradition, therefore it is seen as offensive when they are worn by people who are not Black.
Additionally, Edwards explained the misconceptions about Black hair care. She wishes more people understood that it’s okay to ask questions as long as the questions are respectful and stem from an effort to learn. “It’s just about respect. It’s not like you can’t ask me a question, but there are certain questions that I feel like are above ground,” she said. Edwards believes that the way one phrases a question is important. It should be noted that questions like, “oh, is that your natural hair?” can be uncomfortable and obviously touching one's hair is off limits.
It was also brought up that Black people should not be expected to educate others on racism and discrimination. It’s important for one to do their own research as well. However, Edwards said she is proud to be a part of the informative events that BSU hold.
“I definitely feel like having events like this helps educate people on black history and black vibes. It’s helping educate people whether they’re Black or just any other race,” she said.
Dr. Sentwali Bakari, vice president for Student Affairs, who is also the club’s staff advisor, said, “The program was exceptional and is a demonstration of Black students' consciousness and the global impact of Black culture, hair styles and creative expressions.”